The Man Who Was Louisiana

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In 1935, on the floor of the U.S. Senate, Huey Long of Louisiana spoke against a New Deal measure for more than 15 hours straight, digressing along the way to give tips on frying oysters and brewing coffee. As Richard D. White, Jr., makes clear in Kingfish: The Reign of Huey P.

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In 1935, on the floor of the U.S. Senate, Huey Long of Louisiana spoke against a New Deal measure for more than 15 hours straight, digressing along the way to give tips on frying oysters and brewing coffee. As Richard D. White, Jr., makes clear in Kingfish: The Reign of Huey P. Long (Random House, 384 pages, $26.95), theatrical turns like this supported Long’s main occupation: putting virtually every office and bit of patronage in Louisiana under his personal control, which allowed him to treat the governor and legislature like extras on a film set. In a straightforward, detailed narrative, White shows how Long, after getting expelled from high school, rose from being a door-to-door salesman to establish the closest thing to a dictatorship this country has ever known—only to be assassinated at the height of his power.