Earl Long

Earl Long

Earl Kemp Long
45th Governor of Louisiana
In office
June 26, 1939  May 14, 1940
Lieutenant Coleman Lindsey
Preceded by Richard W. Leche
Succeeded by Sam H. Jones
In office
May 11, 1948  May 13, 1952
Lieutenant William J. "Bill" Dodd
Preceded by Jimmie H. Davis
Succeeded by Robert F. Kennon
In office
May 8, 1956  May 10, 1960
Lieutenant Lether Frazar
Preceded by Robert F. Kennon
Succeeded by Jimmie H. Davis
38th Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana
In office
May 12, 1936  June 26, 1939
Governor Richard W. Leche
Preceded by James A. Noe
Succeeded by Coleman Lindsey
Personal details
Born Earl Kemp Long
August 26, 1895 (1895-08-26)
Winnfield, Louisiana, USA
Died September 5, 1960 (1960-09-06) (aged 65)
Alexandria, Rapides Parish
Resting place Earl K. Long Memorial Park in Winnfield, Louisiana
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Blanche Revere Long

Huey Pierce Long, Jr. (brother)
George S. Long (brother)
Russell B. Long (nephew)

John S. Hunt, III (nephew)
Children None
Religion Southern Baptist
The Earl K. Long Gymnasium at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Earl Kemp Long (August 26, 1895 – September 5, 1960) was an American politician and the 45th Governor of Louisiana, serving three non-consecutive terms. Long, known as “Uncle Earl,” connected with voters through his folksy demeanor and colorful oratory. He departed from other southern politicians of his time by promoting a progressive agenda, including expanding school lunch programs, teacher pay, public works projects, and minority voting rights.[1]

His sometimes erratic behavior – including a liaison with New Orleans stripper Blaze Starr – appeared to be of minimal consequence to his electoral success. Long served as governor from 1939 to 1940, 1948 to 1952, and 1956 to 1960. Long was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1960, but died before taking office.[2]

He was also elected as lieutenant governor, serving from 1936 to 1939. Trying to keep a close hand in state government, Long failed in three other bids to be elected lieutenant governor.

At the time of his death, Long's last term as governor had expired. He was the Democratic nominee for the US House of Representatives from the now defunct Eighth Congressional District, based in central Louisiana. This was redistricted after population changed.

Early career

Long was born in Winnfield, the seat of Winn Parish, in north central Louisiana to Huey Pierce Long, Sr. (1852–1937) and the former Caledonia Palestine Tyson (1860–1913), a native of neighboring Grant Parish. He was the younger brother of U.S. Representative George Shannon "Doc" Long and Governor and U.S. Senator Huey Pierce Long, Jr.

Their younger sister was Lucille (1898–1985), who married John S. Hunt II of Ruston, the seat of Lincoln Parish, in north Louisiana. Their son John S. Hunt, III was Louisiana Public Service Commissioner from Monroe.

Long attended Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, where his college roommate was John Jones Doles, Sr., a future state senator from Plain Dealing, in northern Bossier Parish.[3] Long graduated from the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law.


Long handily defeated fellow Democrat Clement Murphy Moss (1902-1970),[4] much later a judge in Lake Charles, in the primary for lieutenant governor in January 1936.[5] When Governor Richard W. Leche resigned in 1939, Long succeeded for eleven months to the governorship. He failed to win a term of his own in the election of 1940. During his abbreviated term, Long appointed a cousin, Floyd Harrison Long, Sr., as the custodian of the Central State (Mental) Hospital in Pineville. Earl Long's brief first tenure corresponded with the "Louisiana Hayride" scandals that engulfed the president of Louisiana State University, James Monroe Smith.[6] Long was defeated in the Democratic primary by the conservative attorney Sam H. Jones of Lake Charles.

