Russell B. Long

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Russell B. Long
Russell B. Long.jpg
United States Senator
from Louisiana
In office
December 31, 1948 – January 3, 1987
Preceded by William C. Feazel
Succeeded by John Breaux
15th United States Senate Majority Whip
In office
January 3, 1965 – January 3, 1969
Preceded by Hubert Humphrey
Succeeded by Ted Kennedy
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance
In office
January 10, 1966 – January 3, 1981
Preceded by Harry F. Byrd
Succeeded by Bob Dole
Personal details
Born Russell Billiu Long
(1918-11-03)November 3, 1918
Shreveport, Louisiana
Died May 9, 2003(2003-05-09) (aged 84)
Washington, D.C.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) 1. Katherine Mae Hattie (div.)
2. Carolyn Bason
Children Rita Katherine Long
Pamela Long
Alma mater Louisiana State University
Profession Politician, Attorney
Religion United Methodist
Military service
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1942–1945
Rank Lieutenant
Unit Reserves
Battles/wars World War II

Russell Billiu Long (November 3, 1918 – May 9, 2003) was an American Democratic politician and United States Senator from Louisiana from 1948 until 1987, and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee for fifteen years from 1966 to 1981.[1]

Early life[edit]

The son of future Louisiana governor and US senator Huey Long and his wife Rose McConnell Long, also a future US senator, 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 1942, World War II, Long entered the naval reserve and completed his service as a Lieutenant in December 1945.[2]

Early career[edit]

Long's first and only elected position was in the U.S. Senate. He was elected to the Senate in November 1948, becoming the only person in U.S. history to be preceded in that institution by both his father and his mother. He was elected on November 2, one day before his 30th birthday, and took office on December 31, thus barely meeting the Constitutional requirement that all Senators be at least 30 years old when they take office. He did, however, have a few days of seniority over others in the Senate class of 1948, including Lyndon B. Johnson and Hubert Humphrey, who were sworn in on January 3 the following year. 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[edit]

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 US Senate nominee in decades. He carried Iberia, Caddo (Long's native parish), Lafayette, and East Baton Rouge parishes. Clarke had tried to 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.

Senate career[edit]

Specialist on tax law[edit]

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!"[3]

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.”[4] 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 chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. He had especially good relations with both of his senatorial colleagues from Louisiana, first Allen J. Ellender of Houma, an old associate of Huey Long, and, then, J. Bennett Johnston, Jr., a former member of both houses of the Louisiana State Legislature, who like Long was born in Shreveport.

Senator Long with Lyndon B. Johnson

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.[5] Rozelle complied, and Long and Boggs joined Rozelle in announcing that New Orleans had obtained the New Orleans Saints on November 1, 1966.[6]

Mr. Long's success in maneuvering Kennedy's major tax reduction bill forward in early 1964 cemented his reputation as a rising leader.[7]

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.

Subsequent elections[edit]

1950[edit]

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 and 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."[8]

After he dispatched Lafargue and former U.S. Representative Newt 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).

1962[edit]

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).

1963 and 1964 campaigns[edit]

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 since disbanded 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.[9]

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, both of Georgia) did not attend the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City.[10] 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.

1968[edit]

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.

1974[edit]

In 1974, Long defeated in the Democratic primary state Insurance Commissioner Sherman A. Bernard of Westwego in Jefferson Parish, 520,606 (74.7 percent) to 131,540 (18.9 percent). Another 44,341 ballots (6.4 percent) went to a third candidate, Annie Smart. Louisiana Republican state chairman James H. Boyce of Baton Rouge noted that the party could not find a viable candidate to challenge Long.[11]

1980[edit]

Sen. Russell Long in 1985

In 1980, Long defeated State Representative 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. Jenkins had run against Johnston in 1978 and ran again in a disputed outcome against Mary Landrieu in 1996 for the seat Johnston vacated on retirement.

Jenkins won majorities in only four parishes, Rapides, La Salle, Iberia, and St. Tammany. When Jenkins claimed to have received 55 percent of the votes cast by whites, Long called the claim "racist." Long urged the media to investigate Jenkins' claim. He contended that his own research was in conflict with Jenkins' assertion.[12]

Near the end of his last term in office, Long hired the young journalist Bob Mann as his press secretary. Mann, who now hold the Douglas Manship Chair of Journalism at LSU, later penned the 1992 book, Legacy to Power: Senator Russell B. Long of Louisiana.[13]

Retirement[edit]

After he considered and rejected a run for governor of Louisiana, Long retired from the Senate in January 1987. Long had correctly predicted in March 1985 that Governor Edwin Edwards would be acquitted by a Louisiana jury and that the ensuing trial would not disrupt state government.[14] In 1985, when Long announced his retirement from the Senate, he indicated his preference for Edwards as his senatorial successor but added, correctly, that he did not think Edwards would enter the 1986 Senate election.[15]

J. Bennett Johnston, Jr., said of his colleague: "His absence will leave a huge void that's going to be very, very difficult to fill here in Washington."[16]Edward J. Steimel, president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, described Long as "very well regarded in the business community nationally."[16]

Summing up his career in the Senate, President Ronald Reagan called him a "legend ... one of the most skillful legislators, compromisers and legislative strategists in history."[17] Referring to Long's enormous power, the Wall Street Journal once called him "the fourth branch of government."[18]

In 1986, Democratic U.S. Representative John Breaux of Crowley, a former legislative aide and House successor of Governor Edwards, was elected to succeed Long 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., after his senatorial retirement as a highly sought-after lobbyist. For a brief period following his retirement, he was a partner in the law firm of Finley, Kumble, Wagner, Underberg, Manley, Myerson & Casey, which dissolved in 1987.[19] He later founded the Long Law Firm, where he remained a partner until his death. Long served on the board of directors of the New York Stock Exchange, Lowe's Companies, Inc., and Metropolitan Life Insurance Company.

