The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992 Page: 419
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Austzn MAY SCHMIDT
Earl K. Long: The Saga of Uncle Earl and Louzsana Poltzcs. By Michael L. Kurtz
and Morgan D. Peoples. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press,
1990o. Pp. xvi+312. Preface, introduction, illustrations, notes, bibliogra-
phy, index. $24.95.)
Earl Long, one of American history's most tenacious politicians, is on the
comeback trail again. Nearly three decades after his death, the self-professed
"last of the red hot poppas" is the subject of a popular feature film, Blaze, star-
ring Paul Newman, and an engaging political biography written by Michael
Kurtz and Morgan Peoples. In this beautifully written and carefully crafted
book, Kurtz and Peoples rescue the three-time Louisiana governor from his
older brother Huey's shadow, demonstrating that Earl was a fascinating and
complex personality in his own right, a shrewd and innovative politician who
had a profound influence on the style and substance of Louisiana politics.
Punctuated with telling, often hilarious, anecdotes, yet respectful of Earl
Long's significance as a reformer, this is the book that readers of A. J. Liebling's
tantalizing journalistic classic, The Earl of Louisiana (1961), have been waiting
Despite a paucity of manuscript sources-Earl Long left no personal papers,
and his official gubernatorial papers are disappointingly thln--Kurtz and
Peoples have written a richly textured account of Long's life and times. Sepa-
rating fact from folklore is always a difficult task for students of southern poli-
tics, particularly when the subject at hand is a larger-than-life folk hero, but
Kurtz and Peoples have done a masterful job of exhuming and analyzing the
mythic remains of Long's career. Drawing upon an extensive archive of oral
history interviews, the authors offer a convincing and compelling portrait of
Earl Long the politician, and of Earl Long the man. Nothing of consequence is
overlooked as the authors chronicle Earl's progression through the labyrinth of
Louisiana politics: the early years in Winn Parish; a lengthy political appren-
ticeship during the faction-ridden 1930s; election to the lieutenant gover-
norship in 1936 and a brief tenure as governor in 1939-1940; the disappoint-
ing loss to Sam Jones in the 1940 gubernatorial primary; the victorious
campaigns for governor in 1948 and 1956; the running feuds with the New
Orleans machine and the epic battles with the anti-Long faction of the legis-
lature; the struggle to survive as a populistic and racially moderate governor in
an age of racial demagoguery and massive resistance; involvement with New
Orleans gangsters and escapades with Bourbon Street strippers; involuntary
commitment to a Texas mental institution in 1959; and the last hurrah, a whirl-
wind campaign for Congress that was cut short by a fatal heart attack in Sep-
tember 1960. There are eye-opening revelations in every chapter, but the most
interesting sections deal with Long's surprisingly liberal but inconsistent civil
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992, periodical, 1992; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117153/m1/479/: accessed March 24, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.