Although he held office for less than two decades, it would be difficult to identify a figure in Louisiana’s political history who combined popular appeal and national impact more powerfully than Huey Pierce Long Jr. (1893–1935). Widely known as the Kingfish, he is remembered today as the protagonist in a series of colorful anecdotes, a manipulative and crafty politician, and the victim of a shooting, in the Louisiana State Capitol Building, that still engenders speculation. His sympathy for the common man and disdain for powerful interests, coupled with peerless political instincts, allowed him to actualize populist and progressive ideals spouted but never attained by his predecessors. Long’s legacy continues to color state politics down to the present day— inviting assessments by pundits and politicos that, invariably, say more about the viewer’s perspective than they do about the complexities of the man himself. 

The three items included below are just a small selection of the materials in THNOC's holdings related to Huey P. Long's life, career, and legacy.


Share the Wealth

• In 1934, during the heart of the Great Depression, Long launched his Share Our Wealth Plan, which would act as a cornerstone of his political career. Share Our Wealth would tax the wealthiest Americans and provide more government support for lower earners in an attempt to close the poverty gap. Benefits promised by Long included a guaranteed yearly income, old age pension, and free education to all children. .
• By creating the Share Our Wealth campaign, Long challenged the programs of the New Deal, mostly overseen by the federal government, which also aimed to combat the effects of the Great Depression. Although he was an early supporter of Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal, Long felt that those programs did not do enough to ease the suffering of working- and middle-class Americans. 
• This plan hinged on the formation of a nationwide system of local Share Our Wealth clubs, which did not collect dues in order to appeal to working class families. However, these groups never materialized in the way that Long had hoped—owing, in part, to his inability to explain how the Share Our Wealth programs would have been financed. 

IMAGE CAPTION: Share the Wealth; [1935?]; The Historic New Orleans Collection, 86-2208-RL
http://hnoc.minisisinc.com/thnoc/catalog/2/3052


Postcard of Louisiana State Capitol Building and the Huey P. Long Bridge

• During Huey P. Long’s administration more than 100 bridges and 13,000 miles of paved roads were built in Louisiana, making huge bounds from the 11 bridges and mere 300 miles of paved roads that existed in the state before. He oversaw the construction of important buildings as well, including new buildings for the state capitol and Charity Hospital. A large portion of this development occurred during the Great Depression, providing much needed jobs.
• The Louisiana State Capitol Building was built in part to replace the former one, but was also commissioned by Long as a symbol that control of Louisiana’s political climate had shifted. When it was finished, in 1932, it was the tallest building in the South at 34 stories high, and still remains the tallest state capitol in the country. In 1935, Long was assassinated in this building and subsequently buried beneath the surrounding gardens. 
• The Huey P. Long Bridge, completed in 1935, was the longest railroad bridge in the United States at the time of its construction. It made a southern transcontinental railroad possible, and also enabled cars and pedestrians to cross without using a ferry. Before the bridge’s construction, train cars had to be detached, loaded onto ferries, then reassembled on the other side of the river.

IMAGE CAPTION: Postcard of Louisiana State Capitol Building and the Huey P. Long Bridge; Milwaukee, WI: E. C. Kropp, [1936]; The Historic New Orleans Collection, 86-2186-RL
http://hnoc.minisisinc.com/thnoc/catalog/2/3049


Louisiana’s Future

• Even after his death, Huey P. Long’s proponents continued to support his programs. The Long allies pictured here made lasting impacts on Louisiana politics: Allen Ellender won the 1936 election for Huey P. Long’s Senate seat and Richard Leche won the 1936 gubernatorial election.
• Louisiana State University was the focus of many of Long’s projects. During Long’s tenure as governor, LSU’s enrollment almost tripled, its operating expenses more than doubled, sports facilities and dormitories were enlarged, and the LSU Medical School was founded. 
• Many of Long’s other accomplishments are illustrated in this cartoon, such as the abolition of the poll tax, the free textbook program, the expansion of schools and hospitals, reduced utility rates to homeowners, and property tax exemptions to rural home owners. 

IMAGE CAPTION: Louisiana’s Future; 1935; ink on paper by Trist Wood; The Historic New Orleans Collection, 1980.77.21
http://hnoc.minisisinc.com/thnoc/catalog/1/19433


SOURCES REFERENCED:

Brinkley, Alan. Voices of Protest: Huey Long, Father Coughlin, and the Great Depression. New York: Random House, 1983. 

Kane, Harnett T. Louisiana Hayride: The American Rehearsal for Dictatorship, 1928–1940. New York: W. Morrow, 1941.

McConnell, Gilman. Capitol Building of the State of Louisiana in Baton Rouge. New Orleans: T.J. Moran’s Sons, 1937.

US Department of the Interior. National Park Service. National Register of Historic Places Inventory—Nomination Form. "Louisiana State Capitol." N.p.: n.p., 1984. Accessed Oct. 2, 2015. http://focus.nps.gov/pdfhost/docs/NHLS/Text/78001421.pdf