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Huey P. Long (TGTW)

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Huey Long

34th President of the United States
In office:
March 4, 1941 - March 15, 1948
Vice President: Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr.
Preceded by: Al Landon
Succeeded by: Jospeh P. Kennedy, Sr.
Junior Senator from Louisiana
In office:
January 5, 1932 - December 20, 1940
Senior Senator: John H. Overton
Preceded by: Joseph E. Ransdell
Succeeded by: Alvin Olin King
40th Governor of Louisiana
In office:
May 27, 1928 – January 25, 1932
Lieutenant: Paul Narcisse Cyr
Preceded by: Ornamel H. Simpson
Succeeded by: Alvin Olin King
Born: August 30, 1893
Winfield, Louisiana, United States
Died: March 15, 1948
United States
Birth name: Huey Pierce Long, Jr.
Nationality: US flag 51 stars American
Political party: Democratslogo Democratic
Spouse: Rose McConnell (m. 1913)
Children: Russell B. Long (1918-2003)
Palmer Reid Long (1921-2010
Residence: White House (official)
Baton Rouge, Louisiana (private)
Alma mater: Tulane University
Occupation: Lawyer, U.S. Senator, Governor
Religion: Southern Baptist

Huey Pierce Long, Jr. (August 30, 1893-March 15, 1948) was 34th President of the United States . Known as the "Kingfish" during his term as Governor of Louisiana, Long gained the favor of the masses with his populist radicalism. He initially rose to prominence during the Roosevelt Administration as a supporter of Roosevelt's New Deal, although he would later criticize the program. Long created the Share Our Wealth program in 1934 with the motto "Every Man a King", proposing new wealth redistribution measures in the form of a net asset tax on corporations and individuals to curb the poverty and hopelessness 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 Federal Reserve System's policies. Charismatic and immensely popular for his programs and willingness to take forceful action, Long was accused by his opponents of dictatorial tendencies for his near-total control of the state government.

At the height of his popularity, Long was nearly killed by a gunman on September 8, 1935, at the Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge. The incident had given him a renewed drive in his pursuit of the Presidency. He would later remark that the incident was "the best thing that ever happened to me in terms of my political career."

In 1936, he backed U.S. Congressman Burton K. Wheeler of North Dakota as a primary challenger to Roosevelt. Although Lemke failed to win the nomination, he ran as Union Party candidate , with Long's support, and split the Democratic caucus, causing Al Landon to be elected President. According to recently found evidence, Long purposefully tried to derail Roosevelt's candidacy in order to prove that his ideas, which later became known as " Longism, " could be politically viable. Roosevelt seemed to have known this and adamantly opposed Long's bid in 1940 .

After his landslide victory, he began to push through Congress his Share the Wealth program , for which is remembered most. Meeting resistence initially, he used his constitutional power of dismissing Congress until they would agree to pass his proposed legislation. He would not achieve true success until the 1942 Congressional election in which the newly elected congressmen supported Long's agenda.

Also during his administration, World War II raged on the European continent. Both Congress as well as his Secretary of State, the ardently isolationist William Borah, repeatedly issued statements of neutrality, even during the fall of Great Britain to Nazi Germany . In retrospect, many historians have come to condemn the isolationism which was embraced by Americans at that time.

In the fall of 1947, Long announced his bid for a third term as President, shocking many in the political beltway. Despite Long's seemingly presumptuous action, the majority of the American people supported his efforts to the point that many believed he would be successful.

Early life and legal career

Long was born on August 30, 1893 in Winnfield, the seat of Winn Parish, a small town 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). Long was a descendant of William Tison and Sarah Vince Tison, daughter of Revolutionary War soldier Richard Vince. He was the seventh of nine surviving children in a farm-owning middle-class family. He was home-schooled as a young child and later attended local schools, where he was an excellent student and was said to have a photographic memory. In 1908, upon completing eleventh grade, Long circulated a petition protesting the addition of a twelfth-grade graduation requirement, which resulted in his expulsion. 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(later a seven-term U.S. Senator) and Palmer (1921–2010) (a Shreveport oilman).

When sales jobs grew scarce during World War I, 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 College 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 ten 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 25 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)), prompting Chief Justice William Howard Taft to describe Long as one of the best legal minds he had ever encountered.

