Huey Long (1985) - full transcript

Ken Burns' portrait of Louisiana governor/U.S. senator Huey Long.

The Democratic Party
and the Republican Party

were just like the old
patent medicine drummer

that used to come around
our country.

He had two bottles of medicine.

He'd play a banjo

and he'd sell
two bottles of medicine.

One of those bottles of medicine
was called "high popalowrum"

and another one of those
bottles of medicine

was called "low popahighrum."

( audience laughs )

Finally somebody
around there said

"Is there any difference
in these medicines?"

"Oh," he said, "considerable.

They're both good,
but they're different."

He said, "That high popalowrum

"is made from the bark
off the tree

"that we take from the top down.

"And that low popahighrum
is made from the bark

that we take from the root up."

( audience laughs )

And the only difference
that I have found

between the Democratic

and the Republican leadership

was that one of them was
skinning from the ankle up

and the other one
from the ear down

when I got to congress.

( audience laughing
and cheering )

Well, I just thought
he was just a swell man

and he done a lot for
the state of Louisiana.

He built our bridges,
he built our highways.

And one time he come
to Morgan City

and made a speech
and somebody asked him

why he was bringing so much
outside labor in there.

He said, "Well, when these
people teach us Cajuns

"how to build bridges, we'll
start building them ourself,

and we'll send them back."

So... and he was just swell
all the way around,

that's all I can say.

I would say that Huey Long was
a good man-- he helped the poor.

And he wrote a book-- My First
Days in the White House.

And if they
wouldn't have killed him

I believe
he would be president

because he was smart.

Well, now, everybody loved him.

That's why.

There's nobody hated him.

No poor people ever hated him.

I can't remember any Saturday
night that I went anywhere

that we didn't talk
about killing Huey Long.

It was the normal conversation.

I suppose that the very strong
pro-Long people

weren't talking that way,
but the antis certainly.

It doesn't mean
you meant to do it.

It just meant that you wished
that there was some way

to rid the state
of this incubus.

The atmosphere
was so thick and so tense

that I've always said that
while there was no conspiracy

and no specific plan
to assassinate Huey Long

I think the thing had to happen

and something triggered
the occasion.

Presenting His Excellency
Huey Pierce Long

the dictator of Louisiana--

the enigma who is making
many Americans regret

that the United States
ever purchased Louisiana.

I was elected
railroad commissioner

of Louisiana in 1918

and they tried
to impeach me in 1920.

( audience laughs )

When they failed
to impeach me in 1920

they indicted me in 1921.

( audience laughs )

When I wiggled through that

I managed to become
governor in 1928

and they impeached me in 1929.

( audience laughs )

He was a masterful politician

who pretended he was just
a simple country boy

a democrat who scorned
democratic institutions.

He was a professed champion
of the powerless

who amassed more personal power
in his state

than any man
in American history,

and not satisfied with that,

hoped to win
the presidency itself.

Huey long, in my opinion,
was the greatest man

in this whole world,
and he's done more for Louisiana

than all
the politicians combined

as far back as I can remember.

I wouldn't call him a great man.

He was certainly
an extremely able politician.

He was very much like Caesar
in ancient Rome--

he leveled the liberties
of the republic

but did give some aid
to the poor.

How many men ever went
to a barbecue

and would let one man
take off the table

what's intended for nine-tenths
of the people to eat?

The only way you'll ever be able

to feed the balance
of the people

is to make that man come back

and bring back some of that grub
he ain't got no business with.

( applause )

If a man really has
a purpose in life

the ambition and the dream
that he has

become pretty much
the same thing.

Huey Long was a populist--
very much of a populist.

In my judgment, he was the best

of all the populists
that came along.

And he wanted
to implement the idea

that none should be too rich
and none too poor.

He wasn't against people being
rich except that he felt

that by permitting the few
to have so much

there wasn't much left
for the many

and he wanted to spread
some of that wealth around.

He was fond of saying

"We're trying
to make every man a king."

That was his belief--
to let everybody be equal.

I don't know what would have
happened if he would have lived.

It might have been
a better place to live

if they wouldn't
have killed him.

♪ Oh, they shot Huey Long
in Louisiana ♪

♪ As he walked down
the capitol steps... ♪

More than 100,000 men,
women and children

came to Senator Huey Long's
funeral at Baton Rouge

in September of 1935.

They were country people mostly

from the bayous and pine woods
and red clay farms of Louisiana

unaccustomed to the city but
anxious to pay their respects

to the turbulent man they
believed had been their friend.

To get there,
they had walked or ridden

on the hard-top roads
he had built for them

crossed rivers
he had spanned with bridges.

And they watched in silence as
he was buried beneath the lawn

of the massive
new capitol building

he had also ordered built

and in which an assassin
had struck him down.

♪ ...claiming that Huey
broke every rule. ♪

The country had never seen

a man quite like Huey Long.

No one who saw him
would ever forget him.

In 1946, Robert Penn Warren
published his celebrated novel

All the King's Men,
which told of the rise and fall

of a ruthless and dynamic
Southern politician.

"'Now, dirt's a funny thing,'
the boss said.

"'Come to think of it

"'there ain't a thing but dirt
on this green God's globe

"'except what's underwater,
and that's dirt, too.

"'It's dirt makes
the grass grow.

"'A diamond ain't
a thing in the world

"'but a piece of dirt
that got awful hot.

"'And God almighty picked up
a handful of dirt and blew on it

"'and made you and me
and George Washington

"'and mankind, blessed in
faculty and apprehension.

"'It all depends on what
you do with the dirt.

Is that right?'"

You know, he loved that story
about being born in a log cabin.

And it was just remarkable

that he could really tell it,
and it would be true.

But it was a very, very large,
beautiful log building

but it gave Huey the license

to say he was born
in a log cabin.

He wanted to be

just like somebody had
jumped up out of a stump.

And he didn't ever want
to tell anybody

that his family were not
poor, poor, poor.

He was born
Huey Pierce Long, Jr.

on his father's farm
at Winnfield

in the north Louisiana
hill country in 1893

seventh of nine children.

Even as a boy,
he was driven and excitable.

His father liked to say
that Huey would jump in the well

to see what it was like
if it wasn't kept covered.

He could never wait
for anything,

could never stand being second.

Oh, yeah,
you could talk to him

but now if he got ready to butt
in on something,

he'd butt in regardless,
even to his daddy that way.

His daddy started
to tell something

he'd probably take it up
and tell it for him

and he never would
call him down, you see.

But he was a very spoken man,
I'll say that.

And he knew what he
was talking about

because he understood, you see.

On the flyleaf
of his schoolbooks

he signed himself
"Honorable Huey P. Long"

without the "Junior."

School bored him.

He talked his teachers

into letting him skip
the seventh grade,

excelled at debating

and when he failed
to come in first

dismissed the judges
as ignorant or bought.

He was expelled from high school
in his senior year

for printing up handbills
denouncing the faculty.

One schoolmate's mother
remembered him

as "a pesterance."

He hated farm work,
craved attention.

He wanted to be somebody.

Winnfield was the greatest place
in the world

and he thought so, too.

And debating teams would go
to Baton Rouge once a year

and he went down there
on his debating team.

And when he came back,
we were walking down the street

and he said to me, "I'm going
to fix old Winnfield up

"one of these days,
just like Baton Rouge.

"We're too country up here;
we need some fixing up

and I'm going to fix it up."

Winn Parish, where he grew up

was a poor section
of a poor state.

It produced only one crop in
abundance, one observer noted:


Winn had been one of the last
Louisiana parishes to be settled

and had opposed secession
at the time of the Civil War.

People there believed

the Confederacy
was a rich man's cause.

Later, during the Populist Era

when William Jennings Bryan
stumped the nation

Winn was his
Louisiana stronghold.

Bryan championed
the common man

proclaiming in one speech:

"Every man a king,
but no man wears a crown."

"I was born into politics,"
Long once said.

But before he could
begin promoting himself

he sold other things.

At 17, he became
a traveling salesman

peddling Gold Dust
Washing Powder

Faultless Starch,
Never-Fail Kerosene Cans

and a patent laxative
called "Black Draft."

