Huey Long

Excerpts From Huey Long's Autobiography

Huey Long on the radio

Huey Long made effective use of radio to promote his views. Photo by NARS, FDR Library NPX-83-72.

In 1933, at the ripe old age of 39, Huey Long published his autobiography. This might seem, at the least, premature. But it turned out to be a provident move as Huey Long was dead two years later, felled by an assassin's bullet.

Huey Long was a man in a hurry. He passed the Louisiana bar exam and became a lawyer after taking only two law school classes and spending a year reading every law book he could find. He became Governor of Louisiana in 1928. In four short years as Governor he paved roads, built bridges, provided free textbooks to poor children, reformed the hospitals, broke the power of the old political bosses, and took on the near-monopolistic power of the big oil companies. Within a year of taking office he was impeached by the Louisiana House, although the charges were dismissed by the State Senate. In 1930 Long was elected to the U.S. Senate. But since he was busy with his agenda as Governor, he never bothered to show up in Washington to take the oath of office until 1932. Huey Long was a man in a hurry.


 (Huey Long's brief career in the United States Senate was contentious and disagreeable to his fellow Senators. Of his fellow Democratic Senator, Pat Harrison of Mississippi, he would say on the Senate floor: "The Senator from Mississippi has another way of standing by his friends. . .catch your friend in trouble, stab him in the back and drink his blood." A few months after arriving in Congress he made a permanent enemy of Senate Majority Leader Joe Robinson (D-AK) by reading into the Congressional Record a long list of corporate clients of Robinson's Arkansas law firm and then intoning with mock sincerity "I want now to disclaim that I have the slightest motive of saying, or that in my heart I believe, that such a man could to the slightest degree be influenced in any vote which he casts in this body by the fact that this association might mean hundreds of thousands and millions of dollars to him in the way of lucrative fees." This sort of behavior would make him a pariah to his colleagues. Senator Harry Byrd of West Virginia would ask that his desk be moved from next to Long's "even if I have sit on the Republican side."As you might imagine, Huey Long was not a successful legislator. In the following excerpt, Long recounts his first moments on the Senate floor, when he offends the senior Senator from his home state by refusing to be introduced by him.)

"I ARRIVED in Washington January 25, 1932. Soon thereafter I met our Democratic leader, Senator Robinson of Arkansas. He escorted me to the lounging room immediately adjacent to the Senate, where I sat awaiting the time when I would enter the Senate and be administered the oath of office..

My old friend, Senator Broussard, whom I had not seen for eighteen months, walked up to me while I sat there.

'Huey,' he said, 'there is a rule here that a Senator from one State should escort a new Senator from that State when he takes the oath.'

'Edwin, I will be glad to have you do that,' I said, 'but I don't want you to misunderstand me. When I reached here this morning I read in the newspapers remarks attributed to you, saying that you had not decided whether you would or would not introduce me. I was asked concerning your remarks, and I made the statement that that was a matter you were not going to decide. Now, I just want you to know that.'

The Senator was angry.

'I won't introduce you unless you ask me to,' he said.

'Don't hold your breath until I do, Edwin,' I replied.

Senator Robinson returned, and I told him of the conversation.

'Well, would you have any objection to his introducing you, just dropping matters?' he asked.

'No, not particularly,' I said.

He left to talk to Senator Broussard; but on returning he said:

'All right; I'll introduce you.'

 (pgs. 286-287)


(Huey Long was a nominal Democrat, but many in the Democratic party thought the old saying applied, "with friends like these, who needs enemies." President Roosevelt considered Huey Long a demagogue and privately said of him that he was "one of the two most dangerous men in America." Probably the nicest thing Huey Long had to say about President Roosevelt was to compare him to President Hoover, in his best piney-woods barnyard analogy: "The only difference between Hoover and Roosevelt is that Hoover is a hoot owl and Roosevelt is a scrootch owl. A hoot owl bangs into the roost and knocks the hen clean off, and catches her while she's falling. But a scrootch own slips into the roost and talks softly to her. And she just falls in love with him, and the first thing you know, there ain't no hen." [1] For his part, Roosevelt tried to establish a political relationship with Huey Long, even inviting Huey to dine with the Roosevelt family at the estate in Hyde Park. The resulting scene was like something out of a B-movie comedy of manners. Roosevelt displayed no irritation at Huey's outrageous costume (a loud suit, clashing shirt, and pink tie) or at his effort to dominate the conversation during lunch, lecturing the candidate like a schoolboy. Roosevelt's mother, however, was not so tactful. "Who is that awful man?" she said in a loud whisper. Everyone pretended not to hear, but Long almost certainly took note. "By God, I feel sorry for him," (Huey) later remarked of Roosevelt. "He's got more sonofabitches in his family than I got in mine." [2] Despite all of this, Huey Long was initially a supporter of FDR, as indicated in these excerpts.)

"When I reached Washington on January 25, 1932, newspapermen generally inquired what I thought of the approaching presidential election. My reply was that I thought most any Democrat could win; that I thought some one like my friend Senator Joseph T. Robinson or my friend Senator Pat Harrison would be the best choice. I spoke kindly of Garner as a prospective candidate, as well as of Al Smith, but I expressed contrary predictions on the then Governor of New York, Franklin D. Roosevelt.

I had been in the Senate but a few days, when the famous sales tax fight developed; much of our Democratic leadership in Congress was either favorable to this policy which was being advocated for Mr. Hoover, or, at least, was not unsympathetic to it.

I regarded the sales tax as a disaster. It was diametrically opposed to what I considered the only course which the nation must take to relieve itself from the distress which then and now afflicts it. I was soon looking away from my early inclinations, and eventually toward Governor Roosevelt, who all the time, day by day, made commitments exactly consistent with my belief and understanding of correct government.

