Tuesday, September 8, 2015

ASSASSINATION, SOUTHERN STYLE

9/8/1935 - Festering political bitterness over the direction Louisiana is taking under the forceful leadership of Senator Huey Long, known as "The Kingfish," and his controversial "Share Our Wealth" program (a wealth redistribution plan running under the motto "Every Man a King" that features a net asset tax on corporations and individuals that seeks to simulate the economy by public federal and state spending on public work, schools, colleges, and old age pensions as overseen by Long and his Democrat cronies ... SOUND FAMILIAR?), explodes into violence and death in Baton Rouge.
Huey Long Memorial Picture
Senator Long

Becoming a lawyer after spending less than a year studying for the bar at the University of Oklahoma School of Law at Norman and the Tulane University Law School in New Orleans (arguing before the Supreme Court in 1922, Chief Justice and former United States president William Howard Taft will describe Long as one of the finest legal minds he has ever encountered), Long begins his political career at the age of 25 as an elected member of the Louisiana Railroad Commission (running on an anti-Standard Oil platform).  In 1924 he runs for governor of the state and loses, but uses the experience to successfully become the head of Louisiana in 1928 ... and then uses that victory as a springboard into the United States Senate in 1930.  In Washington D.C., President Roosevelt will eventually become a Long enemy and call him, "... one of the two most dangerous men in America" (the other is General Douglas MacArthur). 
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Long

But all is not peaches and cream in the Bayou State, and a large number of citizens hate Long with a passion for his wealth redistribution, crony contracting, firing hundreds of opponents in the state's bureaucracy (and their relatives), mandatory payments into Long's political war-chest, bribery, misuse of state funds, forcing companies wanting to do business in the state into taking out ads in the newspaper Long owns, creating a private police service answerable only to the governor called the Bureau of Criminal Identification, opposing the Federal Bank, his proposal to put a cap on personal wealth at $50 million, and crushing his rivals by any means necessary as virtual dictator of Louisiana (not happy that his orders are not being followed, Long will order the state's National Guard to surround the State Capitol until he gets his way).  By 1935, after an attempt at impeachment has failed, political opponents are openly talking armed insurrection and assassination, and Long begins moving about the state in the company of dozens of armed bodyguards.
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Long 

Business as usual, a month after announcing he will run for president against FDR, in early September of 1935, Long is in Baton Rouge to personally orchestrate the destruction of a long-time enemy, Judge Benjamin Henry Pavy by changing the boundaries of the region that voted the judge into office (the parishes of St. Landry and Evangeline).  Shorting after the bill passes the special session, shortly after 9:00 in the evening, Long decides to take a break from his arm twisting (the measure redistricting Judge Pavy's locale eventually passes, and sure enough, Pavy is out of a job in 1936 when Louisiana next goes back to the polls) and steps out into the corridor of the Capitol for a breath of fresh air.  Waiting there to plea that Judge Pavy be allowed to continue practicing law as a Louisiana judge is the man's son-in-law, a member of Kiwanis International and the 1933 president of the Louisiana Medical Society, 29-year-old Dr, Carl Weiss.  
Judge Benjamin Henry Pavy  
Judge Pavy
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Dr. Carl Weiss

Frustrated that he has tried to talk unsuccessfully to Long three times during the day, upset at the plan to make a Democrat district Republican, and incensed that Long has insinuated that the Pavy Family has African-American tainted blood in its past (Long refers to "coffee blood'), when Long enters corridor, Weiss is beyond chatting. Dressed in a white summer suit meant to negate some of Louisiana's muggy heat, stepping out from behind the marble column he has been waiting behind, from a distance of only four feet, Weiss forgets about his young bride, their 3-month-old child, and the surgery he is to perform the next day, and pulls out a .32 caliber pistol and shoots Long once in the abdomen ... and one is all he gets. Don't mess with The Boss, Long's contingent of gun thugs shoves Weiss away after the first shot, draw their own weapons and then blast the doctor into Kingdom Come ... hitting their target 62 times before stopping to access the situation and reload.
Newspaper Artist Rendition
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Another Rendition
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Dead Doctor

Caught by the single slug Weiss fires, Long is rushed to a nearby hospital and is being operated on by 11:00 that evening.  Doctors sew up his perforated colon and it is believed that Long will recover from his wound ... unfortunately for Long though, damage hasa also been done to the politician's kidney, and 30 hours after being holed, Long passes away.  His last words are, "God don't let me die.  I have so much to do!"

Laying In State
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Funeral Crowd

Larger than life while in action, Long also has the big funeral he seems to deserve ... after laying in state in the State Capitol rotunda before over 200,000 visitors, dressed in a black tuxedo, the Louisiana politician goes to his rest in a casket made of bronze with a copper inner liner and glass lid before thousands of mourners ... Airline Highway between New Orleans and Baton Rouge suffers a bumper-to-bumper traffic jam, airplanes circle overhead filled with cameramen recording the event for posterity, and every available flower in Baton Rouge and its vicinity are sent to the funeral to mark the somber occasion as Long is buried on the grounds of the new State Capitol he had championed (a large statue at his grave depicts the man's accomplishments).  
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Long's Grave
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Long's Statue
At the Assassination Site - Circles Mark the Spot!

And of course, as things seem to go when big figures suddenly exit history's stage, conspiracy theories start being bandied about almost immediately relating to Weiss being unarmed, and that Long's death is actually the result of the poor aim of an over zealous bodyguard (no resolution is ever forthcoming as evidence is lost or never found involving the murder weapon and whether the killing bullet was a .32 caliber round, or a .38 caliber slug like those used by the bodyguards), or that the doctor's working on Long butchered his operation and caused the infections that take the politician).  The only fact certain is that Long was shot and died, and that even now, 80 years after the event, his influence on the peoples of Louisiana is still immense!
Long Postcard

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