Blanche Long

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Blanche Long
Born Blanche Beulah Revere
(1902-12-17)December 17, 1902
Covington
St. Tammany Parish
Louisiana, USA
Died May 11, 1998(1998-05-11) (aged 95)
Metairie, Jefferson Parish
Louisiana
Residence Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Nationality American
Political party
Democrat
Religion United Methodist
Spouse(s) Earl Kemp Long (1932-his death in 1960)
Children No children
Parents Robert H. and Beulah Talley Revere
Notes
William J. "Bill" Dodd, a former lieutenant governor and education superintendent, once said that Blanche Long was the best political player in Louisiana except for her husband, Earl Kemp Long, from whom she was separated at the time of his death.

Blanche Beulah Revere Long (December 17, 1902 – May 11, 1998) was the first lady of Louisiana from 1939–1940, 1948–1952, and 1956-1960. She was also a "partner in power" to her husband, Governor Earl Kemp Long. From 1956-1963, she was the Democratic national committeewoman from Louisiana. Thereafter, in 1963-1964, she was the campaign manager of Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Julian McKeithen, the presumed heir to Earl Long.

Mrs. Long was born in Covington in St. Tammany Parish, across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans, to Robert H. Revere and the former Beulah Talley. The Reveres were a lower middle class family, and Blanche was a public stenographer at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans. She married Earl Long on August 17, 1932; they had no children. Mrs. Long was protective of her several sisters and her only brother — she helped him to obtain and maintain state employment in Baton Rouge.

Blanche Long's political persona[edit]

According to former Lieutenant Governor and Superintendent of Education William J. "Bill" Dodd, Blanche Revere was "in her young years a true beauty. And she was just as intelligent as she was good-looking. In her political days, her personality came across as either soft and sweet or blue steel and cold, depending not so much on how she felt, but on what the situation demanded."

In his Peapatch Politics: The Earl Long Era in Louisiana Politics, Dodd, a keen observer of state political developments, declared "Miss Blanche," as most addressed her, "a major factor in Governor Earl Long's political life. . . . Miss Blanche knew as much about the mechanics of politics as her husband. In many ways she complemented Earl's qualities; together they made a unique political team. Miss Blanche, a better judge of people, recognized con artists and phonies more quickly than Earl. She also handled them better. . . . She saved Earl from many mistaken appraisals of people and subsequent errors in the treatment of them. Miss Blanche was motivated by as strong a desire to become the first lady of Louisiana as Earl was to become its governor."

Dodd found that Mrs. Long had "influence on Earl Long that he didn't recognize. She knew how to get him to do what she wanted. Sometimes Earl would just let her have her way to shut her up. But she was a power in his administration, and every appointee and favor-seeking person soon learned that and acted accordingly. I tried to stay in her good graces, but she chose her political friends, and I never got on her favored list.

"She was not highly educated, nor was she a philosophical thinker. She looked at problems as an engineer or a lawyer would, usually solving them correctly, but always in her and Earl's favor. She wasn't solid oak or mahogany, but her veneer was stain smooth, double thick, and never cracked, even under the most extreme stress".

Managing the 1948 gubernatorial campaign[edit]

In the 1947-1948 Earl Long gubernatorial comeback, when Dodd was seeking the lieutenant governorship, Blanche Long ran the state campaign headquarters from the Higgins Building in New Orleans. Dodd said that she "kept about 100 volunteer workers happily and effectively working twelve to sixteen hours a day. They got their literature out, arranged for millions of cards and circulars to be printed and mailed, and took care of our speaking dates out in the state and on radio. No business was ever operated more smoothly or effectively than Miss Blanche ran Earl's campaign headquarters. The workers and the public loved her and worked for her."

Dodd said that he was never on Mrs. Long's "favored list" because he had gubernatorial ambitions of his own, and Earl and Blanche Long did not want another potential governor to come from their own faction. Earl Long felt that he would gain nothing if one of his weaker lieutenants were to be elected governor: he always wanted to head the Long faction, both as governor and as former governor in waiting.

