Often when I talk to other history or government professors, it never ceases to amaze me the absolute disdain they have for Huey P. Long. I don't know where it comes from exactly. Perhaps because he dared criticize Franklin D. Roosevelt, a man whom you are expected to worship if you are a history professor. But, they protest, Huey P. Long wanted to be a dictator! He used the State Police to go after his political enemies! Well now, last time I checked, FDR is the one who was President for life. He also liked to use the IRS to target his political enemies, including Long. And need I bring up the court packing plan, which was nothing more than an attempt to remove all barriers to his want he wanted to do. But.....it was necessary, they say. If any other President tried to do that very same thing, he would be considered an evil fascist. Yet we excuse FDR. And his New Deal programs, well, Long did that stuff in Louisiana before FDR ever got elected president!
Long started out in life as a traveling salesman which is good training for a budding politician. Think about it. You knock on the door and try to sell people crap they don't need. Just like a politician. Sure, he was perhaps a bit of a demagogue. But unlike most Southern politicians in his day, he did not engage in race baiting. "I'm for the poor man," he said, "all poor men, black and white, they all gotta have a chance." During his time as governor, the literacy rate for both black and white Louisianans increased. He built schools, hospitals, roads, and bridges. He also had this to say about the political parties of his day. The same is true today, is it not? But no, he is an evil villain according to most historians of today. He abolished the poll tax in Louisiana thirty years before it was abolished in the rest of the country! He helped make LSU the major university it is today! But no, he is an evil villain.
The only real reason why I think those outside of Louisiana demonize him is because he planned on challenging FDR for the Democratic nomination in 1936. Anyone who dares to criticize FDR must be evil to the historians of today. So much for objectivity. Hell, FDR even said that Long was one of the two most dangerous men in America! Personally, I think Long was a great American. Not the fascist that people who don't really know anything about him or his legacy see fit to call him. And there is even a Huey P. Long impersonator! Check out this this speech! It is one of Long's most famous that unfortunately was not recorded though it was written down.
My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Half A$$ Historian!
The Half A$$ Historian and the Kingfish!