South Slope. Asheville.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Kingfish

Huey Long stands as perhaps the country's most colorful and flamboyant politician, ever. Raised in Northern Louisiana, "The Kingfish" was known to stump at just about any spot where the common man was - from atop bales of cotton to dusty fairgrounds. Long was a self-taught lawyer who later became the only person in the country's history to serve as a both a governor of a state and a US Senator at the same time. His oratory skills and charisma were legendary. People would pack into the Senate chambers in Washington just to hear him give a rousing speech. Long was absolutely no ordinary politician. However, he wasn't loved by all. On the brink of announcing his own bid for the US Presidency, Long was gunned down in the Louisiana State Capitol Building.  He was only 42. The movie, All the King's Men, was based on Huey Long's rise to power. Sean Penn played "The Kingfish."

When I was living in Bangkok, I checked out a booked from the AUA library.  It was a very long biography of Huey Long.  It didn't take me very long to read, because it was that captivating.  As I was reading the biography, I decided to jot down the descriptions (verbatim) of Long that made him such a compelling figure.  They are below.

Characteristics of Huey Long, former governor and US Senator from Louisiana, the only person in history to hold both offices at the same time, accumulated enormous power in Louisiana and national politics, arguably the greatest orator in US Senate history, nicknamed The Kingfish, the second most powerful political figure during his time (after FDR), threatened FDR’s power base so much so that many believed that government agents assassinated him in the Baton Rouge Capitol Building.

Knew the victory would be his
“He educated people to him.”  He taught them to think.
Mannerism of always being in motion
He knew how to fit men into positions
Looked a long way down the road
There was a cool purpose in the things he did
Audacity, an iron will, faith in himself and his cause and his destiny
Capacity for hatred
Immense physical vitality
Incite an audience with his words
Kindlin’ power
Folksy, friendly, broad, quizzical humor, clown a bit, inner power that’s ascribed
He could never wait or hold back.  He had to rush on to greater scenes, to wider power, to his destiny
Cast a spell on his hearers
Potentially ugly episodes rebounded to his advantage
Efficient and organized
He had a certain influence
Shrewd humor and colorful language
Needling interruptions did not irritate him and make him lose his head
The nastier people were to him, the more jovial he became
Knew every shade of inflection and emphasis of voice
Quickness of wit
Discourse on any issue without preparation
Could argue from a wrong premise to a right conclusion
Could think faster on his feet
Without prejudice in personal relations
Liked people, made them feel important
Had power in himself
He ascribed to himself lower motives than he actually had
He knew everything about everything
Cold intelligence
So simple, but really incredibly complex
“charged atmosphere” enveloped him
He produced events
People worshipped him
Had a long memory
Smart, fast, deadly
Jovial and impudent and boyish
Undiminished energy
Could talk and talk
Could be idealistic and unselfish
One of those who break the pattern of our time and then shape it anew
Matured rapidly in character
Extremely keen intelligence
Friendly and ingratiating personality
People felt incredulity and uneasy admiration
Bright, different, unusual, gifty
Extremely active
Nervous, curious about everything
Did not believe in physical violence
Inquisitive, original, intellectually curious
Used books to gain knowledge of the crafts that would help him
Fascinated with personal power, leadership techniques
Had a program of self-education
Mentally and physically active
Gave advice on political opinions to adopt
X-ray eyes, photographed whole pages in his mind
Intensely and solely interested in himself
Craved attention
Used laughter as a weapon of manipulation
Fascinated with debate
Exaggerate or obscure his role in any episode
Had forensic abilities and oratory skills
Wanted to lift the small and poor to a better life
“Why should anyone be fool enough to fight when he can get what he wants without doing it.”

a Huey Long book that was in Uncle Watty's (Watt Espy) collection

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