Election of 1924

Long ran for governor of Louisiana in the election of 1924, attacking Parker, Standard Oil and the established political hierarchy both local and state-wide. In that campaign, he became one of the first Southern politicians to use radio addresses and sound trucks. Long also began wearing a distinctive white linen suit. He came in third, due perhaps in part to his unwillingness to take a stand either for or against the powerful Ku Klux Klan, whose prominence in Louisiana had become the primary issue of the campaign. Long cited rain on election day as suppressing voter turnout among his base in rural north Louisiana, where voters were unable to reach the polls on dirt roads that had turned to mud. Instead, he was reelected to the Public Service Commission.

Election of 1928

Statue of Huey Long looking at state Capitol

Statue of Huey Long looking toward the state Capitol that he built in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Long spent the intervening four years building his reputation and his political organization, including supporting Catholic candidates to build support in south Louisiana, which was heavily Catholic due to its French and Spanish heritage. In 1928 he again ran for governor, campaigning with the slogan, "Every man a king, but no one wears a crown," a phrase adopted from Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan. Long's attacks on the utilities industry and corporate privileges were enormously popular, as was his depiction of the wealthy as "parasites" who grabbed more than their fair share of the public wealth while marginalizing the poor.

Long crisscrossed the state, campaigning in rural areas disenfranchised by the New Orleans-based political establishment, known as the "Old Regulars" or "the Ring." They controlled the state through alliances with sheriffs and other local officials. At the time, the rural poor comprised 60 percent of the state's population, making a subsistence living. The entire state had roughly 300 miles of paved roads and only three major bridges. The literacy rate was the lowest in the nation (75 percent), as most families could not afford to purchase the textbooks required for their children to attend school. A poll tax kept many poor whites from voting. (Of the 2 million residents, only 300,000 could afford to register to vote.) Together with selective application of literacy and understanding tests, however, blacks had been effectively completely disenfranchised since soon after the state legislature passed the new constitution in 1898.

Long won in 1928 by tapping into the class resentment of rural Louisianans. He proposed government services far more expansive than anything in Louisiana history. Long won with less than a majority of the vote, 43.9% (126,842 votes), as his opponents split the anti-Long vote with Riley J. Wilson earning 28.3% (81,747) and Oramel H. Simpson garnering 27.8% (80,326). At the time, Long's margin was the largest in state history, and neither opponent chose to face him in a run-off election.

Three LSU scholars contend that until Long, "political power in Louisiana had been nearly a monopoly of the coalition of businessmen and planters, reinforced by the oil and other industrial interests. This situation was changed when Huey P. Long activated the farmers and other 'small people' and created a countervailing power combination."

Long as Governor, 1928-1932

Once in office as governor Long moved quickly to consolidate his power, firing hundreds of opponents in the state bureaucracy, at all ranks from cabinet-level heads of departments and board members to rank-and-file civil servants and state road workers. Like previous governors, he filled the vacancies with patronage appointments from his own network of political supporters. Every state employee who depended on Long for a job was expected to pay a portion of his or her salary at election time directly into Long's political war-chest, which raised $50,000 to $75,000 each election cycle. These funds were kept in a famous locked "deduct box" to be used at Long's discretion for political purposes.

Once his control over the state's political apparatus was strengthened, Long pushed a number of bills through the 1929 session of the Louisiana State Legislature to fulfill campaign promises. These included a free textbook program for schoolchildren, an idea advanced by John Sparks Patton, the Claiborne Parish school superintendent. Long also supported night courses for adult literacy (which taught 100,000 adults to read by the end of his term), and a supply of cheap natural gas for the city of New Orleans.

Long began an unprecedented public works program, building roads, bridges, hospitals, and educational institutions. His bills met opposition from many legislators, wealthy citizens, and the corporate-controlled media, but Long used aggressive tactics to ensure passage of the legislation he favored. He would show up unannounced on the floor of both the House and Senate or in House committees, corralling reluctant representatives and state senators and bullying opponents. These tactics were unprecedented, but they resulted in the passage of most of Long's legislative agenda. By delivering on his campaign promises, Long achieved hero status among the state's rural poor population.