He was good at it.

He had the gift of gab,
his first employer remembered

and he rarely took "no"
for an answer.

"I can sell anything
to anybody," Long said.

His salesmanship also
helped him win a wife.

At Shreveport in 1911, he judged
a bake-off he had organized

to advertise
still another product--

a cotton-seed substitute
for lard called Cottolene.

Among the contestants

was a dark-eyed stenographer
named Rose McConnell.

Long tactfully awarded her
and her mother the top prizes.

2½ years later, he talked Rose
into marrying him.

To her he confided
his ambitions:

he would win a secondary
state office, he told her,

then the governorship,
become a United States senator,

finally, occupy the White House.

"It almost gave you the chills

to hear him tell about it,"
Rose remembered.

"He was measuring it all."

Huey Long was a salesman.

He sold cottonseed oil,
cooking oil.

And he was in the store,
and when he left--

the streets wasn't paved,
you know?

So a car passed
and splashed him with water.

So he cussed the man out

and he said, "Someday, I'm
going to pave those streets."

And that's what he did.

He's the one that first
paved the roads.

In 1914, Long borrowed
enough money

to pay for one year
at Tulane Law School.

When it ran out, he persuaded
the examining committee

to give him his own private
bar exam, passed it easily

and opened an office
back home in Winnfield.

He said himself, "When I came
down those courthouse steps

having passed my law degree,
I came down running for office."

But, you see, that man went with
freshman English at Oklahoma

one year of law school at Tulane
for a three-year course

and then applied
for the bar examination.

That's first-rate brains.

At first he worked out of
a tiny room

above his uncle's bank.

His first desk
was a dry goods box.

He took his telephone calls
at the shoe store.

He was proud that he never
took a case against a poor man.

He didn't get rich

but he did get a reputation
as a defender of the friendless.

Long himself made sure of that.

As the Winnfield correspondent

for several
Shreveport newspapers

he reported all his
courtroom triumphs in detail.

But power and influence
in Louisiana

were centered elsewhere

wielded by big planters,
lumbermen, bankers, utilities

and mercantile interests
operating along the Mississippi.

Overshadowing everything
was Standard Oil

already pumping big profits
from the bayous.

In New Orleans,
the corrupt political machine--

the old regulars, or "choctaws,"
as they were called--

controlled the state

through alliances with sheriffs
and courthouse rings

in outlying parishes.

These ruling factions might
have quarreled among themselves

but they were united
in their indifference

to the needs of the powerless.

There were fewer than 300 miles
of paved roads

in the whole state,
and only three major bridges.

The Louisiana literacy rate

was the second lowest
in the nation.

One of seven white farmers had
never been inside a schoolroom,

half had not been
beyond the fourth grade.

Statistics for their wives
and daughters were worse,

those for blacks, worse still.

Resentment festered but found
no effective expression.

Louisiana was ready
for Huey Long.

Our state is geographically
three or four states.

We have New Orleans, we have
the French Acadian section

and we have the Baptist belt
of north Louisiana.

And until Huey came along,
no one had ever been able

to weld those three parts
of the state

or the people in those parts
of the state together.

He made all of them feel
that they were Louisiana.

In 1918, he was
only 24 years old

too young to hold
most state offices.

But there was no minimum age

for service on
the state railroad commission

which regulated utilities
in Louisiana.

He ran hard for the seat,
won easily

and took out after the railroads
for ignoring country towns

and Standard Oil for seeking to
crush its smaller competitors.

When the telephone company
raised its rates 20%

Long got them rolled back.

And when the company sued,
he argued the commission's case

before the United States
Supreme Court in Washington

and won.

He was often called a buffoon,
but he was brilliant.

And William Howard Taft,
the Supreme Court justice

said that his mind was
one of the finest legal minds

that any lawyer ever had
who appeared before the Court.

He could be a buffoon,

but that was a character again
of Huey Long.

He was brilliant.

Well, Huey came along
at that particular time

and he said, "I'm going
to fight big oil.

"I'm going to fight
the telephone company.

"I'm going to fight
all of these things

that have oppressed you
all these years."

In 1924, Huey Long
ran for governor

and came in a strong third.

In Louisiana political races,
to place or show

could be nearly
as important as winning.

At 30, he was already a major
power in state politics.

He ran again in 1928.

Louisiana had never seen
a campaigner to match him.

He crisscrossed the state
in a shiny new Ford

covering 15,000 miles
and delivering some 600 speeches

at crossroads and church picnics
and country fairs--

anywhere he could get up
a crowd.

While other Southern politicians

built their following
by race-baiting, Long did not.

He made himself the issue.

Nearly every tree and telephone
pole and barnside along the way

held a Long poster or handbill.

And when his opponents
ripped them down

the candidate himself stopped
to hang them higher

standing on the roof of his car
and pounding in the nails

with a long-handled hammer.

I went to
every speech

that Long made
in Morgan City

every time he come
to Morgan City.

He was a great...

I guarantee,
he was smart.

I don't think,
in my books

I don't think
there's a man today

as smart as
what Long was.

He could get
under your skin.

If somebody
hated Long

when he got through
making his talk

the ones that hated him

I think they didn't
hate him anymore.

Huey spoke to the people
out where the votes were.

He went to them

and he made them feel that
they had a part in the program.

It was their program,
never Huey's program--

it was the people's program.

And he appealed to the emotions
that people had at that time--

hunger, no home to live in and
yet there were houses vacant;

no bread on the table and yet
we had a surplus of wheat;

no clothes and yet we had
a surplus of cotton.

If we wore overalls,
he wore overalls

and if we had a patch on them,
he had a patch on them, too.

That's the way he went along
with his work back at that time

which was the beginning
of his career, you see

as running for governor
of Louisiana.

And the masses of America--

75% to 80% to 85% of the people

not only give up their property
year after year

but they go further
and further and further

into economic slavery...

His listeners loved to hear him
lash the rich and powerful

the thieves, bugs and lice
who dared oppose him.

He knew always that he was
at his best on the attack:

the bigger the target,
the more attention he got.

But they loved still more
his vision of a new Louisiana.

"Every man a king"
was now his battle cry.

And at the little Cajun town
of St. Martinville

he set forth
his hopes for the future.

"It is here," he said,
"under this oak

"where Evangeline waited for her
lover Gabriel who never came.

"This oak is an immortal spot
made so by Longfellow's poem.

"But Evangeline is not
the only one

"who has waited here
in disappointment.

"Where are the schools
that you have waited

"for your children to have
that have never come?

"Where are the roads
and the highways

"that you send
your money to build?

"They are no nearer now
than ever before.

"Where are the institutions

"to care for the sick
and the disabled?

"Evangeline wept bitter tears
in her disappointment

"but it lasted through
only one lifetime.

"Your tears have lasted
through generations.

"Give me the chance

to dry the tears of those
who still weep here."

On primary day

the country voters of Louisiana
gave him that chance--

trappers and fishermen
of the bayous

redneck farmers from the hills,
sharecroppers and tenants

and small-town storekeepers,
Catholics and Protestants alike.

"They don't know Long," a local
politician told a reporter.

"They never saw him
and would not know him

"if he stepped off the train
at our station

"but they know him in name

and you can't make them believe
he is not their defender."

We loved him.

We like him.

All my people, the
whole Burns family

voted for him.

We went ten miles
in a speedboat

to vote for him
on Bayou Chene.

And I think most of
the Bayou Chene people

all voted for him.

Everyone in this part of
the country loved him.

He beat his two opponents

by the largest margin
in Louisiana history.

Both declined to face him
in a runoff.

"We'll show them who's boss"

he told his supporters
on election night.

"We're just getting started."

I was born Huey Elizabeth East

January 17, 1928

the day that Huey Long
was elected governor.

Therefore, my father named
me Huey, after Huey Long.

He set out to do something,
and make people act

and he made them act.

Contrary to what a lot of
people have written about Huey

and said about him

he didn't break the law--
Huey used the law.

And if there wasn't
a law available

to do what he wanted to do
under our Constitution

he passed a law that would
enable him to do what he wanted.

