Louisiana governor Huey P. Long is a legendary character in his state's history. This week's Criminal Podcast looks at the mysterious death of Governor Long, a controversial character with a big persona.
Long was known for wearing white linen suits, smoking cigars and charming his audiences. He also had a reputation for corruption and lying. The New Orleans Picayune Times wrote there'd never been a candidate so "careless of the truth.”
But Long won the Louisiana governorship by landslide followed by a Senate seat, and next had his eye on the presidency, with an eye at unseating Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
He had a progressive agenda of taking from the rich and giving to the poor. His strong political views earned him a lot of enemies. Long received death threats and homemade bombs. And then at the age of 42, he was killed.
While walking through the state capitol at Baton Rouge one night, Long was shot and died two days later. The official story is that a young man named Carl Weiss was trying to get his attention in a hallway, and after a conflict shot him. Long was surrounded by bodyguards who shot back and killed Weiss.
Carl Weiss was an unlikely killer, a mild-mannered ear, nose and throat doctor with a young family at home. His family had a political dispute with Long about judicial redistricting and that was why he had come to speak with Long that night. But Weiss's family say he wasn't carrying a gun.
Huey Long was buried on the front lawn of the state capitol building, without an autopsy. That leaves room for theories that the official story isn't true.
"I think if you're a crime reporter, you know that there's a problem that the governor of Louisiana was shot and there was no autopsy," said Kevin Litten, a reporter at the Times-Picayune. "There are questions that are probably never going to be answered but still persist to this day partly because the legend of Huey Long looms so large over the state."
Some people say that the bodyguards, charged with protecting Long, shot him -- accidentally or not. In any case, Weiss's family, a long line of mild-mannered doctors, maintain his innocence.
You can find out more about more about the infamous killing of Huey P. Long on this week's episode of Criminal.