After the abbreviated governorship, Long was indicted in New Orleans on charges of embezzlement and extortion. The charges involved placing a "deadhead" (an unneeded state worker who performs few or no duties) on the payroll of a special state board.[7]

In 1944, Long did not run for governor but his earlier position as lieutenant governor on an intraparty ticket with former U.S. Representative Lewis Lovering Morgan of Covington in St. Tammany Parish, north of New Orleans. Long led the party balloting for the second position in state government, but he lost the runoff to J. Emile Verret of New Iberia, the choice of incoming Governor Jimmie Davis. His previous elected position was as a member and president of the Iberia Parish School Board.

Had Morgan not entered the second primary against Jimmie Davis, Long would have become lieutenant governor without a runoff. At the time, Louisiana law provided that there would be no statewide constitutional runoff elections unless there was also a second contest for governor. That rule did not apply to state legislative races, however. In the same campaign, the Long-endorsed candidate for attorney general, state Senator Joe T. Cawthorn of Mansfield, lost to the Davis-backed Fred S. LeBlanc.[8]

Long blamed his failure to become lieutenant governor on Secretary of State Wade O. Martin, Jr., a former ally with whom he quarreled for many years thereafter. Years later he paid him back; in 1957, Long pushed through a new law, taking jurisdiction of insurance and voting machines out of the secretary of state's office and setting up two new patronage positions. Long appointed Rufus D. Hayes of Baton Rouge as the first insurance commissioner, and Drayton Boucher of Webster Parish as the commissioner of voting machines. After Boucher decided not to run for office in the 1959–1960 election cycle, Long appointed Douglas Fowler of Red River Parish.


In 1948, Long was elected governor to succeed Jimmie Davis. At the time the salary was $12,000 annually. Long defeated his old rival Sam Jones by a wide margin. Eliminated in the first primary was U.S. Representative James Hobson "Jimmy" Morrison of Hammond, who made his third and final gubernatorial bid. Long appointed A.A. Fredericks as his executive secretary. Harvey Locke Carey of Shreveport was the campaign manager for northwest Louisiana and later the short-term U. S. Attorney for the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana.[9]

The Memphis Commercial Appeal criticized Long's election as governor in 1948. Long "promised everything but the moon"old-age pensions, veterans bonuses, a new highway system: "[A]pparently the voters took him at his word, for they elected him by the largest majority ever given a Louisiana candidate [in a gubernatorial runoff contest]. That may be something in the nature of poetic justice, for the majority of voters will be getting exactly what was promised them, and for which they asked, whether they knew it or not."[10]

During the second half of his four-year term, Governor Long became close to Margaret Dixon, the first woman managing editor of the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate. She often advised him on political strategy. In 1951 he appointed her to the LSU Board of Supervisors. Long suffered a major heart attack in 1950, but recovered.

In 1950, Long struck a deal with his intraparty rival, Mayor deLesseps Story Morrison, to return home rule to the Crescent City, which at the time was being virtually governed out of Baton Rouge. Morrison agreed not to work against Long's nephew Russell B. Long for a full term in the United States Senate but would formally endorse one of Long's rivals, Malcolm Lafargue, the former U. S. attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, based in Shreveport. Though Morrison endorsed Lafargue, he privately urged his followers to support Russell Long, whom he fully expected to win the race anyway.[11]

Interim period

Term limited and unable to run in the 1951–1952 elections, Long essentially sat out the statewide elections. According to Garry Boulard's book, The Big Lie (2001), Long proved instrumental during the 1951–1952 campaign in charges of communism made against gubernatorial candidate Hale Boggs of New Orleans. Rival candidate Lucille May Grace attacked him publicly, but Boulard believes this was rigged by St. Bernard Parish boss Leander Perez. At a stormy session of the state Democratic committee, Long attacked Perez and Grace for attacking Boggs, but prevented Boggs from publicly defending himself. Some analysts thought this strategy greatly contributed to Boggs' defeat in the primary. Judge Robert F. Kennon of Minden won as governor, although most loyal Longites had lined up with Judge Carlos Spaht of Baton Rouge.


