Huey Long: Power in perspective

Huey P. Long
Huey P. Long

The History Channel calls Huey Long the most powerful governor in the history of Louisiana, maybe in the history of any state.

"He was a populist, in that he appealed to the broad mass of people," says LSU historian Alecia Long.

That appeal started in 1918, when voters elected long to the Louisiana Railroad Commission at the age of 25.  Huey Long spent his time on the commission taking on large oil companies.

"That was what Huey Long was.  He was a champion of the people, yet he stole money galore," says Tulane historian Terrence Fitzmorris.

The irony is that, while Huey Long's rise to power was fueled by the populist appeal of criticizing Big Oil, Long himself secretly profited off that industry, at the same time many Louisianans were suffering.  In a very real sense, the Kingfish was profiting from the Great Depression

"Absolutely," confirms Fitzmorris, "He profited both politically and financially."