William B Stoecker
Who killed the Kingfish ?
January 11, 2014 | 1 comment
Image Credit: sxc.hu
Huey Long (1893-1935), nicknamed the “Kingfish,” was a complex driven man, often ruthless, even unscrupulous. Governor of Louisiana and later Senator from that state, he took “right wing” and “left wing” positions on different issues. In the process he made a good many enemies, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and on 9/08/35 he was shot dead in the Louisiana State Capitol Building, allegedly by one of those enemies, Dr. Carl Weiss. But the facts around the shooting are very murky.
Long was a Democrat, and most Southern Democrats of the time were more conservative on most issues, especially civil rights for Black people, than most Republicans. But Long was an early supporter of FDR and turned against him because he wasn’t “left” enough; Long wanted even higher government spending. He wanted to tax corporations even more (leftists tend to forget that corporate income taxes don’t come out of the executives’ pockets, but are simply passed on to consumers). As Governor, Long built more new roads and bridges, paved more old roads, and bought more textbooks for school children. He advocated a guaranteed minimum income for all citizens, even the unemployed, his “share the wealth” program. Despite being a Southern Democrat, he opposed the Klan, which was composed of Democrats. He railed against corporate greed and government incompetence.
But, like many of today’s Tea Party Patriots, he opposed the World Court and detested the Federal Reserve, and was an isolationist who believed that the Spanish American War and America’s involvement in WWI had been costly mistakes. And, like many contemporary patriots, he believed that the Great Depression had been deliberately orchestrated by the Federal Reserve, J.P. Morgan, and the Rockefellers.
He was a strong supporter of Father Charles Coughlin, who had a popular radio program and who might best be described as an anti-Semitic, left wing fascist.
Long planned to oppose FDR for the nomination in 1936, and, if unsuccessful, to run for President as a third party candidate, which would likely have siphoned enough votes from the Democrats to ensure a Republican victory. FDR considered Long to be the second most dangerous man in America, after General Douglas MacArthur. And FDR was but one of many enemies he made; Long tried to tax and even censor opposing newspapers, and forced State civil servants to contribute to his campaign or lose their jobs. He opposed the Democrat Party machines that controlled New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
Dr. Carl Weiss, his alleged assassin, was the son in law of Judge Benjamin Henry Pavy, an enemy of Long’s, and Long had allegedly slandered Pavy and Weiss’ wife. On the day of the shooting, Weiss entered the Capitol Building, allegedly (and this part is almost certainly true) carrying a concealed .32 caliber revolver. Keep in mind that in the South in those days, this was legal and a very common practice. He tried several times to speak to the Kingfish, who was virtually surrounded by armed guards, and Long repeatedly brushed him off. Then, according to Long’s guards, he drew his gun and shot the Kingfish, whereupon the guards shot Weiss 62 times. There are a number of problems with this scenario.
Why would a successful and respected medical doctor, no matter how angry, throw away his life and career by killing a prominent politician in the Capitol building, right in front of his guards? At best, Weiss would have been arrested and executed or at least sent to prison. The fact that the guards shot him 62 times shows that they were in a panic mode and lacked proper fire discipline. Add to this the fact that Long was shot with either a .38 or .45 round, ammunition fitting the weapons carried by his guards, and it looks as if he was either accidentally or deliberately shot by one of them. (On the other hand, if the medical examiners weren’t sure if the wound was caused by a .38 or a .45, how could they be certain it wasn’t from Weiss’ .32?) And there is some evidence of a wider conspiracy against the Kingfish.
In 7/35 Long claimed to have uncovered a plot to assassinate him, led by New Orleans Mayor Walmsley, ex-governors John Parker and Sanders, four Louisiana Congressmen, and a “Doctor Wise.” Could this have been Weiss? John Parker differed from Long only in that he was a bit more conservative on fiscal matters; like Long, he was in favor of spending for education and roads and opposed the Klan and the New Orleans machine, but this doesn’t rule out the possibility of personal animosity between the two men. In 1/35 Long’s enemies had formed the paramilitary Square Deal Association, and Parker led the Constitutional League, an organization that opposed Long. Yet another enemy of the Kingfish was Governor Rufin Pleasant. Decades later, a retired Winn County sheriff’s deputy claimed that an elderly man once told him that, when he was young, he had once attended a meeting of wealthy people who were plotting to kill the Kingfish. But that still would not explain why Dr. Weiss, even if part of a conspiracy, would agree to a suicide mission. Could he have been set up by the others as a sacrificial patsy, a precursor of Lee Harvey Oswald and Sirhan Sirhan? Could they have arranged for one of the guards to shoot Long? This would have been incredibly risky, especially for the guard, but the same modus operandi is alleged by many to have been used in the RFK assassination.
We will never know for sure who shot Long, if it was an accident or murder, or part of a larger conspiracy, but let us not forget that the one man most directly threatened by Long, a man known to be utterly ruthless, had not only the motive but also the means to orchestrate a murder. This is the man whose policies prolonged the Great Depression, the man who, many of us believe, set us up at Pearl Harbor, the man who unlawfully imprisoned thousands of innocent Japanese Americans, the man who turned away a shipload of Jewish refugees fleeing Hitler. This man was FDR.