Long surfaced at the top of the state again in 1955–1956, when he scored an easy victory for governor over a field that included Mayor of New Orleans deLesseps Story "Chep" Morrison, Sr., a law partner of Hale Boggs; state highway director Fred Preaus of Farmerville, the choice of outgoing Governor Robert Kennon; former state police superintendent Francis Grevemberg; and businessman James M. McLemore of Alexandria. As Louisiana governors rarely won in the first primary, Long's first response on his victory was, "Huey never done that, did he?" In his second race for the office, McLemore ran on a primarily racial segregationist platform, following the ruling by the US Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education (1954) that segregated public schools were unconstitutional.

In 1956, Long vetoed funding for the work undertaken by the LSU historian Edwin Adams Davis to establish the state archives. Davis appealed to the State Board of Liquidation for temporary relief until funding could be restored in the next legislative session. The archives became a permanent institution in Baton Rouge.[12]

Long eased the governmental indignities placed on African Americans and allowed a considerable number to vote. He convinced the legislature to equalize teacher pay between the races. In 1959, in response to legislative attempts to restrict the suffrage, he called for full participation by blacks in Louisiana elections. He knew that he would attract most of the black vote. In the 1950s, he quarreled with the state's leading segregationist, then state Senator William M. Rainach of Claiborne Parish in north Louisiana.

Long re-appointed A.A. Fredericks as his executive secretary from 1959 through 1960, his last two years of his last term as governor. He appointed another confidante, former legislator Drayton Boucher of Springhill and later Baton Rouge, as interim "Custodian of voting machines" from 1958 to 1959, as he took the responsibility from the Secretary of State. Long supported another ally, Douglas Fowler of Coushatta, who won the position when it was established as an elective office in 1960.[13]

On three occasions, Long tapped Lorris M. Wimberly of Bienville Parish as Speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives. In Louisiana, the powerful governor (although limited by a two-year term) chooses the House Speaker despite the separation of powers. In his last term, Long named Wimberly as director of public works.

In his last gubernatorial term from 1959 to 1960, Long relied heavily on his legislative floor leader, state Representative Willard L. Rambo of Georgetown in Grant Parish, in getting bills through the legislature. Rambo was a Long "by marriage," having wed the former Mary Alice Long.

In 1959, Long considered resigning as governor.[14] His loyal lieutenant governor, Lether Edward Frazar of Lake Charles, would have succeeded him as the Louisiana chief executive for some seven months. Under this scenario, Long planned to run again for governor in the December 1959 Democratic primary but by leaving office early could avoid Louisiana's ban (at the time) on governors' succeeding themselves.

He never proceeded with this. Instead, the term-limited Long unsuccessfully sought the lieutenant governorship on a ticket headed by fellow Democrat and wealthy former Governor James A. Noe Instead, Jimmie Davis was elected to a second non-consecutive term as governor in 1960, having first served from 1944 to 1948. It was said that in 1948 Long followed Davis and in 1960 Davis followed Long.

Such figures were testaments to the persistence and power of the Long brand of populism in southern politics.

Long was defeated for lieutenant governor in the 1959 primary by the conservative C. C. "Taddy" Aycock of Franklin in St. Mary Parish in south Louisiana, who thereafter won the January 1960 runoff election over Alexandria Mayor W. George Bowdon, Jr. In the 1959 primary, Long also lost a race to Sheridan Garrett, 2,563 to 2,068, for a Winn Parish seat on the Louisiana Democratic State Central Committee.[15]

"Uncle Earl" and anecdotes

The colorful "Uncle Earl" (so-named because of his relatives, including nephew and U.S. Senator Russell Long) once joked that one day the people of Louisiana would elect "good government, and they won't like it!" But, beneath his public persona as a simple, plain-spoken rural Louisianan of little education, he had an astute political mind of considerable intelligence. Earl Long was a master campaigner, who attracted large crowds when his caravan crisscrossed the state. He would not allow a local person to introduce him or his ticket mates at a rally. Only out-of-parish people could do the honor. Long reasoned that nearly any local person would have made some political enemies who might reject Earl Long just because that person's "enemy" was pro-Long. Long was determined to get every vote possible and so tried to remain independent of local rivalries.