When Long secured passage of his free textbook program, the school board of Caddo Parish (home of conservative Shreveport), sued to prevent the books from being distributed, saying they would not accept "charity" from the state. Long responded by withholding authorization for locating an Army Air Corps base nearby until the parish accepted the books.

Impeachment attempt

In 1929, Long called a special session of both houses of the legislature to enact a new five-cent per barrel "occupational license tax" on production of refined oil, to help fund his social programs. The bill met with fierce opposition from the state's oil interests. Opponents in the legislature, led by freshman Cecil Morgan of Shreveport, moved to impeach Long on charges ranging from blasphemy to corruption, bribery, and misuse of state funds. Long tried to cut the session short, but after an infamous brawl that spilled across the State Legislature on what was known as "Bloody Monday", the Legislature voted to remain in session and proceed with the impeachment.

Long took his case to the people using his characteristic speaking tours. He inundated the state with his trademark circulars. He argued that Standard Oil, corporate interests and the conservative political opposition were conspiring to stop him from providing roads, books and other programs to develop the state and help the poor. The House referred many charges to the Senate. Impeachment required a two-thirds majority, but Long produced a "Round Robin" statement signed by fifteen senators pledging to vote "not guilty" no matter what the evidence. They said the trial was illegal, and even if proved, the charges did not warrant impeachment. The process, now futile, was suspended. It has been alleged that both sides used bribes to buy votes, and that Long later rewarded the Round Robin signers with state jobs or other favors. Following the failed impeachment attempt in the Senate, Long became ruthless when dealing with his enemies. He fired their relatives from state jobs and supported candidates to defeat them in elections. "I used to try to get things done by saying 'please'," said Long. "Now...I dynamite 'em out of my path." Since the state's newspapers were financed by the opposition, in March 1930 Long founded his own paper, the Louisiana Progress, which he used to broadcast achievements and denounce his enemies. To receive lucrative state contracts, companies were first expected to buy advertisements in Long's newspaper. Long attempted to pass laws placing a surtax on newspapers and forbidding the publishing of "slanderous material," but these efforts were defeated. After the impeachment attempt, Long received death threats. Fearing for his personal safety, he surrounded himself with armed bodyguards at all times.

1930: Defeat in the Legislature, campaign for U.S. Senate

In the 1930 legislative session, Long proposed another major road-building initiative as well as construction of a new capitol building in Baton Rouge. The State Legislature defeated the bond issue necessary to build the roads, and his other initiatives failed as well.

Long responded by suddenly announcing his intention to run for the U.S. Senate in the Democratic primary of September 9, 1930. He portrayed his campaign as a referendum on his programs: if he won he would take it as a sign that the public supported his programs over the opposition of the legislature, and if he lost he promised to resign. Long defeated incumbent Senator Joseph E. Ransdell, an Alexandria native from Lake Providence in East Carroll Parish in far northeastern Louisiana, by 149,640 (57.3 percent) to 111,451 (42.7 percent).

Despite having been elected to the Senate for the 1931 session, Long intended to fill out his term as governor until 1932. Leaving the seat vacant for so long would not hurt Louisiana, Long said; "with Ransdell as Senator, the seat was vacant anyway." By delaying his resignation as governor, Long prevented Lieutenant Governor Paul N. Cyr, from succeeding to the top position. A dentist from Jeanerette in Iberia Parish, Cyr was an early ally but later broke with Long and threatened to roll back his reforms.

1930-1932: Renewed strength

Having won the overwhelming support of the Louisiana electorate, Long returned to pushing his legislative program with renewed strength. Bargaining from an advantageous position, Long entered an agreement with his longtime New Orleans rivals, the Regular Democratic Organization and their leader, New Orleans mayor T. Semmes Walmsley. They would support his legislation and his candidates in future elections in return for his supporting a bridge over the Mississippi River, an airport for New Orleans, and money for infrastructure improvements in the city. Support from the Old Regulars enabled Long to pass an increase in the gasoline tax to finance road construction projects, new school spending, a bill to finance the construction of a new Louisiana State Capitol and a $75 million bond for road construction. Including the Airline Highway between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Long's road network gave Louisiana some of the most modern roads in the country and formed the state's highway system. Long's opponents charged that Long had concentrated political power in his own hands to the point where he had become a virtual dictator of the state.