So he used the law;
he didn't break the law.

Huey landed running.

During his first months
as governor

he pushed dozens of bills
through the legislature

to begin construction
of the network

of roads and bridges
he had promised;

to pipe natural gas
to New Orleans;

to revise the tax code

to increase the share
paid by industry

and reduce that paid
by poor farmers;

and to provide free textbooks
to Louisiana schoolchildren.

He began to call himself
"the Kingfish"

after a character on
the radio program Amos 'n' Andy.

And within a year, you couldn't
go anywhere in Louisiana

without knowing the Kingfish
was in power.

The entire state bore his stamp.

His free textbook legislation

made every schoolchild a walking
advertisement for Huey Long.

He opened night schools
for the illiterate.

He improved hospitals
for the poor.

Above all, he built roads,
good roads--

1,583 miles of concrete roads,
718 miles of asphalt

2,816 miles of gravel.

During his tenure,
111 bridges went up.

And by 1931, Louisiana was
employing ten percent

of all the men working
on roads and bridges

in the United States.

How did he help Louisiana?

He took it out of the mud
and he took it...

and built roads.

Everything he promised--
free schoolbooks to children

who couldn't buy books
even to go to school

and went to a one-room school
on top of a hill

and that's as far as
their education ever went.

He helped everybody,
in a lot of things he done.

We might have not had no bridges
across the Mississippi River

if it wouldn't have been
for him.

He was the first one
started that.

And I think that was
a mighty good thing.

Bridges are an important item
in a state like Louisiana

which is cut up by many rivers
and bayous.

Hence, all the farmers cheered

when Huey built the $11 million
trans-Mississippi bridge.

They didn't have to pay for it.

He spent more
in four years as governor

than his predecessors had in 12

and as with everything Huey did

it was all tainted
with controversy

and accusations of corruption.

It's a mistake to regard Huey
Long as an ideological figure--

a man committed
to a program, and so on.

I think Huey Long's great
passion was for power and money.

And he stole a lot of money
and accumulated a lot of power

and destroyed all those
who got in the way

of these two ambitions.

But he kept the people
on his side.

He campaigned constantly
to sell his programs

and he liked nothing better
than making a speech.

It was a show in itself,
it really was.

He got the people
in a good mood right off.

By the time he took the stage,
they were ready for him.

It was just like a drink
before your dinner.

He gave it to you.

He was a wonderful speaker,
but the crowd was prepared.

He had his own band with him

and whoever introduced him,
of course, knew what to say.

And then he came on as the
dessert of the whole business.

It was wonderful
to hear him speak.

And the people
at St. Martinville--

that's where
his campaign started--

and they said,
in French, you know

"Man, he talked until the leaves
on the trees shivered down."

It was wonderful.

When that man spoke
in the state of Louisiana

on a statewide hookup

you could hear a pin drop
in most everybody's home

in the state of Louisiana.

Sound trucks, among the first
ever used in the United States

now heralded every appearance.

His huge voice was amplified
to the furthest edges

of the enormous crowds that
turned out to see and hear him.

Those voters he did not
reach in person

heard him lacerate his enemies
on the radio

or read the blistering circulars
he dictated personally

and had delivered by state
employees to every voter's door.

Well, what would happen,
he would arrive, you see,

with all of his highway police
going before and behind

and the big car would drive up

and come to the bandstand
in front of the post office

and everyone was gathered there.

And he would march up
between his henchmen

marching along with him.

And when he spoke, it was a
dynamic experience for all of us

whether you were for him
or against him.

And the people near the front

would say, "Give it to them,
Huey, give it to them!"

And way in the back somebody
would say, "Go to hell!"

It was certainly the event
to go to hear Huey

even though you hated
every word he said.

You had to admire
his delivery, his...

the way that he manipulated
the crowd.

We'll not destroy
the profit system.

We'll not destroy
the capitalistic system.

We won't destroy
the Constitution

of the United States.

We won't destroy the
Declaration of Independence.

On the contrary, we'll make
the Declaration of Independence

read in the words
it was written in

instead of having an
interpretation of Wall Street.

He spoke without notes.

He could give
the facts and figures

of state government

without notes at all,
and perfect delivery.

And then I've heard him speak to
faculty and students at L.S.U.

in the most perfect grammar

that you ever heard uttered
out of a man's mouth.

He could change with the crowd

as far as his speechmaking
was concerned.

He was Louisiana's
last great orator.

On the stump,
Huey would eye his audience

and ask them
how many owned four suits.

No one raised a hand.

Anybody own three?
Not a hand.

Two? No one.

Then in a voice
full of indignation

he would reveal that
J.P. Morgan owned 100 suits

each one stolen
from the back of a working man.

The crowd cheered, overlooking
Huey's own lavish wardrobe

itself rumored
to exceed 100 suits

paid for mainly out of the huge
legal fees he received

for appointing himself
as counsel

in state battles
against the corporations.

But opposition was growing.

In New Orleans,
his opponents were outraged

by his success and his audacity.

And now, there were
other critics

who were troubled most of all,
they said, by his methods.

If you wanted
free schoolbooks, great

but you didn't do it
the way that Huey did it.

And I just keep reiterating
that, because that was basic.

You could say, "Well, Mussolini
made the trains run on time;

Mussolini made
the trains clean."

Are you for Mussolini?

He sent the state militia
into two New Orleans suburbs

to smash gambling there

without bothering with
the formality of warrants.

When the legislature
balked at his plan

to tear down the dilapidated
old governor's mansion

to make way for a new one,
he ordered in a wrecking crew

of convicts from
the state penitentiary

and supervised
the demolition himself.

Huey built himself
a new governor's mansion.

Here it is.

The taxpayers were
mighty sore about it.

They almost impeached him.

He replied that the old mansion
was not good enough for him

though it had been too good
for his predecessors.

I don't pretend that he didn't
do some things that were good.

As a matter of fact, in spite
of my opposition to Huey Long

I know of his whole program,

and in spite of a lot
of other protests

I myself voted for one
of his important purposes

and that is the free
textbook program.

I did not support
his means of financing it

and would not support that.

He provided about $100 million
worth of good roads

and it cost $150 million.

That's a little bit rough,
but it's the kind of thing.

Everything that he did
cost more than it should

because there was the cushion
for other people's fraud.

And, uh... he...

his contribution was largely
in bricks and mortar.

Machiavelli long ago said

"A great man cannot
be a good man."

But there are limits
to the methods

that a great man may employ
in order to do good.

And I think in Huey Long's case,
the methods involved

the destruction of democracy
in Louisiana

a systematic
corruption and theft

using the state government
as an instrumentality

and that these methods
outweighed the good he did.

Well, the poor people loved him

and schoolchildren, too.

He gave them free lunches
and pencils and paper.


In early 1929, he convened

a special session
of the legislature

to enact a new tax of five cents

on every barrel of crude oil
refined in Louisiana.

His opponents decided that
Long had gone far enough.

The new tax was voted down

and anti-Long legislators
moved for impeachment.

Long realized
he'd overplayed his hand

and tried to force
an early adjournment.

A fistfight broke out
on the floor

and the move to adjourn
was defeated.

A list of impeachable offenses
was drawn up.

There were initially 19 charges:
some serious, some trivial

but all aimed at driving
the governor from office.

He was accused of plotting the
murder of a political opponent

and firing a telephone operator

for failing to get him
a connection fast enough;

of bribing legislators
and attending a drunken party

at which half-naked women
danced the hula.

The house voted to impeach
on eight items.

The senate would decide
Huey's guilt or innocence.

Meanwhile, the opposition
held an impeachment rally

in Baton Rouge.

The music was provided gratis by
the Standard Oil Company band.

There's no doubt in my mind

that when the effort was made
to impeach him

that wasn't because
he was trying

to give free schoolbooks
to children.

It was because he was trying
to make the wealthy--

the oil industry at that time--
pay for it.

Long fought back hard
against conviction.

He blanketed the countryside
with circulars

and took to the road again.

"I fought
the Standard Oil Company

"and put them pie-eating members
of the gang

out of office,"
he said at one stop.

