In 1948, Russell Long delivered a statewide radio address rebutting a "slanderous attack" on the reputation of his late father, Huey Long. The governor's race that year between Huey's brother, Earl Long, and Sam Jones (both former governors) had become a referendum on Huey, with Jones' anti-Long camp seeking to link Huey to public corruption. Earl won all 64 parishes in a landslide (see story at right).
Russell, age 29, was elected the same year to the U.S. Senate, where he served until 1986. The full text of his speech is reprinted below. (Long excoriates the anti-Longs and media in the final paragraphs.)
statewide radio address by Russell B. Long (1948)
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:
For the past four months, I have spoken to many thousands of our friends, both from the stump and on the radio, in behalf of the candidacy of Earl K. Long for Governor.
I am participating in this campaign for the reason that I sincerely believe that Earl Long is best qualified for that most responsible of all positions in this State.
By this time, I believe it has come to your attention that Earl Long is waging a clean, straightforward campaign, based on a constructive platform. His opponents have begun a vicious campaign of villification, and three Northern magazines have now seen fit to join into this campaign by waging a slanderous attack against the name of my father. Let me say at this point that, except for the New Orleans newspapers, the daily press of this State as a whole has been reasonably fair. As for the New Orleans newspapers, their position is no more than we would expect. They have never done anything other than what they are now doing, and, after all, Sam Jones is their candidate and they are desperate to elect him.
They are leaving no stone unturned in their effort to slow down Earl Long's progress. On the one hand, they scream that Earl Long and Huey Long had some differences back in 1932, and on the other hand, they attack and villify the reputation of my late father, who is not here to defend himself. As for the differences which arose between Earl Long and my father, we know that those differences lasted less than a year before Huey and Earl patched them up, and Earl went back to helping my father and continued to do so until after Huey Long's death several years later. When Huey Long and Earl Long made up their differences, that was the end of it as far as my family was concerned, and that is how it has been since that time. It is too bad that brothers sometimes have a quarrel or a spat; when it happens, all they can do is to shake hands and forget it. That is what Huey Long and Earl Long did sixteen years ago, and my family doesn't care to hear any more about these differences.
As for the part of the Northern magazines in this present campaign, there have been three articles in those magazines recently libeling my father and praising Mr. Sam Jones. That is also a part of the Jones' campaign, and I understand that the Jones' campaign group are having 50,000 copies printed, in pamphlet form, to circulate at our meetings; so you can save your two-bits — no need to buy the magazine. Two of these articles were supposedly written by former Federal Government employees, giving what they said to be "inside dope" against my father. One of these men was supposed to be a former FBI Agent, and the other a former Treasury Agent. Each of these self-styled big shots claimed that he was running the whole show; that he was going to have Huey Long in jail the next month, or the next week, after Huey Long's death.
Before I undertake to answer the false statements made in those articles, let me first get one point straight. Mr. Jones asks how anybody could refuse to believe those two blackguarding former Federal Agents whom be describes as "reputable men". There is nothing reputable about those men. Assuming that they are putting out inside information which they claim to be doing, then they would be violating the laws of the United States and the regulations of the Department of Justice and the Treasury Department, by revealing confidential information of the Federal Government for a cash consideration. To go one step further, the people paying for this information in violation of public trust, would be guilty of paying a bribe, and the person selling the information would be guilty of taking one.
You may recall that a short time ago Mr. O. John Rogge, whom Sam Jones tried to nominate for the Presidency of the United States, went out West and started making speeches against people based on confidential information of the Federal Government, and that Tom Clark, the United States Attorney General, fired that man by wire. Of course, Mr. Wilson and Mr. Irey, who wrote those articles against my father, are not going to be fired for what they are doing. They don't work for the Federal Government any longer, but they are still violating the laws; when they claim to be selling inside information of the Government. But what they are actually doing is defrauding the public by selling distortions and falsehoods, to the public in a manner which undermines the reputation of the FBI and the Treasury Department, and at the same time desecrating and villifying the memory of a dead man.
Now if you would examine these libelous articles, you will find that on every page, and in almost every paragraph, these cheap scandal sheets call my father a thief and a crook. But where is their proof that Huey Long did anything wrong? The only specific item of alleged wrongdoing, that I can find anywhere in their masses of vague prevarication and name-calling, is that one of these hot-shots says he was going to put Huey Long in jail for not paying income tax on a dividend which he alleged my father received, but read the article carefully a time or two and you will find that the author himself said that the alleged dividend was a distribution of funds earned by a corporation in the year 1935, and my father died in 1935; and if you recall how the income taxes were collected at that time, his income tax for the year 1935 would not have been due or payable until March 15, 1936, which would have been six months after his death. Now taking this former Treasury Agent, Mr. Irey, at his own word — he would claim that he was going to put Huey Long in jail for not paying income taxes for the year 1935, when Huey Long would have had to report and pay those income taxes six months after his death, if he was to have paid them at all.