Progressive members of the United States Senate, particularly Senators Norris and Wheeler, played a material part in my inclination for the then Governor of New York and present President of the United States. They were the boldest, most courageous men I had ever met."

(pgs. 288-298)

"On my way from New Orleans to Washington one night I met Clark Howell of the Atlanta Constitution on the train. I gave him to understand that I was inclined to Roosevelt. Soon thereafter I received a letter from Governor Roosevelt telling me that Mr. Howell had informed him of what I had said. He paid me a few compliments and closed by saying:

'You and I are alike for the rights in behalf of the common man of this country.'

I was more than ready to join him."

(pg. 301)

"But I saw to it that my views were known to Mr. Roosevelt, then Governor of New York and now President of the United States. Early in his candidacy in a speech delivered in Atlanta, Mr. Roosevelt said:

'The millions who are in want will not stand by silently forever while the things to satisfy their needs are within easy reach.

Many of those whose primary solicitude is confined to the welfare of what they call capital have failed to read the lessons of the last few years and have been moved less by calm analysis of the needs of the Nation as a whole than by a blind determination to preserve their own special stakes in the economic disorder.

We may build more factories, but the fact remains that we have enough now to supply all our domestic needs and more, if they are used. No; our basic trouble was not an insufficiency of capital; it was an insufficient distribution of buying popover coupled with an over-sufficient speculation in production.'

Soon thereafter on the basis of such declarations, I became convinced that the best chance for a solution of America's difficulties was through the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt as President."

(pg. 298)

"The Democratic National Convention assembled in its first formal session in the Chicago Coliseum on the 27th day of June, 1932. The first controversy was the dispute between contesting delegations. Contests were heard alphabetically, beginning with Louisiana. This was the original test of strength of the Roosevelt forces in that convention.

We knew an effort would be made on the first contest, regardless of what it might be, to break through our lineup; furthermore, in the seating of delegates, the Roosevelt forces did not dare to sacrifice a vote, for the selection of a permanent chairman bade fair to be a nip and tuck contest due to the early commitments certain of our forces had made.

The opposition to the seating of our delegation was most ably presented by two distinguished anti-Roosevelt Democrats from Illinois and Iowa. Our floor leader, Arthur Mullen, and myself replied for the Roosevelt forces.

The final vote stood 638 3/4 to 514 1/4 and our delegation was seated.

It was the initial victory for the Roosevelt forces at the National Convention in Chicago."

(pg. 312)


 Huey Long says he came to the U.S. Senate for only one purpose--to push his "Share The Wealth" philosophy. And push it he did (see the excerpts from the section on his Senate speeches). This excerpt from his autobiography makes the case for the crisis that Long sought to address with his plan.

"I HAD come to the United States Senate with only one project in mind, which was that by every means of action and persuasion I might do something to spread the wealth of the land among all of the people.

I foresaw the depression in 1929. . . I had predicted all of the consequences many years before they occurred.

The wealth of the land was being tied up in the hands of a very few men. The people were not buying because they had nothing with which to buy. The big business interests were not selling, because there was nobody they could sell to.

One per cent of the people could not eat any more than any other one per cent; they could not wear much more than any other one per cent; they could not live in any more houses than any other one per cent. So, in 1929, when the fortune-holders of America grew powerful enough that one per cent of the people owned nearly everything, ninety-nine per cent of the people owned practically nothing, not even enough to pay their debts, a collapse was at hand.

God Almighty had warned against this condition. Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Daniel Webster, Theodore Roosevelt, William Jennings Bryan and every religious teacher known to this earth had declaimed against it. So it was no new matter, as it was termed, when I propounded the line of thought with the first crash of 1929, that the eventful day had arrived when accumulation at the top by the few had produced a stagnation by which the vast multitude of the people were impoverished at the bottom.

There is no rule so sure as that one that the same mill that grinds out fortunes above a certain size at the top, grinds out paupers at the bottom. The same machine makes them both; and how are they made? There is so much in the world, just so much land, so many houses, so much to eat and so much to wear. There is enough--yea, there is more--than the entire human race can consume, if all are reasonable.

All the people in America cannot eat up the food that is produced in America; all the people in America cannot wear out the clothes that can be made in America; nor can all of the people in America occupy the houses that stand in this country, if all are allowed to share in homes afforded by the nation. But when one man must have more houses to live in than ninety-nine other people; when one man decides he must own more foodstuff than any other ninety-nine people own; when one man decides he must have more goods to w ear for himself and family than any other ninety-nine people, then the condition results that instead of one hundred people sharing the things that are on earth for one hundred people, that one man, through his gluttonous greed, takes over ninety-nine parts for himself and leaves one part for the ninety-nine.

Now what can this one man do with what is intended for ninety-nine? He cannot eat the food that is intended for ninety-nine people; he cannot wear the clothes that are intended for ninety-nine people; he cannot live in ninety-nine houses at the same time; but like the dog in the manger, he can put himself on the load of hay and he can say:

'This food and these clothes and these houses are mine, and while I cannot use them, my greed can only be satisfied by keeping anybody else from having them.'

Wherefore and whence developed the strife in the land of too much, beginning in the year 1929."

(pgs. 291-292)

SOURCES: All Huey Long quotes from, Every Man A King: The Autobiography of Huey P. Long, National Book Co., New Orleans, 1933. Copyright retained by Mr. Russell B. Long.

[1] Quoted in Brinkley, Alan, Voices of Protest: Huey Long, Father Coughlin & The Great Depression, Vintage Books, 1983., pg. 64.)

[2} Quoted in Brinkley, op. cit., pg. 58.)