Assassination Attempts: Huey P. Long Kingfish of Louisiana Politics

About the assassination of Huey P. Long kingfish of Louisiana politics, biography of Long and the assassin Carl Austin Weiss.

The Victim: HUEY P. LONG, the powerful and flamboyant "Kingfish" of Louisiana politics, established a vast dynasty based simultaneously on popular social reform and increased welfare as well as on corruption and personal greed. Huey Long hated big business, but not big politics. His career attracted nationwide attention and has been the subject of a considerable number of novels, movies, and nonfiction studies. He has been called everything from a dictator to a radical. Long was a U.S. senator with presidential aspirations at the time of his death.

The Date: September 8, 1935.

The Event: The actual circumstances of Long's shooting are murky, and the written accounts are filled with contradictions. Here is the official and most generally accepted version: Long was attending a special session of the Louisiana House of Representatives in Baton Rouge. As the legislators prepared to recess, Long walked into the governor's office suite while his 5 bodyguards waited outside. Long emerged presently and hurried down one of the Capitol corridors; his bodyguards followed. From behind a recessed pillar, a 29-year-old physician named Carl Weiss approached Long. He was dressed in a white linen suit and carried a .32 caliber automatic. Without speaking, Weiss fired once, striking Huey Long in the lower right abdomen. Long cried out, "OOOOOOOhhh!" He turned, clutched his right side, and ran down the hall. Weiss was instantly disarmed, shot twice, and grappled to the marble floor. In a tornado of bullets and ricocheting shrapnel, Long's henchmen fired wildly and repeatedly, and when this was over Weiss's linen suit was dyed red from 61 large-caliber bullet wounds. After 30 hours and 44 minutes of intense medical treatment, Huey Long was also dead.

A respectable number of alternative versions have been documented, and much of the eyewitness testimony may be discounted because those who testified--Long's bodyguards and intense partisans--may themselves have killed the Kingfish in the ensuing explosion of close-range shooting. It has been proposed that Weiss perhaps punched Long in the face (Long suffered an unexplained cut on his mouth and he is alledged to have said, "That's where he hit me") and was subsequently fired upon. It has been proposed that the bodyguards--after an unclear incident--searched Weiss quickly, found the gun, and fired it. (The death bullet passed through Long and was secreted, along with all the other bullets, by the police; it is not known which bullet killed Long.) Weiss may have intended to kill Long, fired and missed; or Weiss may not have even intended to assassinate the senator. (However, apparently he was carrying his own .32, an uncommon practice for the doctor.)

The only eyewitnesses that testified at the coroner's inquest were Long's bodyguards and intimates, and all gave much the same overall story (the official version), although many lesser contradictions in testimony went unresolved. Two heavily documented books (The Huey Long Murder Case, by Hermann B. Deutsch, Doubleday; and The Day Huey Long Was Shot, by David H Zinman, Ivan Obolensky Pub.) posit widely varying and even opposing versions, each backed by reasonable evidence.

The Assassin: A brilliant doctor and a calm, sensitive family man, Carl Austin Weiss was born in Baton Rouge on December 18, 1905. After internships at the American Hospital in Paris and Bellevue Hospital in New York, Weiss entered into practice with his father back in Baton Rouge in 1932. He married Yvonne Pavy, daughter of Judge Benjamin Pavy, a minor political opponent of Huey Long's.

Weiss hated Long, his parents hated Long, and his wife's family hated Long. However, Weiss's interest in politics did not manifest itself in any typical political activities. Apparently he didn't even like to talk politics. His work and his family life consumed nearly all of his energies. When not attending patients or operating, Weiss designed medical instruments. He was considered something of a "doctors' doctor," and perhaps the most highly trained young ear-nose-and-throat specialist in Louisiana.

On the day of the Long shooting, Dr. Weiss seemed entirely normal, and in fact confirmed plans to carry out an operation the following morning.

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