On 8th September 1935 one of the most colourful characters in 20th century US politics was hit by an assassin’s bullet – he died two days later. This was Huey Pierce Long, a senator from Louisiana who was running for President against F D Roosevelt.
Huey Long was a remarkable politician who divided opinion very strongly between staunch supporters and implacable enemies. As Governor of Louisiana his policy had been to raise taxes from the wealthy and from big corporations and to spend the proceeds on public works and on such measures as providing free schoolbooks and free medical care at the state hospital.
Such projects do not seem at all out of place in many parts of the world – they are what citizens of the United Kingdom, for example, take for granted – but in 1920s Louisiana they were seen by many as the mad policies of a dangerous socialist.
Huey Long ran against Roosevelt as a third party candidate, with a view to extending the Louisiana reforms to the whole country. This was a time of severe economic depression, and Long’s solution was, in the words of his campaign slogan, to “Share Our Wealth” in order to produce a more just and equal society.
Huey Long’s killer was an ear, nose and throat medical specialist named Dr Carl Austin Weiss. His precise motives for drawing a gun on Huey Long in the capitol building in Baton Rouge were never made clear, but Long’s death would have been welcomed by many people with vested interests and mourned by millions of poor Americans who saw this man as a potential saviour.
© John Welford