The terrible fight with Earl[edit]

In 1959, Mrs. Long angered her husband, when she purchased land near the little-known Hot Wells resort in northern Rapides Parish. Moreover, she built a mansion on Capitol Lake in Baton Rouge right behind the new governor's mansion, which the pair would vacate in 1960 because Earl Long was again term-limited by the Louisiana constitution, a restriction which John McKeithen got changed in 1966 through his "Amendment 1." Earl Long was furious that Blanche bought the properties without telling him, and he also feared outrage from some of his supporters who did not know that the Longs were wealthy enough to purchase such properties.

Later that year, Long gave a speech defending the right of blacks to register to vote. Coincidentally, at that time, Mrs. Long had her husband committed to the John Sealy Mental Hospital in Galveston, Texas, for an alleged mental breakdown. Perhaps, she feared that Earl would have harmed her when he was in an agitated state. Dodd says that Blanche "conspired" with Senator Russell B. Long, Earl's nephew, and Dr. Arthur Long, a cousin, to have Earl Long committed. Television cameras showed Long being taken to the institution amid his hurling of profanities. He was quickly released because there was deemed no mental breakdown but sensational political actions on the part of the governor. Time magazine reported that to obtain his release, Earl Long promised Blanche that he "would submit to psychiatric treatment in New Orleans, actually the state mental hospital in Mandeville. When Jesse Bankston, the director of the Department of Hospitals, refused to release Long from the Mandeville facility, Long had Bankston, a loyal member of the administration, dismissed. Bankston and Mrs. Long professed concern about Long's loss of weight and feared for his weak heart, for he had a major heart attack in late 1950. Earl and Blanche Long separated after the mental hospital incident, and there was no reconciliation prior to his death in September 1960.

In May 1960, outgoing Governor Long attended the inauguration of his successor, Jimmie Davis, in the company of a 23-year-old stripper and burlesque dancer named Blaze Starr, whom he had first met in 1958. Apparently, Mrs. Long believed that the mental hospital confinement would compel Earl to recognize his troubles and cause him to end his affair with Starr. Dodd, however, discounts the importance of Starr in Long's last months of life and was particularly critical of the 1989 film Blaze, which he dismissed as "fiction."

Dodd also relates in his memoirs that Long accused Blanche of hiring the prominent Baton Rouge attorney Theodore F. "Theo" Cangelosi to represent her in a separation suit against Earl Long. Cangelosi was a state legislator from 1940–1944, having served with Dodd in the Louisiana House. "He [Earl Long] cussed Theo and then bragged on how smart and slick Theo was and how he could suck up $100 bills like an anteater takes his dinner. He even accused his wife of having an affair with Theo and then said he didn't mean it, for she could do better and besides that the long-footed (He had very long feet.) Cangelosi had fifteen or twenty children, and Miss Blanche didn't like children. And Earl raved and talked bad for a few minutes, he got sweet again and signed off by wishing Miss Blanche well and promising to beat the hell out of Harold [B.] McSween [in the pending congressional campaign]."

Cangelosi in fact tried to get Earl and Blanche reconciled, but the clock ran out on Earl Long. Dodd called Cangelosi "one of the finest gentlemen and ablest lawyers in Louisiana."

The 1960 congressional race[edit]

After he left the governorship in 1960, Earl Long decided to challenge freshman Eighth District Congressman Harold McSween of Alexandria for renomination. In a hard-fought runoff election, Long defeated McSween though he had trailed him in the first primary. There had been a third primary candidate, former State Representative Ben F. Holt of Rapides Parish, considered a conservative Democrat. Long scored a pyrrhic victory, for he was dead a few days later, and the Democratic State Central Committee returned McSween to the ballot as the unopposed Democratic nominee in the general election. In a way, one may say that the committee nullified the results of Long's last campaign.

