“God, don’t let me die. I have so much to do”
Senator and Governor of Louisiana, Huey Pierce Long elicited both love and hatred among the American people. In May 1915 he passed the Bar examination and built up a healthy practice, defending the poor against big companies. In 1918 he entered public service and his legal training allowed him to defend the measures that he had introduced.
On 17 April 1928 Long was elected, with 96.14 per cent of the votes, to become governor of Louisiana. The poor, used to their opinions and needs being ignored, became Long’s most vociferous supporters such was the novelty of a politician who appeared to keep his manifesto promises. Such was the opposition to him that one local council refused to accept the free textbooks that Long had offered saying that they did not want to take charity.
Long also took to being accompanied by armed guards wherever he went. When his opponents prevented a scheme to build roads, Long stated that he would stand for the US Senate and use the vote as a mandate on his local initiatives. Long easily defeated the incumbent, Senator Joseph E. Ransdell. Long was nicknamed “Kingfish” after George “Kingfish” Stevens, a character on the radio comedy show Amos ‘n’ Andy.
From 1934-1935 Long was in charge of the legislature, judiciary, election officials and tax inspectors. In August 1935 he announced his candidacy for the presidency. On Sunday 8 September 1935 he went to the Louisiana State capitol for a special session of the legislature. At 9.22pm 28-year-old local doctor, Carl Austin Weiss, wearing a white linen suit, shot him with a Browning .32-calibre pistol. Long’s bodyguards opened fire on Weiss who was shot 61 times, 30 times in the front, 29 in the back and twice in the head.
Weiss was the son-in-law of Judge Benjamin Henry Pavy, who, it was claimed, had lost his job because of his opposition to Long. The Kingfish was reported as saying, “I wonder why he shot me.” Long was admitted to the Our Lady of the Lake Sanatorium at 9.30am. An examination showed that he had a perforated abdomen; the bullet had entered his right side just below his ribs and exited through his back. He died, aged 42, two days later at 4.06am of internal bleeding. His last words were, “God, don’t let me die. I have so much to do.”
However, as with almost every assassination of a public figure, there is a question over what really happened. One belief is that Weiss punched Long and, in their overzealousness, the bodyguards opened fire and a stray bullet hit and killed Long.
State Capitol, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA
9.22pm Sunday 8 September 1935
One hundred thousand people passed by Long’s tuxedo-clad body as it lay in state in the rotunda of the Louisiana State Capitol. Long was buried on the grounds of the new State Capitol, a building that he had promoted. Weiss was buried in Roselawn Cemetery. His corpse was exhumed on 29 October 1991 for research purposes and never reinterred.
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
When Long was governor he expected those to whom he gave jobs to contribute a portion of their salary to him to use for his own political purposes. In March 1930, in a bid to ensure his views were heard, he started his own newspaper, the Louisiana Progress.