"I used a crowbar to pry
some of them out

"and I'm using a corkscrew now

to take the rest out
piece by piece."

Long's opponents
needed the votes

of two-thirds of
the state senate to convict.

He outmaneuvered them
by persuading 15 senators--

one more than he needed to win--
to sign a document

vowing that they would never
vote to find him guilty.

All 15 were later rewarded
with jobs or special favors.

It had been a close call.

He would never again allow
anyone to threaten his power.

"I used to try
to get things done

by saying please," he said.

"Now I dynamite them
out of my path."

And now the corporate element
of this state

that worked cheek-by-jowl,
hand-in-hand with them

who profited by,
who ransacked this state

for the element of their allies

are being told what they can do
and what they can't do

what they will pay,
what they can't keep from paying

for the welfare
of the people of Louisiana.

And we expect to have this
state ruled by the people

and not by the lords and
the interests of high finance.

Huey was a man
of extreme dynamism.

Had a marvelous mind.

He would work all day
and all night

and go get drunk
and sleep it off

and be ready to go the next day.

He was a doer, you know,
he was a believer in himself--

that man in that
double-breasted suit.

And I can still see him
strutting with his white pants

and the... well,
I'd say atrocious, maybe

but a brightly colored tie.

He was quite a man, a character.

Huey's style of dress
was always unconventional,

a calculated assault on the eye.

He wore white linen suits
and pink ties

orange, lilac and orchid shirts

gaudy silk handkerchiefs,
and brown and white spats.

But then he'd take off his shoes
and show the holes in his socks.

The crowds loved it,
and said so wherever Huey went.

Huey projected
a winning personality.

It might have come
from his ability

as a crackerjack salesman

because he started out
as a salesman.

But he always wore
the finest of clothes

he wore diamonds,
he rode in big cars

and while he was talking about
how poor his upbringing was

the people that were listening
to him looked at a man--

here's a man who's come
from nothing

and he's a real
sure enough big shot.

And he projected that
to the people--

we're going to get
with the winner.

He was rapidly gaining
a national reputation

as a sort of countrified clown

a reputation he delighted
in fostering.

What I want you to do
is to sing my composition:

"Every Man a King."

I want you to play it all
Fine. for these people.

And if you like it,
I want you to put it out.

♪ Every man a king ♪

♪ Every man a king ♪

♪ For you can be
a millionaire ♪

♪ But there's something
belonging to others ♪

♪ There's enough
for all people to share ♪

♪ When it's sunny June
and December, too ♪

♪ Or in the wintertime
or spring ♪

♪ There'll be peace
without end ♪

♪ Every neighbor a friend ♪

♪ With every man a king. ♪

So what do you
think about that?

I think it's fine.

Once, a German naval commander
in full dress uniform

paid a courtesy call
on Louisiana's governor

in his New Orleans hotel.

Long received him
in green silk pajamas

and a scarlet robe.

The officer was indignant.

Long went aboard his ship
the next day to apologize.

This time he wore formal dress

including a collar so high,
he told reporters

he had to stand on a stump
to spit over it.

The writer John Dos Passos
once said

that Huey looked like
an overgrown small boy

with very bad habits indeed.

He couldn't stand being touched.

He had a morbid fear
of being attacked.

He could be disciplined
and slothful

at times on the bottle
and overweight

then suddenly teetotal
and trim again.

He slept little, drank heavily

and ate off other
people's plates.

I met him personally
when I was in high school.

I sat down at a table

and he was eating
with another man and me.

I didn't like it very much

because he didn't
order anything;

he just nervously
ate off of my plate.

And being a growing boy

I didn't like to share my supper
with Huey Long or anybody else.

As you know, I haven't had
a drink for 18 months

but I'll sample this, Ralph

in order to be able to assure
you that it's genuine.

I think that's all right,
I think that's all right.

Better be sure about it.

( laughter )

He had started drinking
during his years as a salesman

and the habit stole over him
slowly but surely.

But it was power and politics
that really consumed him.

He seldom stayed in the splendid
new governor's mansion

he'd designed to look like
the White House.

Instead he maintained
two expensive hotel suites

at the Heidelberg
in Baton Rouge

and in New Orleans
at the Roosevelt

where he received
a ceaseless flow of visitors.

It was not uncommon to get
a call from Long at 3:00 a.m.

for a 4:00 a.m. appointment,
and no one was ever late.

A reporter who interviewed him
in his suite

remembered that the phone rang
every minute or two

and he would get up and
walk through a couple of rooms

to answer it and come back

and fling himself
heavily on the bed

so that his shoulders and feet
hit at the same moment.

Huey likes to tell the story

of how his dad found tobacco
on the precocious youngster

and predicted that, "If you
stay alive until you are 21

it'll be the wonder
of this world."

Well, the old boy was wrong.

It does seem that
only the good die young.

Huey was never particularly
close to his family.

He had frequent violent quarrels

with his brothers
Julius and Earl

and he rarely saw
his wife and children.

We had a right to complain that
we didn't have him at home much

because he was out campaigning
a great deal of the time.

So much of the time, when he
came home, he needed rest.

We would occasionally have
some family life together

but not near as much
as I'd liked to have had.

"I can't live a normal
family life," he once told Rose

and they both knew he was right.

For Huey there was
only one real passion;

he never stopped courting power.

The Louisiana constitution

barred any man from succeeding
himself as governor.

This presented only a momentary
awkwardness for Huey Long.

He announced he would run
for the United States Senate

in 1930.

The campaign would be
a referendum on Long's program.

And he made it clear

he had no intention
of resigning as governor

even if he won, until his term
ended two years later in 1932

when he would hand over
the office to a successor

pledged to carry out his wishes.

To defuse opposition
from the press

he launched his own newspaper,
the Louisiana Progress

its cartoonists
and editorial writers paid

to vilify the opposition
and glorify their hero.

Well, he called the mayor of New
Orleans "Turkey Head Walmsley"

and that's a reference
to a turkey buzzard.

And he had a wonderful artist
that would draw cartoons

and he would sit up on a fence
all of the enemies

and he'd put buzzard bodies
on them, and their heads

and he'd make their faces
look like turkey buzzard beaks.

We call in Mr. Rockefeller...

Huey was a mudslinger

a genius at invective,
and a master of abuse.

He could make a nickname fast
and he could make it stick:

names like "WhistleBritches
Richter," "Shinola" Phelps

"Feather Duster" Ransdell
and Colonel "Bow Wow" Ewing

as well as a barnyard

of "trough feeders,"
"buzzard brains"

"hogs," "pigs" and "shoats."

He threatened this
menagerie variously

with burning, skinning,
corkscrewing, flaying

shooting, beating, stomping

broiling, braining, frying,
and worse.

His enemies tried
to give as good as they got

calling him "the messiah
of the rednecks"

and "Hooey the 14th."

The Louisiana Progress

was delivered by state
police cars to every parish.

All public employees
were expected to subscribe.

Meanwhile, ten percent
was subtracted

from each state worker's
monthly salary.

Long kept the proceeds

in a chest he called
"the deduct box."

From this reserve of hard cash,

Huey financed
the political campaign

paid his travel expenses

and "encouraged"
legislative support.

Six days before the 1930
senatorial election

when two men threatened
to embarrass Long

with revelations about a woman
rumored to be his mistress

he had them kidnapped and held
until the danger passed.

Despite the heat
of the campaign

the primary is a peaceful one--

the most peaceful in years
old-timers say.

Even Mayor Walmsley himself

is surprised at
the lack of outbreaks.

He has a bigger surprise
awaiting him

because the Kingfish
is still the Kingfish.

On election day

Long carried 53 of the 64
parishes in the state.

The people had spoken

and the legislature which had
once tried to impeach him

now had to listen.

Long did not plan to take up his
senatorial duties for 14 months:

plenty of time to cement
his hold on Louisiana

and to transform
whole parts of it.

When an important
anti-Long legislator

stubbornly refused to go along

with his call for a new 34-story
state capitol building--

the tallest in
the United States--

Long drilled a hole in
the ceiling of the old capitol

and had the man's seat moved

so that water from the leaky
roof streamed onto his head.