Both Earl Long and his brother Huey had grown close to Earl Williamson, a local politician in Caddo Parish. Williamson's son, Don W. Williamson, later recalled Earl Long coming into their town of Vivian and picking up his father to join the Long entourage for a trip to Hot Springs, Arkansas, where they enjoyed buttermilk drinking and horse racing as well as illicit attractions in the resort city. Long demanded absolute loyalty among his inner circle, often saying that he did not need them to back him when he was right but when he was wrong.

Long's erratic political behavior led the aspiring singer Jay Chevalier to compose in 1959 the song, "The Ballad of Earl K. Long".

Long's feud with Dave Pearce

In the 1948 Democratic primary, W.E. Anderson of Tangipahoa Parish defeated Dave L. Pearce, a legislator from West Carroll Parish in northeastern Louisiana, for the position of Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry. For the 1952 primary, the Democratic Party renominated Anderson without opposition to a second term. After Anderson died that year, outgoing Governor Long appointed Pearce to finish the term. Pearce won a special election and also served as commissioner during the administration of the anti-Long Governor Robert F. Kennon of Minden.[16]

Long's first lieutenant governor, William J. "Bill" Dodd, in his memoir entitled Peapatch Politics: The Earl Long Era in Louisiana Politics (named for Earl Long's "Peapatch Farm" in Winn Parish), writes that Earl Long developed a "hatred" for Pearce. The governor encouraged state entomologist Sidney McCrory of Ascension Parish to run against Pearce in the 1956 primary election. Dodd did not explain why the relationship between Long and Pearce had declined.

McCrory defeated Pearce. But beginning with the 1959 primary, Pearce was nominated by the Democrats for the first of what became four consecutive terms as agriculture commissioner. That year, Earl Long ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor, hoping to take office in 1960, but lost to Taddy Aycock.

Dodd noted with humor that Long had become irritated with McCrory after inviting him on Long's intraparty ticket in 1956 in order:

to harass and, we hoped, defeat Uncle Earl's old political enemy, Dave Pearce. All McCrory could talk about was pesticides and how to get rid of different kinds of crop-killing bugs. His main topic and claim to fame, which dominated all of his speeches, whether he was in cotton country, forestry areas, or the city of New Orleans, was his eradicating the pink boll worms from Louisiana cotton fields. Uncle Earl almost went crazy when he had to listen to ... McCrory killed enough pink boll worms to fill the Atlantic Ocean.

Bill Dodd analyzes Earl Long

In his memoir, Dodd assesses Long, accordingly:

He had no formal speech training, but he was a great, forceful, and effective speaker. He had no university background in psychology, yet he practiced psychology in his political life, which was his whole life. He had no training in either economics or governmental administration, yet as governor he was an expert in both. Somewhere along the line, Earl Long changed from an amateurish shoe-polish salesman and political camp follower into a sound businessman and excellent government administrator. Other governors...drew from their formal educational training and varied business and political experiences to operate the governor's office. But none of them surpassed old Earl in the politics of getting elected or handling the job after being elected.

Dodd said that Long "was as conservative as Ronald Reagan and as prejudiced as a Cyclops in the KKK about blacks," but he gave the state many liberal laws, was good to blacks, and strong for welfare. He called women lobbyists "poor things who couldn't get enough at home" and "man-crazy nuts".

Dodd repudiated the 1989 film Blaze about Blaze Starr, a burlesque performer who has an affair with Earl Long. According to Dodd:

Blaze has done much to distort the truth about Earl Long...He never loved Blaze or any of the many strippers and camp followers who came when he whistled...The vulgar language and lurid sex scenes are bad enough to get this movies rated too bad for young people. The unreality of the events and actions of Earl Long make it worthless as a true picture of Earl or Louisiana politics. On a scale of nothing to something, I would rate Blaze a perfect zero.

