Monday, August 01, 2005

The Kingfish

The Oyster talks about the Kingfish, Huey P. Long, the late great governor and senator from the Gret Stet.

Huey was a populist, no doubt about it, and was the determined enemy of big business. My Great Uncle, a retired State Trooper, was a bodyguard for Governor Long, and was in fact, off duty the day that the Kingfish was assassinated. My Grandmother was in the room when Uncle Roy got the call, and she relates that he picked up the phone, listened for a minute, then said, "Well, hell. I didn't do it, I was in Alexandria all day."

I can't testify to the truth or veracity of the following vignette, because I wasn't there, and the people involved are pretty much dead, but my Uncle told us on more than one occasion, that Huey wasn't adverse to taking money to line his own pockets, or the pockets of cronies. One story Uncle Roy told was about the roads in Louisiana. During Huey's term, the state of Louisiana launched on a big road building campaign. Because of the nature of road-building in the 1930's, the concrete had to be made close to where the road was being constructed and the cement powder came in 50 lb sacks to be mixed with sand and gravel at the site. According to my Uncle, the concrete company kicked back a nickel to Huey for every bag of concrete used.

To make matters worse, (again, according to my deceased uncle), the roads were constructed to be a foot narrower than standard roadbeds of the time, but the state was billed for the whole road as if it had been constructed to specification. When Huey found out that he was being cheated, he forced the company to kick back a nickel a bag on every bag that should have been used to build the road to standards.

My Uncle claims Huey made a lot of money in the concrete business while Louisiana was building roads. I don't know if it is true or not, but it makes a great story.

Louisiana has had her share of scoundrels and saints, and sometimes it is harder than hell to distinguish the two. As Mark Twain once said, "We are closer to the French than to the Angels."


jonnybutter said...

I seem to remember hearing something about some skullduggery vis a vis Huey's road project too...

I love the 'Hell, I didn't do it..'

Thanks for the vignette.

oyster said...

Paw paw has some great ones, alright.

Thanks for sharing some of the family history!