About Russell Billiu Long
Russell Billiu Long (November 3, 1918 – May 9, 2003) was an American Democratic politician and United States Senator from Louisiana from 1948 until 1987.
Long was born in Shreveport, and received bachelor's and law degrees from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, where he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity (Zeta Zeta chapter). During college, he served as freshman class president, sophomore Arts and Sciences President, and then student body president. In June of 1942, World War II, Long entered the naval reserve (avoiding combat) and completed his service as a Lieutenant in December 1945.
Long was the son of the flamboyant Louisiana governor and Senator Huey P. Long and Rose McConnell Long, who served about a year in the Senate following her husband's death. When Russell Long was elected in November 1948, he became the only person in U.S. history to have been preceded in the Senate by both his father and his mother. The U.S. Constitution requires Senators to be at least 30 years old and Long barely met this requirement. He was elected to the Senate on November 2, 1948, one day before his 30th birthday. He did not take office, however, until December 31, giving him a few days of seniority over others in the Senate class of 1948, including Lyndon B. Johnson and Hubert Humphrey. Before he ran for the Senate, Long had served as executive counsel to his uncle, Earl Kemp Long, who returned to the governorship in 1948.
Defeating Kennon and Clarke, 1948
To win the Senate seat vacated by the death of Democrat John Holmes Overton, Long first defeated Judge Robert F. Kennon of Minden in the Democratic primary, 264,143 (51 percent) to 253,668 (49 percent). The margin was hence 10,475 votes. Long then overwhelmed Republican oilman Clem S. Clarke of Shreveport, 306,337 (75 percent) to 102,339 (25 percent). Clarke was the first Louisiana Republican senatorial nominee in decades. He carried Iberia, Caddo (Long's native parish), Lafayette, and East Baton Rouge parishes. Clarke had tried get the courts to forbid Long from running on both the Harry Truman and Strom Thurmond slates in Louisiana, but he failed to convince the judges, and Long's votes on each slate were counted.
Specialist on tax law
Long was known for his knowledge of tax laws. In 1953, he began serving as an influential member of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee and was the chairman from 1966 until Republicans assumed control of the Senate in 1981. During his time in the Senate, Long was a strong champion of tax breaks for businesses, once saying, "I have become convinced you're going to have to have capital if you're going to have capitalism." On the other hand, he was aware of some of the political ramifications of "tax reform," stating that it simply meant "Don't tax you, don't tax me, tax that fellow behind the tree!"
Long's contributions to the United States' tax laws include the Earned Income Tax Credit, a program aimed at reducing the tax burden on poor working families, the Child Support Enforcement Act, and Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs), employee benefit plans designed to allow employees to invest in the stock of their employers. In the year 2006, the Earned Income Tax Credit lifted more than four million people above the poverty line and was called “the nation’s most effective antipoverty program for working families.” Long also initiated the provision that allows a taxpayer to allocate $1 of taxes for a Presidential election campaign fund checkoff (the "dollar checkoff").
Democratic senators named him the party Assistant Majority Leader (whip) in 1965. He lost this leadership position in 1969 to Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, but remained as Senate Finance Committee Chairman. He had especially good relations with both of his senatorial colleagues from Louisiana, first Allen J. Ellender and, then, J. Bennett Johnston, Jr., who like Long was born in Shreveport.
In 1966, at the request of former National Football League Commissioner Pete Rozelle, Long and Congressman Hale Boggs used their influence to pass legislation that allowed for the merger of the American Football League and the National Football League (NFL). Without the legislation, the merger would have been prohibited by anti-trust laws governing monopolies. In exchange for ensuring the passage of the legislation, Long and Boggs requested that Rozelle award the next NFL expansion franchise to New Orleans. Rozelle complied, and Long and Boggs joined Rozelle in announcing that New Orleans had obtained the New Orleans Saints on November 1, 1966.
Long served as President Lyndon B. Johnson's legislative Senate floor leader for many of the Great Society programs. Through his position on the Senate Finance Committee, he was instrumental in building support for the passage of the Tax Reform Act of 1986.