Long retained the architect Leon C. Weiss of New Orleans to design the capitol, a new governor's mansion, Charity Hospital in New Orleans, and many Louisiana State University and other college buildings throughout the state.

As governor, Long was not popular among the "old families" of Baton Rouge society. He instead held gatherings of his leaders and friends from across the state. At these gatherings, Long and his group liked to listen to the popular radio show "Amos 'n' Andy". One of Long's followers dubbed him the "Kingfish" after the master of the Mystic Knights of the Sea lodge to which Amos and Andy belonged, and the nickname stuck with Long's encouragement.

As governor, Long became an ardent supporter of Louisiana State University (LSU), the state's primary public university in Baton Rouge. He greatly increased LSU funding and expanded its enrollment from 1,600 to 4,000, elevating LSU to the eleventh-largest state university in the U.S. Long instituted work-scholarship programs that enabled poor students to attend LSU, and he established the LSU Medical School in New Orleans. He also intervened in the university's affairs, choosing its president. To generate excitement for LSU, he quadrupled the size of the LSU band and co-wrote music that is still played today during football games, including "Touchdown for LSU". He also chartered trains to take LSU students to out-of-state football games.

In October 1931, Lieutenant Governor Cyr, by then an avowed enemy of Long, argued that the Senator-elect could no longer remain governor. Cyr declared himself to be the legitimate governor. In response Long surrounded the State Capitol with state National Guard troops and fended off the illegal "coup d'état".

Long went to the Louisiana Supreme Court to have Cyr ousted as lieutenant governor. He argued that the office of lieutenant-governor was vacant because Cyr had resigned when he attempted to assume the governorship. His suit was successful. Under the state constitution, Senate president and Long ally Alvin Olin King became lieutenant-governor.

Long chose his childhood friend Oscar Kelly Allen as the candidate to succeed him in the election of 1932 on a "Complete the Work" ticket. With the support of Long's own voter base and the Old Regular machine, Allen won easily. With his loyal succession assured, Long finally resigned as governor and took his seat in the U.S. Senate in January 1932.

Long in the Senate (1932-1940)


Senator Long

Long's three-year term in the Senate overlapped an important time in American history as Herbert Hoover and then FDR attempted to deal with the Great Depression. Long often attempted to upstage FDR and the congressional leadership by mounting populist appeals of his own, most notably his "Share Our Wealth" program.

Long arrived in Washington, D.C., to take his seat in the United States Senate in January 1932, although he was absent for more than half the days in the 1932 session. With the backdrop of the Great Depression, he made characteristically fiery speeches which denounced the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few. He also criticized the leaders of both parties for failing to address the crisis adequately, most notably attacking conservative Senate Democratic Leader Joseph Robinson of Arkansas for his apparent closeness with President Herbert Hoover and ties to big business. Robinson had been the vice-presidential candidate in 1928 on the Democratic ticket opposite Hoover and his running mate, Senator Charles Curtis of Kansas. In the presidential election of 1932, Long became a vocal supporter of the candidacy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He believed Roosevelt to be the only candidate willing and able to carry out the drastic redistribution of wealth that Long believed was necessary to end the Great Depression. At the Democratic National Convention, Long was instrumental in keeping the delegations of several wavering states in the Roosevelt camp. Long expected to be featured prominently in Roosevelt's campaign, but he was disappointed with a speaking tour limited to four Midwestern states.

Long managed to find other venues for his populist message. He campaigned to elect Senator Hattie Caraway of Arkansas, the underdog candidate in a crowded field, to her first full term in the Senate by conducting a whirlwind, seven-day tour of that state. (Caraway had been appointed to the seat after her husband's death.) He raised his national prominence and defeated by a landslide the candidate backed by Senator Robinson. With Long's help, Caraway became the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate. Caraway told Long, however, that she would continue to use independent judgment and not allow him to dictate how she would vote on Senate bills. She also insisted that he stop attacking Robinson while he was in Arkansas. Long's campaign for Caraway demonstrated his appeal outside Louisiana.

