Every fall, a myriad of political signs appear on the sides of roadways and lawns. Avid campaign supporters are found standing at corners of populated roadways waving signs and hands to encourage travelers to vote for a particular candidate. In Louisiana, many electoral races create much excitement, similar to the anticipation of catching beads and other memorabilia at Mardi Gras parades. Popular candidates whose nicknames can range from Buddy, Speedy, Buster, and Dutch suddenly become the "talk of the town" along with the candidate's promises of reform and tax breaks. Many residents can be found talking leisurely, or passionately, of an election race at neighborhood grocery stores, a friend's house, and social and family gatherings. Louisiana politics, similar to other states, have its share of quirks, questionable candidates, and "colorful" characters.
One noted politician and former governor of Louisiana, Huey P. Long, changed the consensus among Louisiana residents pertaining to voting during elections. Before Long, some Louisianans felt voting was a waste of time for those less fortunate because class distinctions and economic status were major factors for Louisiana politics. According to Paul Stekler, who directed the documentary titled Louisiana Boys:
“Huey Long did so much to change the politics of Louisiana. He said, ‘I’m gonna help poor people,’ and he helped poor people visibly. He built bridges, he gave them hot school lunches.That was a politics that politicians after Huey learned about. You promise helping poor people, every man a king. You get in and you do very visible things for poor people. And you win!"
Long will also be fondly remembered for waving his arms as he led a band that played a song he wrote, "Every Man a King," while his brother, Earl, stood from the sidelines, drinking whiskey out of a Coke bottle and rambling on about the opponents of an electoral race.
Huey P. Long, nicknamed "The Kingfish," was known for his promises of social reform and assistance for public schools, charity hospitals, roadways, pension for the elderly, and programs for lower income individuals. Not only did Long make promises, but he delivered! Unfortunately, his reign came to an end when he was assassinated by a fatal gunshot wound in 1935 at the Louisiana State Capitol with his last words, "God, don't let me die, I have so much to do." His brother, Earl Long or "Uncle Earl," was a three term governor of Louisiana. He continued working towards his brother Huey's vision of providing social programs for everyday Louisianans. Earl Long can also be remembered by locals for eating breakfast at a St. Tammany hotel, The Green Springs Hotel, currently operating in Covington, Louisiana. In one instance, his frequent outbursts, which were a customary part of his personality, led him to knock his breakfast plate onto the hotel's floor, while claiming it was poisoned, then reach over and eat from the plates of other diners. "Uncle Earl's" excessive drinking, frequent ramblings, and violent outbursts eventually landed him in a mental institution.
Another noteworthy politician was Governor Jimmie Davis, "the Sunshine Governor", also known as a country western singer who sung his farewell address to the Louisiana legislature. Another politician, Governor Edwin Edwards, or "Fast Eddie," taunted his opponent, Dave Treen, by claiming that Treen takes an hour and a half to watch the TV show, 60 minutes. Edwards also spent time in a Federal correction institution on many charges. Lastly, many Louisianans will always remember the image of David Duke, "the Grand Wizard," standing in a white robe in front of a fiery cross, and, in later years, he ran for political office.
Angus Lind, a contributor for the Tulanian, compared Louisiana politics to the lyrics of country singer Jerry Jeff Walker's song "It Don't Matter":
Down in Louisiana, it don't matter
If you are sane as a judge, or mad as a hatter
To learn more about some of Louisiana's famous politicians, their speeches, and others' views on Louisiana politics, you can view the Louisiana Boys: Raised on Politics playlist on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL0223801F4FB3D59F, opens a new window.
To read more about Louisiana politicians and elections, check our branches for the availability and locations of the items below:
Godfrey, Andrew. Gov. Earl K. Long (La.) Sent to Mental Institution in 1959: Fires, Administrators, Absconds from the Premises.
Jeansonne, Glen. Jimmie Davis: The Sunshine Governor.
Lind, Angus. Politics, Louisiana Style.
McGill, Kevin. Edwin Edwards: High Times and Hard Times of a Self-Styled Cajun King.
Stekler, Paul. Louisiana Boys: Raised on Politics.