Eccentricity and hospitalization

Long was well known for eccentric behavior, leading some to suspect that he suffered from bipolar disorder.[17] In his last term in office his wife, Blanche Revere Long (1902–1998), and others attempted to remove him on the grounds of mental instability. For a time, Long was confined to the Southeast Louisiana Hospital in Mandeville, but his legal adviser, Joseph A. Sims, was said to have rescued Long from the institution. Long was never formally diagnosed with any mental illness. Commentators have speculated that political opposition may have led the effort to prove him mentally incompetent, including his wife, who resented his connection with Blaze Starr.

He had a severe heart attack in 1951. Additionally, in his later years he was alleged to have suffered from strokes, resulting in further mental impairment. Some have speculated that he may have suffered from dementia in his last days.

Grave of Earl Kemp Long in Winnfield, Louisiana
Bench at Earl Long grave inscribed, but blocked from view by the glare, with words of the C. Austin Miles hymn "In the Garden" (1912)

While confined in the mental hospital in Mandeville, Long kept his political machine running via telephone. His staff discovered that nothing in Louisiana law required him to relinquish power because he was confined to the mental hospital. Long ordered Jesse Bankston, the head of the state hospital system, fired and replaced him with a supporter, who had Long released. Bill Dodd, who had periods of positive association with Long followed by alienation, defended Long over the mental hospital confinement. So too did long-time State Senator Sixty Rayburn of Bogalusa, a personal and philosophical ally of Long's.

Earl and Blanche separated at that time. He died before their divorce was completed.

Long was reluctant to appoint a successor as governor in 1952 and 1960, for he hoped to return to office in 1956, which he did, and in 1964, but he died in 1960. William C. Havard, Rudolf Heberle, and Perry H. Howard, in The Louisiana Election of 1960 described Long in the following way:

"Long knew that a term of office on the part of a relatively inactive and conservative administration would create the type of situation for which his [populist] appeals were ideally suited. Furthermore, he had always played down the race issue (after all, there were [then] 150,000 Negro voters in the state), and he certainly clearly foresaw that the issue could furnish only a limited amount of mileage for political travel in the face of current national developments. In point of fact, his victory in the congressional primary [in 1960] within nine months of the second gubernatorial primary was indicative of the shrewdness of his calculation. If Earl Long had not died immediately following that congressional race....few observers doubted that he would have been an odds-on favorite to rebuild his machine sufficiently to capture the governorship in 1964. As it happens, the death of Earl Long leaves a tremendous hiatus—in a sense deliberately created by Earl himself—in the leadership of the Long faction...."[18]


Only a few months after his term as governor expired in 1960, Earl Long ran for the United States House of Representatives from Louisiana's 8th congressional district, since redistricted. An entourage of Long backers from over the years flocked to support him in the race, including Bill Dodd, former Senate floor leader C. H. "Sammy" Downs, state Senator Sixty Rayburn, the Long attorney Joseph A. Sims, and A. A. Fredericks, Long's former executive assistant.[19]

Because of a third candidate, former State Representative Ben F. Holt of Rapides Parish, Long finished in second place in the primary election and was compelled into a runoff contest for the Democratic nomination with the short-term incumbent, Alexandria attorney Harold B. McSween. No Republican filed for the seat, and Long was unopposed in the general election set for November 8, 1960, when Long's choice for president, John F. Kennedy, would defeat Richard M. Nixon. Soon he suffered a fatal heart attack while in the Baptist Hospital (later Rapides General Hospital) in Alexandria. The 8th district seat had once been held by Earl Long's late brother, George Long, who had been succeeded by McSween. After Earl Long's death, the Democratic State Central Committee gave the nomination to McSween. McSween was thus unopposed in the 1960 general election for a second consecutive term in the U.S. House. McSween was defeated in the 1962 primary by his fellow liberal Democrat, Gillis William Long, who claimed to be the rightful heir to the Long dynasty.

His funeral in Baton Rouge attracted numerous attendees. Long was interred at the Earl K. Long Memorial Park in Winnfield. His nephew, US Senator Russell Long, was among the pallbearers.

