Huey P. Long, The Kingfish, served as governor of Louisiana from 1928 to 1932 and as a senator from Louisiana from 1932 until he was murdered. Huey P. Long was a vindictive, corrupt, progressive, magnificent hillbilly from northern Louisiana. His “Share Our Wealth” campaign is his largest contribution to US history.
At a time when robber barons ruled large swathes of the country as petit kings (this was the age of the Great Depression), large sections of rural America still didn’t have running water, and parts of Louisiana were impassable when the water rose, he envisioned a fairer and more compassionate country. Furthermore, he was willing to bully, cheat, and bribe his way to that better future.
A Brief Aside for the Share Our Wealth Campaign
Long’s redistribution campaign began in 1933. The Share Our Wealth campaign was designed to fund massive reinvestment in infrastructure as well as providing a guaranteed minimum income, a child welfare fund, and several other direct provisions to lower-, working-, and middle-class Americans.
He proposed a maximum income of $1 million annually, a $100 million cap on wealth, and a $5 million cap on inheritances.
Adjusted for inflation, that would be $20 million annually, $2 billion in wealth, and $100 million in inheritance.
He also proposed a $5,000 grant for every household, which would be $100,000 adjusted for inflation, and a guaranteed minimum income ⅓ of the average household income. In 2020, the average household income was about $97,000. So, that would be a guaranteed minimum income of about $32,000.
Why Was He Impeached?
In Long’s first year as governor (1928), he charged headfirst with his agenda. He proposed free schoolbooks for children, raided gambling and prostitution houses in New Orleans, confiscated money from gambling and prostitution to fund his social programs, tore down the governor’s mansion and replaced it with a replica of the White House, and fired everybody in government he could. He replaced the fired government employees with loyalists who would then pay a portion of their salary back into his re-election campaign. Obviously, this pissed off nearly everybody else in state government.
Next, he attempted to place a five-cent tax on barrels of oil. His opponents in the state House of Representatives, at the urging of Standard Oil, brought nineteen counts of impeachment against him. He was charged with bribery, blasphemy, encouraging murder, and a bunch of other stuff that he probably did.
In the first vote on the charges, he was clearly impeached. However, the Speaker of the Louisiana House was a Long loyalist; so, the electronic vote tally recorded the vote in his favor. Representatives protested that Long and his goons had rigged the voting machine (probably true). A brawl ensued in which his brother Earl bit a guy. He bit a guy. With his teeth. A human did this.
After everybody was tired of throwing hands (and teeth), they re-tallied the votes, and Huey P. Long was impeached on eight of the nineteen charges. The governor, however, went into his bag of tricks and pulled out 15 senators who stated that they would vote “not guilty.” Conviction required two-thirds of the Senate, so this public statement killed the Senate trial and saved Huey Long’s job.
His opponents accused him of bribing the senators, which he probably did. Long live the kingfish.
The Kingfish Speaks For Himself
“I’m for the poor man — all poor men, black and white, they all gotta have a chance. They gotta have a home, a job, and a decent education for their children. ‘Every man a king’ — that’s my slogan.”
“A man is not a dictator when he is given a commission from the people and carries it out.”
“We do not propose to say that there shall be no rich men. We do not ask to divide the wealth. We only propose that, when one man gets more than he and his children and children’s children can spend or use in their lifetimes, that then we shall say that such person has his share. That means that a few million dollars is the limit to what any one man can own.”
“How many men ever went to a barbecue and would let one man take off the table what’s intended for 9/10th of the people to eat? The only way you’ll ever be able to feed the balance of the people is to make that man come back and bring back some of that grub that he ain’t got no business with!”