The new building went up.

It was a monument to Huey Long.

A new campus for Louisiana
State University was built--

Huey's special pride.

Nothing consumed more
of his attention.

He diverted highway funds to pay
for a massive building program

hired and fired its football
coaches and its presidents

and he dealt swiftly
with campus critics.

He once suspended
22 journalism students

"This is my university

and I ain't paying anybody
to criticize me."

He sat on the bench during
L.S.U. games, thought up plays,

gave locker-room pep talks
between halves

and even helped compose
the school marching song.

In 1932, two years after
he was elected to the Senate

his hand-picked slate
swept the statewide election.

The new governor-elect was Oscar
"Okay" Allen, a boyhood friend

and so agreeable, according
to Long's younger brother Earl

that when a leaf blew
onto his desk one morning,

Allen signed it.

Huey Long was now
a United States senator

chairman of the state
Democratic Committee

and, in effect,
still governor of Louisiana.

He ran L.S.U., the highway
commission, the levy board

the board of education.

He controlled
patronage and policy

in hospitals, prisons
and schools.

The state militia and national
guard were his private armies

and effective
political opposition

had almost ceased to exist.

It was the largest concentration
of political power

in one's man hand
the country had ever seen.

Four days later,
he left for Washington.

According to the tables
which we have assembled

it is our estimate

that four percent
of the American people

own 85% of the wealth of America

and that over 70%
of the people of America

don't own enough to pay
the debts that they owe.

By the time Long finally arrived
to take his Senate seat

the Great Depression
that began in 1929

had transformed
the whole nation

into something like
back-country Louisiana.

One of every four Americans--

34 million men,
women and children--

belonged to a family without
a full-time wage earner.

A million men roamed
the countryside

in search of jobs
that did not exist--

maybe two million, maybe more,
no one knew for sure.

In Harlan County, Kentucky,
where the coal industry had died

whole communities
tried to survive

on dandelions
and blackberries and pokeweed.

In Chicago, 50 men
fought with their fists

over a single barrel of garbage.

Farm prices collapsed

and farm families
were driven off the land.

In just one day, one-quarter of
the entire state of Mississippi

went under
the auctioneer's hammer.

Banks failed, and in
several bankrupt cities

the animals in the zoo were shot

and the meat distributed
to the poor.

Senator Huey Long now saw his
chance to become the spokesman

of all the nation's
angry and dispossessed.

Other freshmen senators
with big reputations back home

had been dwarfed when they
got to the Senate itself--

not Huey Long.

Senate convention holds
that newcomers

are supposed to not only
be silent but invisible.

But on Huey's first day,
he bounded onto the floor

slapped one distinguished
senator on the back,

thumped the elderly Republican
leader on the chest

and strode around the chamber

telling everyone
the Kingfish had arrived.

All the while, he chewed
on a big black cigar

in violation of Senate rules

putting it down
on the clerk's desk

just long enough
to be sworn in.

He refused to serve
on any committees--

they took time away
from his speechmaking

which could go on
for days at a time--

Long fortifying himself
with glasses of milk

and fistfuls of chocolates.

Well, his style was,
of course, flamboyant.

But he was a powerful speaker,
and even when he...

particularly when
he was not telling the truth

he was very persuasive.

One day he told
a group of senators

a mob would attack the capitol

bent on hanging them
from the rafters.

"I have to determine," he said

"whether I will stay
and be hung with you

or go out and lead the mob."

Nobody laughed.

Senator Alben Barkley
of Kentucky told him

"You are the smartest lunatic
I ever saw in my whole life."

Long took it as a compliment.

He was sort of a comedian,
in a way

except a comedian with
sinister... sinister purposes.

Once, every one
of his fellow Democrats

left the Senate floor
in silent protest

while he savaged one of
their most respected colleagues.

But they could not
afford to ignore him

for more and more
of their constituents

were listening
to what he had to say.

There has been yielded too much
to eat, too much to wear

everything to live in.

The Lord has answered
the prayer.

He has called the barbecue.

"Come to my feast," he said
to 125 million American people.

But Morgan and Rockefeller
and Mellon and Baruch

have walked up and took 85%
of the vittles off the table.

( laughter and applause )

Now, how are you going to feed
the balance of the people?

what's Morgan and Baruch
and Rockefeller and Mellon

going to do with all that grub?

They can't eat it.

They can't wear the clothes.

They can't live in the house.

Give them a yacht!

Give them a palace!

Send them to Reno
and give them a new wife

when they want,
if that's what they want.

( laughter )

But when they've got everything
on the God-slaving earth

that they can eat and they can
wear and they can live in

and all that their children
can live in and wear and eat

and all their children's
children can use

then we've got to call
Mr. Morgan and Mr. Mellon

and Mr. Rockefeller back
and say, "Come back here.

"Put that stuff back
on this table here

"that you took away from here
that you don't need.

Leave something else for
the American people to consume."

And that's the program.

My daddy always said

"The rich don't
want the poor

to get
ahead of them."

And that's-- if he'd
have become president

he'd have said--
like he said it--

of course he couldn't
make every man a king

but that was his words.

And my daddy said
that would never work

because they wouldn't
stand for it

in Washington.

32 typists labored
in round-the-clock shifts

just to answer the mail

that now flowed into
Long's Senate office--

so much mail
that he finally was given

an extra office
just to handle it.

Long was becoming a major
political force in the country

and as the 1932 presidential
election approached

would-be Democratic candidates
competed for his backing.

Long finally threw his support

to governor Franklin Roosevelt
of New York

claiming that F.D.R.
had promised

to redistribute America's wealth

along the lines
Long had suggested.

Roosevelt had made
no such pledge

but Long campaigned hard
for Roosevelt

in three western states

as much to demonstrate
his own vote-getting power

outside his region

as to help his party's
presidential nominee.

Before we declared
ourselves for anybody

for president
of the United States

we saw to it that
that man declared himself

in favor of the redistribution
of wealth in the United States.

Long won a victory
of his own that year

far sweeter to him
than Franklin Roosevelt's.

He had stormed into Arkansas

to campaign for the incumbent
senator, Hattie Caraway

a soft-spoken woman
who had been appointed

to fill her late-husband's
Senate term

and was now trying to win
election in her own right.

She was the decided underdog

before Long crossed
the Arkansas border

in his bright blue Cadillac,
accompanied by two sound trucks

and two tons
of fiery campaign literature.

He made five to six stops a day,
covering 2,100 miles in a week

making 39 speeches
to more than 200,000 voters

who flocked to see and hear
the Louisiana legend.

He sold Hattie
by selling himself,

and he did it
in the classic Huey manner.

When he left the state
just seven days later

hoarse but exultant

Mrs. Caraway was
the unbeatable front runner

and became the first woman
ever elected to the Senate.

I, Franklin Delano Roosevelt,
do solemnly swear

that I will
faithfully execute

the office of president
of the United States

and will, to the best
of my ability

protect and defend

the Constitution of
the United States,
so help me God.

We've tried the Republican Party

we've tried the Democratic Party

and then we've gone back
and tried the Republican Party

and now we're back trying
the Democratic Party.

And unfortunately,
whenever we get into power

with either one of these parties

we find that the one
crying need of our people--

the redistribution of wealth

so that none would be too poor
and none would be too rich--

is always neglected
by the party that is in power.

By early 1933, it was clear

that Washington
was not big enough

for both Franklin D. Roosevelt
and Huey P. Long.

F.D.R. had originally hoped
to tame Huey, he told an aide

to make him useful
to the New Deal.

But Huey would not be tamed.

Well, we've had the promises

from the president
many, many times

and now we're wanting
a fulfillment.

No empty words, nor empty
messages mean anything to us

and no kind of law
except one that gives employment

and homes and comfort
and education to our people

will satisfy us in the least.

Long declared that
the Depression would never lift

could never lift,
unless wealth was redistributed.

He called his program
"Share Our Wealth"

and said at various times

that his principles
were drawn from the Bible

the speeches of
William Jennings Bryan

and an article he had read
in the Saturday Evening Post.