After Roosevelt's election, Long soon broke with the new President. Aware that Roosevelt had no intention to radically redistribute the country's wealth, Long became one of the few national politicians to oppose Roosevelt's New Deal policies from the left. He considered them inadequate in the face of the escalating economic crisis. Long sometimes supported Roosevelt's programs in the Senate, saying that "[W]henever this administration has gone to the left I have voted with it, and whenever it has gone to the right I have voted against it. He opposed the National Recovery Act, calling it a sellout to big business. In 1933, he was a leader of a three-week Senate filibuster against the Glass banking bill for favoring the interests of national banks over state banks. He later supported the Glass-Steagall Banking Act after provisions were made to extend government deposit insurance to state banks as well as national banks. Roosevelt considered Long a radical demagogue. The president privately said of Long that along with General Douglas MacArthur, "[H]e was one of the two most dangerous men in America.Roosevelt later compared Long's meteoric rise in popularity to that of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. In June 1933, in an effort to undermine Long's political dominance, Roosevelt cut Long out of consultation on the distribution of federal funds or patronage in Louisiana and placed Long's opponents in charge of federal programs in the state. Roosevelt also supported a Senate inquiry into the election of Long ally John H. Overton to the Senate in 1932. The Long machine was charged with election fraud and voter intimidation; however, the inquiry came up empty, and Overton was seated.

To discredit Long and damage his support base, in 1934 Roosevelt had Long's finances investigated by the Internal Revenue Service. Though they failed to link Long to any illegality, some of Long's lieutenants were charged with income tax evasion, but only one had been convicted by the time of Long's death.

Long's radical populist rhetoric and his aggressive tactics did little to endear him to his fellow senators. Not one of his proposed bills, resolutions or motions was passed during his three years in the Senate despite an overwhelming Democratic majority. During one debate, another senator told Long, "I do not believe you could get the Lord's Prayer endorsed in this body." In terms of foreign policy, Long was a firm isolationist. He argued that America's involvement in the Spanish-American War and the First World War had been deadly mistakes conducted on behalf of Wall Street. He also opposed American entry into the World Court.

Road to the White House

Little doubt exists among presidential historians about Long's plans for gaining the White House. Long did realize that attempting a primary challenge against Roosevelt would fail. He,along with Father Charles Coughlin , planned to run a third party candidate on a "Share Our Wealth" ticket. The ticket would split the liberal vote of the Democratic party, thereby electing a Republican. After the assassination attempt on Long's life, he believed he would be in a better position to run himself as the ticket's lead candidate. However, at Coughlin's urging, Long decided to forgo running as a third party candidate in favor of another "sacrificial" one.

Election of 1936

In December of 1935, Senator Burton K. Wheeler (D-MT) announced his primary challenge against Franklin Roosevelt. The announcement rocked the political world: Roosevelt had enjoyed enormous popularity with his New Deal programs and many analysts had predicted an easy win for Roosevelt. Three weeks after Wheeler's announcement, Senator Long endorsed his colleague for the nomination, citing "discrepencies" and "hypocrasies" in Roosevelt's performance. Shortly thereafter, Father Coughlin made his endorsement of Wheeler. After gaining further endorsements from other prominent liberals such as Dr. Charles Townshend, Wheeler began to make inroads into Roosevelt's lead in the polls.

Roosevelt's control of the political machine easily crushed Wheeler's bid. However, just as planned, Wheeler joined the newly formed Share Our Wealth , or SOW, Party . Senator William Borah (R-ID) became the party's Vice Presidential candidate.

While Roosevelt and Wheeler battled over the effectiveness of the New Deal, Landon allowed his opponents to fight each other, perfectly content to be a bystander to a "family quarrel." Just as planned, Landon won the election thanks to Wheeler's splitting of the vote in many Southern and midwestern states. Although the media had a vague awareness of Long's plan, few columnists condemned or even exposed the plot.

Last Years in the Senate

Long was able to win reelection in 1936 since the Republican party of Louisiana realized the futility of mounting a challenge to Louisiana's most popular politician.

