The Long, Long Trail


The generational differences, then, have been more of style than of substance. Though columnist Russell Baker sees in Russell Long “a tempestuous, moody, unpredictable charmer” who reminds him of a minor Labour party official in the Welsh coal country, this only contrasts him with today’s I.B.M. senator, not with his galluses-snapping, buttock-scratching father. Even Speedy O. Long, with his redneck appeal, dresses conservatively in dark suit and rep tie, speaks softly, and displays a worldly vocabulary. It is difficult to imagine Russell or Gillis or Speedy spreading a newspaper on the floor of the governor’s mansion and spending an evening spitting on it, as Earl once did to keep his disgust fresh for “them lyin’ newspapers.”

The new Longs have been housebroken. Compared to their forebears, they are tame, professional, homogenized. Huey said, “I don’t see any harm in lightening up the tragedy of politics. …” But in his heirs some of that electricity is gone, a sacrificial offering to the gods of respectability.

It is hard to believe that it is less than a half century since the first Long arose as a political force. They are a young dynasty. The members of the second generation are only in their thirties and forties. And in a state where third cousins can claim political kinship, there are plenty of Longs for every occasion. Recently, at the opening session of the state legislature, Speedy Long held up his infant son in diapers for all to see. He just wanted Louisiana to know that the dynasty is “going to be around awhile.”