The specifics of his plan
often shifted

but specifics didn't matter

to the desperate people
to whom he spoke

and they signed up for his
"Share Our Wealth" clubs

all across the country.

Really, my impressions
of Huey Long

were not everybody's impressions

because I thought he did
a great thing for the state.

He put us on the map, man.

I mean, nobody could say
a word about Louisiana,

I'll tell you that, you know,
without Huey-- ( clenches fist )

which was... went right along
with what I liked.

How's that,
Mr. Senator?

That's fine,
but aren't you
going to sing it

since we've changed
that last line

to mean
"Every girl a queen".

All right,
I'd be glad to.

Thank you.

( band begins playing )

♪ Every man a king,
every girl a queen ♪

♪ For you can be a millionaire ♪

♪ But there's something
belonging to others ♪

♪ There's enough
for all people to share ♪

♪ When it's sunny June
and December, too ♪

♪ Or in the wintertime
or spring ♪

♪ There'll be
peace without end ♪

♪ Every neighbor a friend ♪

♪ With every man a king. ♪

Thank you.

Thank you.

Think you got
a good band.

How in the name of God

do you fathers and mothers
in this audience

expect your little
boys and girls...

There were other men
selling other schemes.

Father Charles Coughlin,
the Detroit radio priest

preached in favor
of inflated currency

and against Wall Street
and international bankers.

Are you going to leave this
country worse than you found it?

Or are you going to
fight for your children?

Dr. Francis Townsend,
an elderly California physician

wanted to grant
a monthly pension

to every worker over 60
who was willing to retire

and to spend the money
within 30 days.

Long, Coughlin and Townsend
were ambitious

and F.D.R. had to
take them all seriously.

But only Huey Long
combined a radical program

with a solid record
as a vote-getter.

Each time he made
a national radio broadcast

the network received
some 60,000 letters of support

and Long's Washington office
was flooded with even more.

I think Huey Long
has some very good ideas

and I'd like to see him
get a chance to work them out.

Huey Long's appeal is only
to ignorant people in distress.

In my opinion, he is the
south end of a northbound horse.

We expect to see the 48 states
of America and the United States

fall in line with Louisiana
"Share Our Wealth" program.

That would mean that
there'll be no such thing

as a man without a home
and something to eat

and something to wear
and a job.

If you allow a big man
to have billions

then all of us
can't have anything else.

So we propose that none shall
be bigger than a ten millionaire

and none shall own
less than a home

and the comforts necessary
for a home

and property to educate
their children.

All of these programs
in a sense that were F.D.R.

they were also Huey Long

although he put them
in different language.

"Share the wealth," you know

that's got a...
oh, that sounds good

to the man on the farm
behind the plow

and the man walking
down Main Street

or sitting on a fence--
That's good to him

and he had the ability
to have people understand

that's what he meant.

I think Senator Huey P. Long
is the smartest man of the day

a great organizer

and absolutely sincere
in everything he does and says.

Huey P. Long, Jr. represents
the extreme development

of all the evil and corruption

that has cursed the government
of Louisiana within our memory.

He typifies personally

all that we would
not want our children to be.

I think Huey Long has
a lot of good principles.

He encourages people to think.

But as to his leadership,
I question his ability.

I thank you.

There was great concern
in Washington

over Huey Long
and his ambitions.

Jim Farley, for example,
who was then postmaster general

and chairman of the
Democratic National Committee

was greatly concerned
over the possibility

of a third party
led by Huey Long in 1936.

Farley brought Huey Long
in for a meeting

hoping to mend things.

As they sat in the Oval Office,
and Farley suddenly noticed

that Huey Long
hadn't taken his hat off.

He kept his hat on during
the meeting with the president.

Occasionally he'd take off
his hat to make a point

and then put it back
on his head.

And Farley didn't know
what to make of this--

it seemed some kind of

calculated expression
of contempt.

F.D.R. paid no attention to it

and talked affably on
and Long went away.

It was after that meeting
that Long expressed

a great sense of
frustration and bafflement

over his failure
to disturb or upset F.D.R.

But by that time it was clear

that neither had
much use for the other.

It is true that the toes

of some people
are being stepped on

and are going to be stepped on.

But these toes belong
to the comparative few

who seek to retain or to gain
position or riches or both

by some shortcut that is harmful
to the greater good.

Senator, is your
hat in the ring
for 1936?

If the events continue
as they now are

and circumstances are
what they appear to be

it's almost certain
that I will be a candidate.

We will see a national "Share
Our Wealth" convention in 1936.

The masses are ripe for it.

Huey may not win the first time,
but remember:

he won the Louisiana

in his second attempt.

He dictated his own
campaign biography

inevitably titled
"Every Man a King"

and began to publish a new
version of his old newspaper

now called the American Progress

and aimed at
a national audience.

The president did his best

to keep the Kingfish from
becoming a further threat.

Federal patronage now went
to Long's enemies in Louisiana.

A Treasury Department probe
of Long's tax returns

and those of
his closes associates

begun under Herbert Hoover,
was now pressed forward.

They never proved
anything on him.

Oh, they tried.

They had men follow him
everywhere he went.

I walked with him into a store
to buy some shirts one time.

The moment he walked out

he told me, "Look at
that so-and-so over there.

"See, he's up there
trying to find out

"how much I paid for that shirt

so they can show that I spent
some money that I didn't have."

And laughed about it.

Paid cash for it, of course.

I would have an election
held in this country

between "high popalowrum"
and "low popahighrum"--

Roosevelt on the one hand
and Hoover on the other

the twin bedmates of disaster.

We want neither one of them

and if we've
got to have a candidate

away from the Republican Party

and away from
the Democratic Party

I, for one,
am perfectly willing to see

that there is another choice
in the United States in 1936

or a chance to have a choice.

There used to be a tale
circulating in Louisiana

about the Kingfish
sitting around with his cronies

and suddenly, he wasn't talking.

He was looking from face to face
with great curiosity.

And his cronies, not accustomed
to his total silence

said, "What's the matter, Boss,
what you thinking about?"

"Well," he said,
"I'm just thinking

"how if I should die

all you guys would be
in jail right away."

His eyes may have been
on the White House

but he never allowed his grip
on the state to slacken--

even momentarily.

It steadily tightened
during his years in Washington

and with it came
a new ruthlessness.

Big or small,
he knew just where

an opponent's
political weakness was

and had no scruples about
exploiting it if necessary.

There was extreme poverty
amongst all classes of people.

Jobs were at a premium,
and he had the patronage.

There was nothing
but political patronage

that held
a lot of people together

and that was... that was life.

It was terribly important
to individuals

and if it wasn't important
to one individual

it was important
to that individual's brother

sister, cousin or best friend.

So the control that he had

grew out of
the necessities of people

or their willingness
to grab at anything

like these crackpot
economic schemes

such as the "Share The Wealth."

There was nowhere
that you could get money at all

except maybe from the power
company, had some salaries

and the state.

If you wanted to have cash,
you had to work for the state.

And you didn't work
for the state

if you didn't subscribe to what
Huey wanted you to be for.

In politics,
there's always two sides

just like there's night and day.

You can't have politics
unless you have two sides to it.

And he was always
on the winning side.

And it was good
if you agreed with him

and if you didn't, oh boy.

I think we just met in the lobby
or somewhere in the capitol

and he said,
"Cecil, I want to see you.

I want you to vote for
House Bill number so-and-so."

And I said, "Well, Huey,
I just can't do it."


I said, "Well, it's just
one of those things

"that is completely contrary

"to the principles of
local self-government

"and it just increases the power
of the governor in Baton Rouge

and it's just something
that I just can't support."

That same evening I went home

and my mother said,
"Your father has been fired."

Oh, that's not quite right

because political spoils
was the, uh... wave of the day.

It had been for... ever since
the days of Andrew Jackson.

He was... he used
the spoils system

to no greater advantage
than his enemies had used it.

In other words,
if you had not voted for them

at the time they were in power,
they didn't give you a job.

If you voted against them,
they fired you.

The thing is that some of
the things you could be for

but you couldn't be
for the method

by which he was
getting those things.

