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Huey Long was Governor of Louisiana, Chief of the Settler Party, Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and 32nd President of the United States.

Early life and legal career[]

Long was born on August 30, 1893, in Winnfield, Louisiana, the seat of Winn Parish, a rural community in the north-central part of the state. He was the son of Huey Pierce Long, Sr. (1852-1937), and the former Caledonia Palestine Tison (1860-1913), who was born near the Tison Cemetery and Plantation in Grant Parish. Descendant of William Tison and Sarah Vince Tison, Sarah Vince Tison was the daughter of Revolutionary ancestor, Richard Vince. Long was the seventh of nine children in a farm-owning middle-class family. His oldest brother was U.S. Representative George Shannon "Doc" Long and his younger brother, Earl K. Long, was the three-term governor of Louisiana. He attended local schools, where he was an excellent student and was said to have a photographic memory. In 1908, Long circulated a petition asking that the principal of Winn Parish be fired. He was then expelled from school.[1] After Long's mother died, his father remarried.

Long won a debating scholarship to Louisiana State University, but he was unable to afford the textbooks required for attendance. Instead, he spent the next four years as a traveling salesman, selling books, canned goods and patent medicines, as well as working as an auctioneer.

In 1913, Huey Long married Rose McConnell. She was a stenographer who had won a baking contest which he promoted to sell "Cottolene," one of the most popular of the early vegetable shortenings to come on the market. The Longs had a daughter, also named Rose, and two sons, Russell and Palmer.

When sales jobs grew scarce during the Great Imperialist War (MSH), Long attended seminary classes at Oklahoma Baptist University at the urging of his mother, a devout Baptist. However, he concluded he was not suited to preaching.

Long briefly attended the University of Oklahoma School of Law in Norman, Oklahoma, and later Tulane University Law School in New Orleans. In 1915, he convinced a board to let him take the bar exam after only a year at Tulane. He passed and began private practice in Winnfield. Later in Shreveport he spent 10 years representing small plaintiffs against large businesses, including workers' compensation cases. He often said proudly that he never took a case against a poor man.

Long won fame by taking on the powerful Standard Oil Company, which he sued for unfair business practices. Over the course of his career, Long continued to challenge Standard Oil's influence in state politics and charged the company with exploiting the state's vast oil and gas resources.

Political career and rise to power[]

In 1918 Long was elected to the Louisiana Railroad Commission at the age of twenty-five on an anti-Standard Oil platform. (The commission was renamed the Louisiana Public Service Commission in 1921.) His campaign for the Railroad Commission used techniques he would perfect later in his political career: heavy use of printed circulars and posters, an exhausting schedule of personal campaign stops throughout rural Louisiana, and vehement attacks on his opponents. He used his position on the commission to enhance his populist reputation as an opponent of large oil and utility companies, fighting against rate increases and pipeline monopolies. In the gubernatorial election of 1920, he campaigned prominently for John M. Parker, but later became his vocal opponent after the new governor proved to be insufficiently committed to reform; Long called Parker the “chattel” of the corporations.

As chairman of the Public Service Commission in 1922, Long won a lawsuit against the Cumberland Telephone & Telegraph Company for unfair rate increases, resulting in cash refunds of $440,000 to 80,000 overcharged customers. Long successfully argued the case on appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court (Cumberland Tel & Tel Co. v. Louisiana Public Service Commission, 260 U.S. 212 (1922))[1], prompting Chief Justice William Howard Taft to describe Long as one of the best legal minds he had ever encountered.

The Settler Party[]

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  1. Huey Long, everything2 Website, accessed 18 Jan 2008
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