Peoples and Kurtz biography

Morgan D. Peoples and Michael L. Kurtz, in Earl K. Long: The Saga of Uncle Earl and Louisiana Politics, noted that the only thing certain about Long was his "unpredictability, for no one, and probably not even Long himself, knew what he would say or do next. Yet, whatever he did or said, Long acted from political motives—he was a political animal through and through. 'While the rest of 'em are sleeping,' he once told his rivals, 'I'm politicking.'"


John Kenneth Snyder, Sr., a dedicated Long follower, was elected as mayor of Alexandria. Snyder tried to govern in the Long style and was repeatedly opposed by the city's business establishment.

In 1950 Long appointed John Sparks Patton, a Claiborne Parish school administrator, as superintendent of the Louisiana School for the Deaf. Patton had advocated that the state pay for taxpayer-funded school textbooks, an idea implemented by Huey Long.

In 1951 and 1959, Long named two widows, Lizzie P. Thompson of Doyline and Mary Smith Gleason of the Evergreen Community, near Shongaloo, to fill the Webster Parish seat in the Louisiana House after their husbands, C.W. Thompson and E.D. Gleason, died consecutively in office.


Representation in other media

See also


  1. Keith, Finley. "Earl Long". KnowLA. Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. Retrieved 1 January 2016.
  2. Shedler, Tom. "Historical Resources". Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved 1 January 2016.
  3. Verified by Mai Doles, daughter-in-law of John Doles, Sr., and adopted daughter of the historian T. Harry Williams
  4. "Clement Murphy Moss". Findagrave.com. Retrieved July 18, 2016.
  5. "Moss, Clement M.". Our Campaigns. Retrieved July 18, 2016.
  6. "Smith, James Monroe". A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography (Louisiana Historical Association). Retrieved March 25, 2011.
  7. Minden Herald, July 26, 1940, p. 1
  8. "Return Of Long Faction in Louisiana". Big Spring, Texas, Daily Herald. January 19, 1944. p. 7. Retrieved October 28, 2014.
  9. "Notes for Harvey Locke Carey". familytreemaker.genealogy.com. Retrieved February 18, 2015.
  10. Minden Herald, reprinted from the Memphis Commercial Appeal, May 28, 1948, p. 1
  11. "Chep Morrison (1912-1964)". knowla.org. Retrieved February 12, 2015.
  12. "A Historical Sketch of the Louisiana State Archives". sos.la.gov. Retrieved October 1, 2013.
  13. "Three Custodians in Four Years". Louisiana.gov. Retrieved June 24, 2009.
  14. - 1959 Year In Review: Governor Earl Long Goes Crazy – UPI.COM – http://www.upi.com/Audio/Year_in_Review/Events-of-1959/Governor-Earl-Long-Goes-Crazy/12295509433704-5/ -
  15. The Shreveport Times, December 7, 1959, p. 2-A
  16. "Bill Sherman, "Louisiana ag chiefs: past and present", July 3, 2008" (PDF). ldaf.state.la.us. Retrieved May 1, 2013.
  17. Earl K. Long: The Saga of Uncle Earl and Louisiana Politics. Louisiana State University Press. 1992. ISBN 978-0-8071-1765-1.
  18. William C. Havard, Rudolf Heberle, and Perry H. Howard, The Louisiana Election of 1960, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1963, p. 53
  19. Michael Kurtz and Morgan D. Peoples, Earl K. Long: The Saga of Uncle Earl in Louisiana Politics, 1990. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. ISBN 0-8071-1577-0. Retrieved June 27, 2013.

Further reading

Wikiquote has quotations related to: Earl Long
Political offices
Preceded by
Robert F. Kennon
Governor of Louisiana
Succeeded by
Jimmie H. Davis
Preceded by
Jimmie H. Davis
Governor of Louisiana
Succeeded by
Robert F. Kennon
Preceded by
Richard W. Leche
Governor of Louisiana
Succeeded by
Sam H. Jones
Preceded by
James A. Noe
Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana
Succeeded by
Coleman Lindsey
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