With him, "L'état, c'est moi."

And he felt that whatever
he wanted, he did.

And the upshot of it was
that in those last months--

I was looking through
the old Daily Courier

and you could see
what was going on there.

The people were getting
more and more frustrated

and when the janitor
from the school

had to go to get okayed
in Baton Rouge--

well, Hodding's editorials
were pretty strong

telling free people that they
should live as free people.

The political atmosphere
in Louisiana thickened

supercharged by the bitterness

of the fierce
anti-Long factions.

"There was a wildness
in the air," one man said.

Legislation of dubious
constitutional validity

was rammed through the state
legislature wholesale

by a United States senator
with no legal power to do so.

Huey had elections
delayed or speeded up

or had Governor Allen do it

which amounted
to the same thing.

He treated his most slavish
supporters with brutal contempt.

He had bought one legislator
so cheap

he said,
"We thought we stole him."

When another extended
his hand in greeting

Long turned away saying,
"I paid for you.

I don't have to
shake your hand."

We're not going to have
New Orleans nor Louisiana

run by the thieves,
the vandals and the criminals

who were granted
the right to make pardons

grant paroles or anything else

but to practice their thuggery
against the common citizenship

in any way that they desire.

Long and Mayor Walmsley
of New Orleans

feuded constantly
over control of that city.

And the old regulars
and state police forces

only narrowly averted armed
confrontation time and again.

By 1933, New Orleans
and Baton Rouge

were frequently
in a state of siege.

In 1935, Long's enemies
formed "the minutemen"

and talked of storming the
capitol with submachine guns.

The chairman of a Senate
investigating committee advised

anyone who thought
he knew about politics

to go down to Louisiana
and take a postgraduate course.

He wanted to have all the power.

He misread the Bible.

The bible says, "Thine is
the power and the glory."

Huey Long's view was "Mine
is the power and the glory."

I think he came
to the conclusion--

uniquely among our politicians--

that you cannot do the good
that he wanted to do

and deliver the services
that he wanted to deliver

and free people from the
exploitation as he wanted to

you cannot do that
in a democracy--

that the pressures
worked too strongly against it;

the pressures of interests

the pressures of large economic
interests, and so forth.

And so that Long, in my judgment

ultimately despaired
of democracy

and turned to the rather
dictatorial methods

that he used
in the later years of his life.

It's all a matter of degree--
it's all a matter of degree.

There are all sort of things

that you would not be
justified in doing

under ordinary circumstances

that you'd be
justified in doing

under extraordinary

From Huey's point of view

to separate the rich
from some of that wealth

in order that those
who were less fortunate

could have a little something

was worth paying
a big price for.

You look around and you
could see what was happening.

You could see, on one hand

the sudden social goods
being done, being delivered.

But this is true
of all authoritarian states.

Mussolini or Hitler
or anybody else

give some people what they get.

They all do that.

You cannot have a tyranny
without a paying-off for it--


He became as close
to a dictator

as we've ever had
in the United States.

He stole and he used force
against his opponents.

He destroyed, in effect,
local government in Louisiana.

His motto was
"Every Man a King"

but only one man wore a crown,
and that was Huey Long.

It seemed to me
that to a large extent

his critics were confusing
the forms of democracy

with the fact of democracy.

The people's votes
didn't do them much good

until Huey Long came along.

Maybe his enemies
didn't like his methods

but the people were getting
what they were voting for

when he was a governor
and a United States senator.

Once, an embattled
anti-Long legislator

handed the Kingfish a copy
of the Louisiana constitution

suggesting that he study it.

Long gave it right back

saying, "I'm the constitution
around here now."

Hodding Carter,
an anti-Long newspaper editor

whom the Kingfish
tried to drive from his state

saw Huey's armed troops
and wrote

"If ever there was a need
for shotgun government

"that time is now.

"Let us read
our histories again.

"They will tell us

"with what weapons we earned
the rights of free men.

Then, by God, let's use them."

A lot of bad feelings

between those who were for him
and those who were against him.

I mean, there was very
great bitterness there.

The state was factionalized

beyond anything you'd ever seen,
or ever seen since.

I'd say it was factionalized.

I don't like to characterize
the total man as evil

but he was certainly
considered that

by everyone
opposed to him really.

He was considered
"the wild man," primarily.

And that developed into
a consideration of him

as a distinctly evil force
in the state of Louisiana

and a force to be feared--

and by very, very many people,
a force to be destroyed.

Evil is a difficult thing
to define.

We all have
the worm in our apple.

But I do feel
that he got confused.

Not... he...
finally he got to the point

that he really thought
that he was it

and that anything he wanted
was right because he wanted it.

And I think at that point

he was confusing
the good of the people

with the good of Huey P. Long.

I represent the good
citizens of Louisiana.

We are tired of a rule
in our state of a dictator.

We feel that it is time for this
dictatorial business to end.

We feel that Huey P. Long has
controlled our state long enough

and he does not have the
interest of our people at heart.

He is a selfish dictator.

And we will fight and fight.

We want him dead politically,
but not dead physically.

Every time there
was a gathering--

I don't care who the people
were that I associated with--

every time there was a gathering
of two or three people

somebody would say, "That son
of a bitch ought to be shot."

Somebody would say it
in every gathering.

And the tension was
so extremely high

that, um...
and the feeling was so strong

that there was hardly
any other conversation

throughout the state.

I have the pleasure to undertake
to describe to you...

( flashbulb explodes )

( first quiet,
then loud laughter )

( someone in crowd
says something )

Now, you see there?

( more laughter )

You see, that bomb
didn't explode till tonight.

Long had always
feared assassination.

"I'm a cinch to be shot,"
he told friends.

He carried a pistol

and armed guards
accompanied him everywhere

shoving back even old friends
who tried to get too close.

He kept the shades drawn
in the governor's mansion

so that no one could get a clear
shot at him from the street

and he sat near the door
in the Senate

so he could get out fast

if someone threw a bomb
into the chamber.

In August of 1935,
he charged on the Senate floor

that his enemies back home

had held a meeting
to discuss murdering him.

He even suggested that F.D.R.

had agreed to pardon
the killer in advance.

He knew he was
going to be killed.

He had no time to waste,
and there was so much to do

and he had to do it
in that time.

And the people who followed him
knew their lives were in danger.

They knew so much was in danger,
but it meant so much

because the poor people
had nothing... nothing at all.

Life was so hard for them,
and he changed all of that.

He promised
there would be changes

and there were changes

He was like a steamroller.

Everything was right now.

Because the man knew
he was going to be killed soon.

In the summer of 1935, Long was
even more impatient than usual.

He signed a contract
for a new book

to be called My First Days
in the White House.

It had already been written.

And he assured his friends
that there was plenty of money

for the coming
presidential campaign

in the deduct box--
more than a million dollars.

But before he could run
full-time for the White House

he had unfinished business
back in Baton Rouge.

In early September

he ordered the legislature
into special session.

There were 42 bills
he wanted passed right away

most of them aimed at enhancing
his power still further.

Among them was a law that
would eliminate an old opponent

Judge Benjamin Pavy
of St. Landry Parish

by redrawing his district.

Long journeyed
to the capitol in person

and roamed
the house floor as usual

to make sure everything
went smoothly.

It did.

All 42 bills were
introduced into the house

on Sunday, September 8.

All seemed sure to pass in the
state senate the following day.

In the hall outside
the house chamber

a slender dark-haired man

wearing glasses and
a white linen suit was waiting.

He was Dr. Carl
Austin Weiss, Jr.

a 29-year-old surgeon,
a family man

and the son-in-law of the judge

who was about to be
gerrymandered out of his job.

According to witnesses,
he carried a .38 caliber pistol.

Long emerged into the corridor

loping, as always, far ahead
of his aides and bodyguards.

"That man never walked,"
Justice John Fournet remembered.

As he emerged there

all of a sudden I saw
a strange look in his face.

And at the same time--

I had a brand-new Panama hat
in my left hand--

I saw a little gun
go right close to me

within a foot or two.

Black gun, automatic.