Dodd was the only one of Earl Long's former lieutenants who came into the Eighth District to help him to campaign. He was deserted by both Russell Long and AFL-CIO President Victor Bussie. Dodd said that he came to Earl's pleas for aid despite the wishes of Mrs. Dodd and Dodd's law partners. Moreover, Dodd himself was challenging incumbent Merle Welsh for the Baton Rouge-based Sixth Congressional District seat on the Louisiana Board of Education in that same primary. Dodd said that he called Mrs. Long to inform her of his intentions to assist Earl, and she thanked him for helping her husband. Dodd said that Earl Long was fighting the "banking interests, the corporations, the normal anti-Long people, and all the big news media, fighting with hardly any money and no statewide politicians to help him." Dodd was also able to demonstrate to Long that he was loyal, whereas "disloyal" Earl Long had opposed Dodd's two bids for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination—1952 and 1959.

Dodd recalls in his memoirs that he once placed a call to Blanche at Earl's request in which Blanche "spoke very kindly about Earl and said she knew he was sick and fighting for both his physical and political life. She said [that] she had asked some of their old friends in New Orleans and elsewhere to send Earl some campaign money, and she sort of apologized for not being able to help personally. Before Earl took over the phone, she thanked me for helping him and for being the only one of his old lieutenants to come to his aid."

Moreover, according to Dodd, Long never intended to serve in Congress beyond two terms, for he was planning to enter the 1963 Democratic primary for governor. His death of course led Blanche Long to support McKeithen as her Long factional candidate for governor. The estranged Russell Long, however, endorsed a second "Long" candidate, the more liberal Congressman Gillis William Long, who was ridiculed by some critics as "Silly Gilly."

Managing the 1964 gubernatorial campaign[edit]

John McKeithen chose Blanche Long as his campaign manager, not out of sentiment for the deceased Earl Long but because Mrs. Long had real experience from earlier Long campaigns. In the McKeithen campaign, Blanche Long recruited an old friend, Mary Evelyn Dickerson Parker to deliver speeches extolling McKeithen and excoriating his chief Democratic foe, former New Orleans Mayor deLesseps Story Morrison, Sr. Mrs. Long proved successful in getting the governorship for McKeithen, whom she had known since 1948, when he came to Baton Rouge as a young legislator from Caldwell Parish. In 1951-1952, the Longs had attempted unsuccessfully to get McKeithen elected lieutenant governor. He lost in the primary runoff to C. E. "Cap" Barham of Ruston in Lincoln Parish.

After his election, McKeithen named Mrs. Long to a state job on the Tax Commission. Dodd said that she handled the position very well.

A $163,000 mistake?[edit]

Dodd said that Blanche Long erred badly in how she handled two Long supporters, Frank and Ruth Matthews. She forced the Matthewses to "repay" $163,000 to her. This was compensation for funds that Earl Long had left with them for "safekeeping." Dodd took the view that the Matthewses had repaid Earl the money during the congressional campaign but could find no receipt to present to Mrs. Long. Mrs. Long, however, had the original "IOU" from the Matthewses. Dodd said he was convinced that the $163,000 was paid twice.

In a suit heard in 1966 seeking to reclaim the $163,000, Blanche Long claimed that attorney and former state Senator Joe T. Cawthorn of Mansfield on or about August 20, 1960, had delivered $6,000 in cash in Marksville in Avoyelles Parish to Long. This was two weeks before Long won his congressional race against Harold B. McSween but died before he could claim the seat.[1]


Blanche Long's legacy[edit]

Mrs. Long was living in Metairie in Jefferson Parish at the time of her death at the age of ninety-five. She was a Methodist, while her husband was baptized into the First Baptist Church of Baton Rouge when he was sixty years of age. He is buried in the Earl K. Long Memorial in Winnfield. She is buried in Lake Lawn Cemetery in Metairie.

Bill Dodd, who was seven years Mrs. Long's junior and died seven years before she did, summed up her career in his memoirs: "What she thought about governmental philosophies or forms, I do not know. But she understood and practiced practical politics better than any man I've ever known, except her husband, Earl Long."[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Long v. Matthews". leagle.com. 1966. Retrieved October 28, 2014. 
  2. ^ William J. "Bill" Dodd, Peapatch Politics: The Earl Long Era in Louisiana Politics Baton Rouge: Claitor's Publishers, 1991, p. 63