After his election in 1948, Long never again faced a close contest for reelection. Because the 1948 election was for a two-year unexpired term, Long had to run again in 1950 for his first full six-year term. That year, he had no trouble defeating the intraparty challenge of Malcolm E. Lafargue (1908–1963), a great-nephew of Senator John Overton but a candidate to the political right of the Longs. In an advertisement, Lafargue questioned how Long is the self-proclaimed "poor man's friend" because the incumbent "pretends to sneer at millionaires, but Long is a millionaire himself." Lafargue claimed further that Russell Long and his uncle, then Governor Earl Kemp Long, "have borrowed so much money from our unborn children that Louisiana today has the greatest debt of any state." Lafargue criticized what he called Long's "welfare state" and "socialist" political backing and denied himself having ever endorsed the Huey Long "Share the Wealth" ticket. Former U.S. Representative Newt V. Mills of Monroe also ran in the 1950 senatorial primary election.
After he dispatched Lafargue and Mills, Long overwhelmed his Republican opponent, Charles S. Gerth, a businessman from New Orleans, who had also run for senator in 1948 against Long's long-term colleague, Allen J. Ellender, but as a Democrat. In the 1950 race, Long polled 220,907 (87.7 percent) to Gerth's 30,931 (12.3 percent).
In 1962, Long defeated attorney Philemon A. "Phil" St. Amant, a retired United States Army lieutenant colonel from Baton Rouge, 407,162 votes (80.2 percent) to 100,843 votes (19.8 percent) in the Democratic primary. Long then trounced his Republican challenger Taylor W. O'Hearn, a Shreveport attorney and accountant and later state representative, with 318,838 votes (75.6 percent) to 103,066 (24.4 percent).
Speculation persisted that Long would run for governor in the 1963 Democratic primary. He had received encouragement from "all the shades of factionalism in the state." Instead, he endorsed his cousin, Gillis W. Long, the U.S. representative from the Eighth Congressional District based about Alexandria. At the time, Long was second to the aging Senator Harry Flood Byrd, Sr., of Virginia on the Senate Finance Committee and had already presided as chairman during Byrd's prolonged absence because of failing health.
As a result of President Johnson's signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Long (along with more than a dozen other southern Senators, including Herman Talmadge and Richard Russell) did not attend the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City. However, Long defied conventional wisdom by delivering a television address in Louisiana in which he strongly endorsed the Johnson-Humphrey ticket, which lost the state to the Republican Barry M. Goldwater-William E. Miller electors. The action had no consequence on Long's future, however, as Republicans declined to challenge his reelection in 1968, 1974, and 1980.
In 1968, Long overpowered a primary rival, Maurice P. Blache, Sr. (1917–1991), to win renomination. He was unopposed in the general election when the presumed Republican candidate, Richard Kilbourne, the district attorney in East Feliciana Parish, withdrew from the race. Kilbourne abandoned his campaign so that his party could concentrate on trying to elect David C. Treen to represent Louisiana's 2nd congressional district over incumbent Democrat Hale Boggs.
In 1974, Long defeated state Insurance Commissioner Sherman A. Bernard of Westwego in Jefferson Parish, 520,606 (74.7 percent) to 131,540 (18.9 percent), in the Democratic primary. (Another 44,341 (6.4 percent) went to a third candidate, Annie Smart.) State Republican Chairman James H. Boyce of Baton Rouge noted that the party could not find a viable candidate to challenge Long.
In 1980, Long defeated State Representative Louis Woody Jenkins of Baton Rouge, 484,770 (57.6 percent) to 325,922 (38.8 percent) in the state's nonpartisan blanket primary. During the 1980 campaign, Long's friend and colleague, Robert J. "Bob" Dole, the Kansas Republican who had been his party's vice presidential nominee in 1976 and who would be the presidential nominee in 1996, made a television commercial for Long in the race against Jenkins. Dole and Long were both running for reelection that year. The 1980 primary was the last time Long's name was on a ballot.
After he considered and rejected a run for governor of Louisiana, Long retired from the Senate in January 1987. Summing up his career in the Senate, Ronald Reagan called him a "legend" and "one of the most skillful legislators, compromisers and legislative strategists in history." Referring to Long's enormous power, the Wall Street Journal once called Long "the fourth branch of government."
