Historians on the Win or Lose Corporation

The book Huey Long won a Pulitzer Prize back in 1969.  Historians call it a beautifully written account of Huey P. Long's life.

Historians call T. Harry Williams' 884-page book a work of art but, while he's a wordsmith, they say his recount of history distorts the facts.

Some historians say the book goes easy on Long.  A perfect example: Only two pages are dedicated to the Win or Lose Corporation.

"Essentially, Win or Lose oil company was a profit-making company," says LSU historian Alecia Long, who is not related to the late senator.

The biography does point out that Long's first cut of money from Win or Lose, the first dividend check, totaled $62,000.  Re-calculated for today, that's about $1 million.

"What they did is turn a small investment into a multi-million dollar oil company," says Tulane historian Terrence Fitzmorris.

It was an oil company set up by governors who handed out oil leases and profited from them in the years to come.

Fitzmorris says Long and other Win or Lose figures used "their insider trading, their knowledge of the oil and gas industry and their positions as legislators, senators and governors to, in a sense, extort from the people of Louisiana these mineral rights."

Historians call Huey Long the brains behind Win or Lose.

"Long constructed this Win or Lose Corporation," Fitzmorris says.  "His henchmen were the chairman and the executive officers of it."

Fitzmorris says former Louisiana Governors James Noe and O.K. Allen served as the "henchmen".

"It's an actual corporation, but it's also a model for the way business got done during the Long era," notes Alecia Long.

However, this model comes with a twist -- the profiting continues to this day.

What is interesting -- when you look at the books and ask the professors -- is that, at some point, historians wrote Win or Lose out of history, never addressing what became of Long's company.

We asked our two historians whether they know what ever happened to the Win or Lose Corporation.

"I don't know the answer to that," Long acknowledged.

"No," Fitzmorris answered.

Lost in most historical accounts is that descendants of Long and his cronies are still profiting from Win or Lose to this day, making tens of millions of dollars for their families off their insider trading deals from the 1930's.