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Huey Long (1893-1935) was one of the most extraordinary American politicians, simultaneously cursed as a dictator and applauded as a benefactor of the masses. A product of the poor north Louisiana hills, he was elected governor of Louisiana in 1928, and proceeded to subjugate the powerful state political hierarchy after narrowly defeating an impeachment attempt.
The only Southern popular leader who truly delivered on his promises, he increased the miles of paved roads and number of bridges in Louisiana tenfold and established free night schools and state hospitals, meeting the huge costs by taxing corporations and issuing bonds. Soon Long had become the absolute ruler of the state, in the process lifting Louisiana from near feudalism into the modern world almost overnight, and inspiring poor whites of the South to a vision of a better life.
As Louisiana Senator and one of Roosevelt’s most vociferous critics, “The Kingfish,” as he called himself, gained a nationwide following, forcing Roosevelt to turn his New Deal significantly to the left. But before he could progress farther, he was assassinated in Baton Rouge in 1935. Long’s ultimate ambition, of course, was the presidency, and it was doubtless with this goal in mind that he wrote this spirited and fascinating account of his life, an autobiography every bit as daring and controversial as was The Kingfish himself.