And at... simultaneously one
of the so-called bodyguards--

a young fellow
by the name of Murphy Roden

if I remember his name right--

grabbed the gun,
and it went off simultaneously.

Of course, it hit Huey
on the right side

somewheres along here

and went through
the small of the back.

You see, it's downward.

Well, Huey, of course,
made a whoop.

And at first
he was apparently trying

to get back into
the secretary's office

when he saw that gun, I guess.

But after he was shot

he reversed himself
and ran across at full speed.

As I opened the door
of the governor's office

the sound of a shot came
from the corridor outside.

Senator Long staggered away

his right hand
clasping his side.

Suddenly, a dozen
or more men began firing

and the hallway was filled with
the sound of exploding firearms.

But when they shot him,
he didn't fall.

No, he walked down...
out of the building.

Long's guards fired some
30 bullets into Weiss's body.

No one would ever be
certain of his motive

or even certain of his guilt.

He hadn't died when I heard it.

I was listening to the radio
and heard it on Walter Winchell

and I ran down the steps
to the office

as fast as I could go
to see where Hodding was

because it said
it was a man in white.

And thank God,
Hodding was there.

And my mother telephoned
from New Orleans and said

"Betty, where is Hodding?"

I said, "Hodding's here.

Hang up, I've got to find
Mr. Carter"-- his father.

And everybody in the state
felt that way that...

everyone... all the antis--

you didn't know who it was,
it could have been anybody.

And I hate to say, we really
hoped that he would die.

Now, that's
a terrible thing to say.

Long was taken to
Our Lady of the Lake Hospital.

A single bullet
had perforated his colon

and nicked his kidney.

Surgery failed to stop
the internal bleeding.

I went on duty with a patient
two rooms from him

and that's when I saw him.

They had a nurse, Miss Mead

and he was just kept saying,
you know, "Water, water, water."

He was thirsty.

And she said, "Senator,
you can't have any water."

And then she turns to me
and she says

sort of under her breath,
you know, she said

"From what people say about him,
I should give him some

because where he's going,
it's going to be pretty hot."

His family and closest political
allies stood around the bedside.

One remembered asking him
where the deduct box was.

Long murmured that
he would tell him later.

Then after a while,
somebody rapped on the door

after they had
the coroner's inquest

and after the man was found

riddled with 59 bullets
in his body.

And they came...
he knocked on the door.

I said, "You can't come in."

He said, "Well, I just wanted
to tell Huey who shot him."

Huey, as loud as ever--
"Let him in!"

He had a big, strong voice.

And of course
I had to let him in.

And he told him
that the young doctor

by the name of Carl Weiss
had shot him.

He said, "What does he want
to shoot me for?"

Well, I'm sure I was stunned...
as most people are.

You never think
it's going to happen.

You always hope that it won't.

And he wanted so to live.

And his last words were,
"Don't let me die.

I've got so much to do."

But he did die

at 4:06 a.m.,
September 10, 1935.

He was just 42 years old.

I was at New Orleans
the time I got the news.

And at that time I was
16 years old-- almost 17.

We got the family in
the automobile and drove up.

Got there after dark.

I was hoping
he would survive it.

And it was a tremendous
blow to me.

I just didn't believe
it could happen

that my father would
be assassinated

even though I knew there were
plots going on around the state

to assassinate the man.

It's just something
I had to live with.

I was very impressed with him.

But it's a terrible thing to say

I was really glad
when they shot him.

I don't believe in terrorism
or assassination

but he could have become
an American dictator.

When I heard he had died,
I was in the Strummer Hotel

on the fourth floor where I
roomed at that particular time.

It just killed my appetite
for about two days.

I just couldn't eat

knowing I'd lost my best friend
when they killed Huey P. Long.

Well, of course I was
very shocked and very sad.

I'd lost one of my best friends;

one of the best friends
I ever had.

He took me out of
the cotton fields

where I would have
probably continued

if it hadn't been for him.

He gave me an opportunity
to go to school

of which I took advantage

and I couldn't
have gone otherwise.

I think the tragedy
was expressed by my mother

that she just felt
that a horrible event occurred

and there's great sorrow

in both the Long and the Weiss
family for what went on.

The only thing we could do was
pray for both of their souls.

I was in Plaquemine at the time.

So I went... I went and seen him
laid out in the casket.

That was an ordeal thing.

People had to get into line
and get there and walk behind

and just look, and that was it.

I don't know how many
people went there

but there's no... no limits.

♪ Huey Long,
I hope you hear me ♪

♪ The words I have to say ♪

♪ Your friends,
they all do miss you... ♪

There were big crowds
at Weiss's funeral, too.

Some came to show support
for what he'd done;

others simply curious
about the kind of man

who would do such a thing.

The Long machine would
never be the same again.

Several of Long's cronies
did go to jail

convicted of embezzlement,
mail fraud and tax evasion.

The deduct box was never found.

Without their leader

the national "Share Our Wealth"
clubs withered away.

And in the
presidential election of 1936

Franklin Delano Roosevelt
took 46 of the 48 states

including Huey Long's Louisiana.

Well, I was in Nevada
on a Sunday morning

getting gas from a little
desert filling station

when the gas attendant said,
"They shot your boy last night"

seeing my Louisiana license.

And he began to call
some people around

and there weren't many people
there to call around--

all the state of Nevada
got about five--

and they wanted
to talk about him

because he was felt there, you
see, as somehow their friend.

And they wanted me
to talk about him.

And all the way
across the continent

I made a habit of stopping
at smallish places

not at big filling stations

where people would
gather immediately

around the Louisiana license
and talk about Long.

I'd say he was a great man,
a man of the people.

Because he knew people.

He knew their needs.

He knew our needs.

He knew every section of his...

and not only in our state,
but beyond our state.

I think that it was necessary
for the state

for somebody with some of
his qualities to come forward.

And I think he muffed it.

I think he had the... had
the capacities for greatness.

And I think
that he did some things

that stimulated
the state enormously

and that's on the good side.

On the bad side

he left us a heritage from
which we have not yet recovered.

He was everything--
good, bad and everything

depending on who
you were, I guess

because there were
surely some people

who... who didn't like him.

I think he was a loner, always.

He appealed, perhaps,
to the crowds

but in a sense,
he was never with the crowds.

He wanted to stand apart

and have them see him
and hear him

and he be their savior
in a very sense

of, let's say,
even patriotism, perhaps:

"Love Louisiana."

"A winning team."

He was the Kingfish, always.

I think we were living
through a revolution.

I think what Long was doing
was a revolution

and we were fighting
that revolution

and fought with the tools that
Mr. Jefferson said we could use

which is revolution.

And we were ready to fight,
to stop this man.

There were two revolutions:

his, the dictator's,
producing great things

and the people who didn't want
the power taken away.

"What happened to his greatness
is not the question.

"Perhaps he spilled it
on the ground

"the way you spill a liquid
when the bottle breaks.

"Perhaps he piled up
his greatness

"and burned it in one
great blaze in the dark

"like a bonfire

"and then there wasn't
anything but dark

"and the embers winking.

"Perhaps he could not tell
his greatness from ungreatness

"and so mixed them together

"so that what was
adulterated was lost.

"But he had it.

I must believe that."

♪ What has happened down here
is the wind has changed ♪

♪ Clouds roll in
from the north ♪

♪ And it start to rain. ♪

♪ Rained real hard and it
rained for a real long time ♪

♪ Six feet of water in
the streets of Evangeline. ♪

♪ The river rose all day ♪

♪ The river rose all night ♪

♪ Some people got lost
in the flood ♪

♪ Some people
got away all right. ♪

♪ River had busted through ♪

♪ Clear down to Plaquemine. ♪

♪ Six feet of water in
the streets of Evangeline. ♪

♪ Louisiana ♪

♪ Louisiana ♪

♪ They're trying
to wash us away ♪

♪ They're trying
to wash us away ♪

♪ Louisiana ♪

♪ Louisiana ♪

♪ They're trying
to wash us away ♪

♪ They're trying
to wash us away ♪

♪ They're trying
to wash us away ♪

♪ They're trying
to wash us away. ♪