First published in 1960, this book by former newspaperman, author and Louisianan native, Richard Briley III, deals with the untimely demise of Huey Long, aka “The Kingfish,” an American politician who served as the 40th governor of Louisiana (1928-1932) and as a member of the U.S. Senate from 1932 until his death by assassination in 1935.
A Democrat, “The Kingfish” was an outspoken populist who denounced the wealthy and the banks and called for a “Share Our Wealth” program. As the political leader of the state, he commanded wide networks of supporters and was willing to take forceful action. He established the long-term political prominence of the Long family.
Long’s Share Our Wealth plan was established in 1934 under the motto “Every Man a King.” It proposed new wealth redistribution measures in the form of a net asset tax on corporations and individuals to curb the poverty and homelessness endemic nationwide during the Great Depression. To stimulate the economy, Long advocated federal spending on public works, schools and colleges, and old age pensions. He was an ardent critic of the policies of the Federal Reserve System.
Under Long’s leadership, hospitals and educational institutions were expanded, a system of charity hospitals was set up that provided health care for the poor, massive highway construction and free bridges brought an end to rural isolation, and free textbooks were provided for schoolchildren. He remains a controversial figure in Louisiana history, with critics and supporters debating whether or not he could have potentially become a dictator or was a demagogue.