Political positions[edit]

Long opposed judicial intrusions into police power and termed the liberal members of the Warren Court "'the dirty five' who side with the criminal."[20]

At a gathering in Minden in 1958, Long criticized the court, some of whose members had no prior judicial experience. He accused the justices of pitting whites against African Americans and vice versa. In 1955, he had proposed an amendment to the United States Constitution to limit Supreme Court justice to six or twelve-year terms. Long criticized both major parties nationally for courting bloc voting by African Americans; he noted the 1958 campaign for governor of New York in which incumbent Democrat Averill Harriman and the ultimately successful Republican nominee, Nelson Rockefeller, sought to out-do the other in currying the favor of the civil rights activist, Martin Luther King, Jr. Long vowed to continue his support for racial segregation.[21]

Death[edit]

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 Johnston and Breaux.

Family[edit]

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 (1924–2010), 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.

Long also had a sister, Rose Long McFarland (1917–2006), later of Boulder, Colorado.[22]

In popular culture[edit]

Long appears as a character in Oliver Stone's film JFK, portrayed in a cameo appearance by 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 US 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."[23]

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".[24]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Franklin, Ben A. (November 12, 1965). "Byrd of Virginia resigns after 32 years in Senate". The New York Times. p. 1. 
    Morris, John D. (November 12, 1965). "Byrd's move aids Long of Louisiana; Majority Whip in line for Senate Finance chairman". The New York Times. p. 32. 
  2. ^ [1] U.S. Congressional Bioguide
  3. ^ Mann, Robert T. (2003). Legacy to Power: Senator Russell Long of Louisiana. iUniverse. p. 333. ISBN 978-0-595-27019-4. 
  4. ^ Eckholm, Erik (April 17, 2007). "Tax Credit Seen as Helping More Parents". The New York Times. 
  5. ^ "Act of Congress paved way for Saints, Super Bowl". The Sporting News. January 29, 2010. 
  6. ^ "New Orleans Saints photos look back at first year: 1967". The Times Picayune. January 22, 2010. 
  7. ^ Cushman, John (11 May 2003). "Russell B. Long, 84, Senator Who Influenced Tax Laws". New York Times. Retrieved 10 October 2014. 
  8. ^ Advertisement, Minden Herald, July 21, 1950, p.3
  9. ^ William C. Havard, Rudolf Heberle, and Perry H. Howard, The Louisiana Elections of 1960, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Studies, 1963, p. 97
  10. ^ Kornacki, Steve (2011-02-03) The "Southern Strategy," fulfilled, Salon.com
  11. ^ Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report, October 26, 1974, p. 2962
  12. ^ "Long says Jenkins made racist remarks", Minden Press-Herald, September 15, 1980, p. 3
  13. ^ "About Bob Mann". bobmannblog.com. Retrieved October 18, 2013. 
  14. ^ "Long predicts EWE acquittal", Minden Press-Herald, March 14, 1985, p. 1
  15. ^ "Sen. Long doesn't think Edwards will run (for U.S. Senate)", Minden Press-Herald, March 29, 1985, p. 7A
  16. ^ a b "Long's retirement catches many by surprise", Minden Press-Herald, February 26, 1985, p. 1
  17. ^ Reagan, Ronald (October 16, 1985). "Remarks at a Dinner Honoring Senator Russell B. Long of Louisiana". The University of Texas. 
  18. ^ Cushman, John H. (May 11, 2003). "Russell B. Long, 84, Senator Who Influenced Tax Laws". The New York Times. 
  19. ^ Shipp, E. R.. (November 11, 1987). "Finley, Kumble, Major Law Firm, Facing Revamping or Dissolution". The New York Times. 
  20. ^ Laura Kalman (1990). Abe Fortas. Yale University Press. Retrieved October 20, 2008. [page needed]
  21. ^ "Senator Long Blisters Supreme Court: Crowns Benton Beauty in Opening Fair Ceremonies", Minden Herald, October 9, 1958, p. 1
  22. ^ "Social Security Death Index". ssdi.rootsweb.ancestry.com. Retrieved October 26, 2010. 
  23. ^ Havard, Heberle, and Howard, The Louisiana Election of 1960, pp. 82–83
  24. ^ Heller, Joseph. Good as Gold. London: Corgi Books, 1980. pp 49.
  • William J. "Bill" Dodd, Peapatch Politics: The Earl Long Era in Louisiana Politics, Baton Rouge: Claitor's Publishing, 1991

External links[edit]

United States Senate
Preceded by
William C. Feazel
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Louisiana
December 31, 1948 – January 3, 1987
Served alongside: Allen J. Ellender, Elaine S. Edwards, J. Bennett Johnston
Succeeded by
John B. Breaux
Political offices
Preceded by
Harry F. Byrd
Virginia
Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance
1965–1981
Succeeded by
Robert J. Dole
Kansas
Party political offices
Preceded by
Hubert Humphrey
Minnesota
Senate Majority Whip
Senate Democratic Whip

1965–1969
Succeeded by
Ted Kennedy
Massachusetts
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Berkeley L. Bunker
Most Senior Living U.S. Senator
(Sitting or Former)

January 21, 1999 – May 9, 2003
Succeeded by
George Smathers
Preceded by
Joseph McCarthy
Youngest Member of the United States Senate
1948–1957
Succeeded by
Frank Church