In 1986, after Long announced his retirement, Democratic Congressman John Breaux of Crowley was elected to succeed him in the Senate. Breaux defeated the Republican U.S. Representative W. Henson Moore, III, of Baton Rouge. Moore had led the balloting in the nonpartisan blanket primary but lost the general election to Breaux in a nationally Democratic year. Breaux, unlike Long, however, did not secure the election of his chosen successor. The seat was won in 2004 by Republican U.S. Representative David Vitter of the New Orleans suburbs.
Long remained in Washington, D.C., as a highly sought-after lobbyist after his retirement. For a brief period of time following his retirement, he was a partner in the law firm of Finley, Kumble, Wagner, Underberg, Manley, Myerson & Casey, which dissolved in 1987. He later founded the Long Law Firm, where he remained a partner until his death. Long also served on the Board of Directors of The New York Stock Exchange, Lowe's Companies, Inc., and Metropolitan Life Insurance Company.
Long was opposed to judicial intrusions into police power, calling the liberal members of the Warren Court "'the dirty five' who side with the criminal."
At the time of his death from heart failure, Russell Long was the only former senator still living whose service went back as far as 1948. He was in the Senate, for instance, six years before Strom Thurmond arrived for what turned out to have been a 48-year stint. He began his Senate service a full decade before Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia arrived in January 1959 for a 51-year career. The Long funeral, held in Baton Rouge, is remembered in part for the moving eulogies delivered by his grandson, attorney Russell Long Mosely, and by his former colleagues J. Bennett Johnston, Jr., and John Breaux. Family
Long married the former Katherine Mae Hattic in June 1939. They had two daughters, Rita Katherine (born 1944) and Pamela. The Longs divorced,[when?] and the senator thereafter married[when?] the former Carolyn Bason from North Carolina, who resides in Washington, D.C.
Long's brother, Palmer Reid Long, Sr. (1921–2010), of Shreveport, worked in the 1948 Senate campaign as well as efforts to elect Earl Long governor. Palmer Long attended Sewanee Military Academy in Tennessee and LSU in Baton Rouge and was a flight instructor with the United States Army Air Corps, forerunner of the Air Force during World War II. Married to the former Louene Dance (1994–2010), who preceded him in death by nine months, Palmer Long was otherwise involved in the family's oil and natural gas business and shunned most other political participation beyond personal contributions. He was highly active on behalf of the Louisiana Shriners Hospital in Shreveport. Oddly, after 1995, most of Palmer Long's considerable political contributions went to Republican candidates, including Russell Long's friend Bob Dole, who ran for president against Bill Clinton in 1996, and for John S. McCain in 2008 in the losing presidential race with Barack Obama. Palmer Long is identified as a Republican voter by the website RealVoters.
Long also had a sister, Rose Long McFarland (1917–2006), later of Boulder, Colorado.
In popular culture
Long appears as a character in Oliver Stone's film JFK, portrayed in a cameo appearance by legendary actor Walter Matthau. In the scene, based on a real-life occurrence, Long chats with New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison during an airplane ride where he denounces the lone gunman theory of the John F. Kennedy assassination concluding: "That dog don't hunt." This conversation leads Garrison to read the entirety of the Warren Report himself, and leads him to the conclusion that there was a conspiracy to assassinate the President.
William C. Havard, Rudolf Heberle, and Perry H. Howard, in The Louisiana Election of 1960 noted that Russell Long as a U.S. senator extended his family dynasty. "Russell Long represents a modified and tone-down version of Longism but retains a basic orientation toward the active use of governmental power as a means of adjusting social and economic imbalances among group interests."
In 1993, Russell Long was among the first thirteen inductees into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in Winnfield, along with his father and his uncle, Earl Long.
The prestigious Russell B. Long Service Award is named in his honor. Among the recipients is the state legislator Ronnie Johns of Sulphur in Calcasieu Parish.
Dr. Bruce Gold and Ralph Newsome are alumni of the Senator Russell B. Long Foundation in Joseph Heller's "Good as Gold".