Now, I have never before publicly discussed my father's personal business, but in view of the criminal falsehoods that have been told against my father, I believe that I should discuss his personal affairs with many of his thousands of personal friends tonight, in order that they might have the real truth. A man's income tax is supposed to he confidential, but I would rather that you have the entire picture of my father's financial position than just the one-side stories of a couple of blackmailing sharpshooters. After my father's death, the Treasury Department attempted to assess his estate with $48,000 income taxes on alleged income, which my father had never actually received. I note that former Treasury Agent Irey claims that we paid, and admitted guilt in civil cases. He lies! As proof of that, I suggest that you look at Docket #47,098 and #47,099, before the United States Court of Claims, where my mother and my entire family are suing the Treasury Department to make them refund monies illegally assessed against my father's estate. Neither my father, nor any of our family, had ever received any of that money. When they slapped that assessment against us, we had to sell our home and all of my father's law books, in order to pay it, and I frankly do not know how my family would have made it if some of my father's close friends had not come to our aid. We could have compromised and paid less, but we preferred to fight it out to the bitter end, rather than let a lot of blackmailing former Treasury and FBI Agents say that we admitted that Huey Long evaded one penny of his income tax.
But the absurd part of this whole attempt to blacken Huey Long's name with the accusation that he evaded income taxes was that Huey Long gladly made a tremendous financial sacrifice to enter politics. In the year 1926, in private law practice, as a 31-year-old attorney, my father made $70,000 in one year. Let Mr. Irey consult his income tax records on that. If Huey Long had chosen to continue the legal profession, at that point he was already set for life. Instead, he preferred to run for Governor of the State and spend the remainder of his life fighting for the people of Louisiana, giving little children free school books, lifting the tax burden from the shoulders of the poor, helping the sick and the underprivileged, building roads, bridges, hospitals, and colleges. He did a lot more good for the two and a half million people of Louisiana than any man the state had ever had, and he was a lot happier doing it than he would have been doing anything else.
I know that some of you have been led to think that his Share-Our-Wealth plan was a vote-catching scheme. If you have, then you are wrong. His Share-Our-Wealth ideas were almost a religion with him, and he was not one to accumulate wealth for himself or his family. He had known what it was to shovel coal for a living, and he could have made a living any time. He never knew what it was to loaf or to rest, and he worked more than 18 hours every day. As for his children, he feared they would be lazy because they had not had to struggle to get by the way he had. If Huey Long had lived a million years, he would never have been really rich. Not that he could not make a lot of money, but he did not believe in accumulating personal wealth. When he died, his net worth was only a few thousand dollars greater than the day that he entered politics. If you recall, the people of Louisiana were surprised to find how little Huey Long left when his estate was probated.
My family was not surprised. We recalled how frequently Huey Long quoted from Christ's "Sermon on the Mount."
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal.
But lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
—Matt. 6:19. 20, 21.
Perhaps you wonder why the Louisiana newspapers continue to libel and berate my father's memory, and why they attempt to blame him for the 1939 scandals which occurred four years after his death. Huey Long was the first Governor in Louisiana who dared to fight their selfish and bigoted little clique. He had broken their rule, and when they villified him, they hurt themselves worse than they hurt him. He was the one man who even had the nerve to attempt to make them pay taxes. Possibly, the hate and wrath that that little group felt towards my father may cool and mellow as time goes by, but it would be too much to expect that their reactionary old souls would ever deal fairly with my father's memory during their lifetime. But let them rave — let them rant. They may print a quarter of a million copies of their prejudiced editorials every day, but they can't hurt my father now.
The Judge who heard Huey Long's case does not heed half-truths and unfounded accusations. I am sure that when my father's case was heard, the prayers of every humble man and woman who loved him was given just as much weight as the opinions of the newspaper publishers. I know that the Almighty Judge of that Heavenly Tribunal must have been interested in the man of humble birth, who fought the battle for the poor, the sick and the underprivileged. The idea that none should be too rich and none too poor did not sound absurd in that Celestial Court. And of all the great accomplishments of the man before him, the Greatest Judge of them all must have been impressed to recall that this was a young man who had given free school books to millions of little children. And with that I close my defense of the late Huey P. Long.
RUSSELL B. LONG
After Huey's death, a light had been fixed in the tower of the Capitol, shining on Huey's grave. Sam Jones had arranged for the light to be turned off.
In 1947-48 at every stop, a Long speaker would discuss the occasion when the anti-Long forces had turned the light off and asked that we send someone to Baton Rouge to shine the light back on Huey's grave.
When the votes were counted, the Long ticket won by its largest majority ever. Again, we carried all 64 parishes. And the light went back on.”— Russell B. Long, National Press Club speech, Jan. 23, 1985
Courtesy of the Louisiana State Archives