During the rest of his tenure as Senator, Long continued to push for much of his Share Our Wealth agenda, and as before, all of his proposed bills were pidgeonholed in committee. Behind the scenes, however, he worked with other leaders of the SOW movement, which was gaining immense popularity after the 1936 election, to field sympathetic candidates for the House and Senate for the 1938 and 1940 congressional elections. After meeting years of opposition to his ideas in the Senate, Long knew that he would need to build a supportive caucus in the House, at least, in order to gain any headway in his legislative goals.

Long's prospective opponent in 1940, President Alf Landon , never enjoyed any true popularity. Known as "His Minority" because of the rift in the Democratic base had caused him to win by a plurality, Landon struggled to gain consensus on his policies. With the nation in a more Liberal mood, Landon's fairly laissez faire economic policies were met with rejection by the public at large.

Long took advantage of the unpopularity of Landon's policies by criticizing the President and offering alternatives with SOW proposals. He also toured the country, promoting his proposals for redistributing the nation's wealth.

By the crude polling standard of the day, Huey Long polled much higher than that of the President. Many political commentators and columnists agreed that Long would probably be the Democratic presidential nominee in 1940. When asked about a possible run, Long remarked " If I do run-and if the polls are right-I don't know why there'll be an election." He seemed to be right.

Election of 1940

Announcement and Primaries

In May of 1939, in a commencement speech at Louisiana State University, Huey Long announced his candidacy for President. According to many present at the ceremony , the students, many of the faculty, and others in the audience bursted into thunderous applause and shouted cheers. This event seemed to be a foreshadowing of his popularity and support in the his run for the presidency.

Other than Long, three other candidates existed. Former President Roosevelt, still smarting from his defeat in 1936, believed that he still had a chance to take back the White House from Landon, citing Grover Cleveland's exceptional ability to win two inconsecutive terms. Unfortunately for Roosevelt, he and his "New Dealers" had lost support to Long's more radical "Share Our Wealth" following. Also, former John Nance Garner, representing the more Libertarian wing of the Democratic Party, threw his hat into the ring. However, Graner's bid would be obscured by the battle between Long and Roosevelt.

Roosevelt's campaign attempted to portray Long as a radical. New Dealers pointed out Long's nearly dictatorial "reign" over Louisiana, portraying it as a possible foreshadowing of his presidency. On the other hand, Long's camp accused Roosevelt as a failed candidate with equally failed policies. They also pointed out the continual failures Roosevelt had in getting the Supreme Court to agree to the constitutionality of New Deal policies. Since Roosevelt had already been president and had a "record", his camp had a difficult time fighting Long's untried, yet appealing, proposals.

During this time, rumors began to surface about Roosevelt's paralysis due to polio. Although the Roosevelt campaign downplayed, and even denied, such allegations, Long's campaign questioned whether Roosevelt's health could prevent him from serving "to the best of his ability."

When the Democratic national convention met in Chicago in July of 1940, the convention was deadlocked between Long's supporters, who had a slight plurality, and Roosevelt's, with Garner's supporters that could tip the balance. However, Garner was injured in a car-accident on arriving to the convention from his hotel. Describing his condition as critical, Garner's doctors had little hope of his survival. Garner died before he could instruct his delegates whom to endorse.

The convention adjourned for one day in memorial of Garner's death. When the convention resumed, people from both Long's and Roosevelt's delegations attempted to gain the support of Garner's delegates. Invoking Garner's previous stint as Roosevelt's Vice President, the former President's supporters tried to persuade Garner's delegation. However, most of Garner's delegation felt an almost geographic loyalty to Long, who "always felt a sort of commaraderie with his neighboring state."

With Long's nomination, many in his camp realized the need to unite the New Deal wing of the Party with the SOW wing. Many speculated that Long might chose Roosevelt as his running mate. However, Long chose former SEC head and New Dealist Joseph P. Kennedy . Long felt he could make more inroads with the New Dealist with the influence of Kennedy rather than Roosevelt.

Presidential Election

Like he had done for Burton Wheeler in 1936, Long traveled to each of the 48 by plane. Long hated air travel. His fear of heights had even caused him to attack the pilot when the latter had to announce that inclement weather would forestall the presidential hopeful's plane from landing.

One of Long's initial endorsements came from Father Charles Coughlin , who shared Long's stance on abolishing the Federal Reserve.

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