‘God, don’t let me die. I have so much to do’: Huey Long assassinated 85 years ago
Louisiana Gov. Huey P. Long, a Democrat, long faced impeachment charges for gross misconduct and misuse of state funds, but the state Senate dropped the proceedings. He resigned as governor to go to the U.S. Senate once a loyal successor to continue his reform agenda in Louisiana was in place. In office: May 1928- January 1932.
The most populist governor of his time, Huey Long’s colorful, charismatic political career came to an end 85 years ago, when he was shot by an assassin inside the Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge. Known as The Kingfish, his last words were, “God, don’t let me die. I have so much to do.”
Long was born in 1893 in Winnfield, Louisiana, and studied at the University of Oklahoma and Tulane University. He was admitted to the Louisiana bar in 1915.
From there, he opened a law practice in his hometown and then moved it to Shreveport. He was elected to the Louisiana Public Commission, where he often prosecuted large corporations, such as Standard Oil, even so far as the U.S. Supreme Court. Chief Justice William Howard Taft called Long “the most brilliant lawyer who ever practiced” before the high court.
Long ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1924 but was elected in 1928. State lawmakers impeached him the following year on accusations of abuses of power, but the charges collapsed in the state Senate.
“All I care is what the boys at the forks of the creek think of me."
- Huey Long
During Long’s years in power, he greatly expanded social programs, such as free school textbooks, college financial aid and free medical care. He also organized massive public works projects, including a modern highway system and the tallest state Capitol building in the nation.
Long was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1930 but didn’t take his seat until 1932. By then, Long was the unquestioned “kingfish” of Louisiana politics, with his many critics accusing him of corruption and unconstitutional, dictatorial policies.
“A man is not a dictator when he is given a commission from the people and carries it out."
- Huey Long
Initially, Long was a strong supporter of Franklin D. Roosevelt but split with the newly elected president in 1933, becoming a major critic of Roosevelt’s New Deal. Long advocated populist-socialist policies that were even more liberal than Roosevelt’s, including the Share Our Wealth program in 1934.
Long advocated massive federal spending, including wealth taxes and wealth redistribution.
Long, who was 42, was preparing for a 1936 presidential bid when he was shot by Dr. Carl A. Weiss Jr. in the state Capitol.
“It's all very well for us to laugh over Huey. But actually we have to remember all the time that he really is one of the two most dangerous men in the country."
- Franklin D. Roosevelt
Long’s political influence, however, extended for many decades as state politics became divided between “Long” and “Anti-Long” factions. His brother, Earl K. Long, served as lieutenant governor from 1939 to ’40, and as governor from 1948 to ’52 and from 1956 to ’60. His son, Russell B. Long, served as a U.S. senator for nearly 40 years.