Speedy Long

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Speedy Long
Speedy Long.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Louisiana's 8th district
In office
January 3, 1965 – January 3, 1973
Preceded by Gillis William Long
Succeeded by Gillis William Long
Member of the Louisiana Senate
from the 32nd district
In office
1956–1964
Preceded by Gove D. Davis
Succeeded by Willard L. Rambo
District Attorney, 28th Judicial District (La Salle Parish)
In office
1973–1985
Personal details
Born Speedy Oteria Long
(1928-06-16)June 16, 1928
Tullos on the La Salle and Winn parish border
Died October 5, 2006(2006-10-05) (aged 78)
Trout, Louisiana
Resting place Magnolia Cemetery in Tullos
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Florence Marie Theriot Long (1933–2007)
Children Felix Field Long (born 1959)
David Theriot Long (born 1961)
Residence Jena, Louisiana
Alma mater University of Louisiana at Monroe

Northwestern State University
Paul M. Hebert Law Center of Louisiana State University

Occupation Attorney
Religion Baptist
Military service
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1946-1948

Speedy Oteria Long (June 16, 1928 – October 5, 2006) was a Jena (La Salle Parish) lawyer who was a Democratic U.S. Representative from central Louisiana between 1965 and 1973.[1] Prior to his tenure in the since disbanded Eighth Congressional District, Speedy Long had been a member of the Louisiana state Senate (1956–1964). After he left Congress, he became the district attorney (1973–1985) for the Jena-based 28th Judicial District. He resumed the practice of law in Jena from 1985 to 2005 but was called back to public service in 1994 when the Louisiana Supreme Court appointed him judge pro tem of the 28th Judicial District Court until a judge could be elected in 1995. He was a member of the popular Long political dynasty, being a member of its conservative wing.[2]

Early years in La Salle and Winn parishes[edit]

Long was born to Felix Franklin Long (1899–1982) and the former Verda Pendarvis (1905–1997) in tiny Tullos on the La Salle and Winn Parish boundary. His paternal grandfather was Charles Felix Long (1859–1940). Long was named "Speedy" because he was born two months prematurely. His father was the Tullos barber and also a town council member, marshal, and, later, mayor. Speedy Long recalled that his family ate and breathed politics. He joked that he had been reared to regard Huey Pierce Long, Jr., as God Almighty, Earl Kemp Long as Jesus the Son, and Eighth District Congressman George Shannon Long as St. Peter. He attended the public schools of La Salle and Winn parishes and graduated from Winnfield High School in 1945, just days before his 17th birthday.

Thereafter, he served in the U.S. Navy from April 1946 to February 1948. He graduated from the University of Louisiana at Monroe (then Northeast Junior College) in 1950 and from Northwestern State University (then State College) in Natchitoches in 1951 with a BA in History. Long was recalled to active Navy duty during the Korean War between 1951 and 1952. He graduated in 1959 from Paul M. Hebert Law Center of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, was admitted to the Louisiana bar, and thereafter opened his practice in Jena.

On September 1, 1955, Long married the former Florence Theriot (May 15, 1933 – March 3, 2007) of Golden Meadow in Lafourche Parish. She was the daughter of Leopold Theriot and the former Emeline Martin (both 1912-1991). The couple had two sons, Felix Field Long (born 1959) and David Theriot Long (born 1961), both of whom resided in New Roads, the seat of Pointe Coupee Parish, at the time of their parents' deaths.

State senator at 27[edit]

Speedy Long was elected to the Louisiana Senate in 1956, when he was only twenty-seven years old. In 1960, Long was reelected to the Senate, now the District 32 seat, over the opposition of state Representative Willard L. Rambo of Georgetown in Grant Parish north of Alexandria. Rambo had been Governor Earl Long's legislative floor leader and was married to a member of the Long family, the former Mary Alice Long (born 1928).

In 1963, Speedy Long did not seek a third term in the state Senate. He first planned to run for governor but instead, he contested the state insurance commissioner position, then held by Rufus D. Hayes, on a Democratic intraparty ticket headed by his friend John Julian McKeithen, a Columbia lawyer and one of the then three state public service commissioners, who was seeking the party's gubernatorial nomination in a crowded field.[3]

Also on the McKeithen ticket was former Lafayette Mayor Ashton J. Mouton (1916–1988), a candidate for lieutenant governor. Mouton had been elected mayor at the age of thirty-one in 1948; he served until 1956. Long and Mouton lost their races, but McKeithen was elected governor. Long was defeated by Dudley A. Guglielmo. Another candidate in the insurance commissioner race was State Representative Jack M. Dyer of Baton Rouge, a former Bill Dodd ally running on the deLesseps Story Morrison inraparty ticket. Mouton lost out to conservative incumbent Clarence C. "Taddy" Aycock of Franklin, the seat of St. Mary Parish.

Speedy Long challenges Gillis Long, 1964[edit]

Long vacated his state Senate seat in 1964 and immediately launched a campaign against his third cousin, Gillis William Long (1923–1985) of Alexandria, for Louisiana's 8th congressional district seat, a position often held by a member of the Long family. In the summer of 1960, Earl Long had won a Democratic primary by a 6,000-vote margin for the seat held by Harold B. McSween of Alexandria and also held prior to 1958 by Long's late brother, George S. Long. When Earl Long died as the Democratic congressional nominee, the nomination reverted to McSween, the choice of the Democratic State Central committee. Two years later, in 1962, Gillis Long unseated McSween in the Democratic primary.

Gillis Long had been an unsuccessful gubernatorial contender against John McKeithen in the primary held in December 1963. He was a freshman House member who had not fully consolidated his hold on the district. Therefore, he was most vulnerable to his cousin's challenge. Speedy Long made it clear to voters that he was far different from his cousin Gillis, whom he dubbed a "Washington lawyer." Speedy Long, "just a Jena lawyer," vowed to vote far more conservatively on policy issues than Gillis Long had done in his one term in Congress.

Speedy Long said that he would model many of his votes in accord with north Louisiana Congressmen Joe D. Waggonner, Jr. (1918–2007), of Plain Dealing in Bossier Parish and Otto Ernest Passman (1900–1988) of Monroe in Ouachita Parish. He pointed out that Gillis Long often voted with the liberal members of the delegation from south Louisiana, specifically, Thomas Hale Boggs, Sr., (1914–1972) of New Orleans, James H. Morrison (1908–2000) of Hammond, and even the moderately conservative Edwin E. Willis (1904–1972) of St. Martinville, to expand the scope of the national government at the expense of the states.[4]

Speedy Long would upset Gillis Long for the Democratic congressional nomination in the famous "Battle of the Longs." Speedy's margin was some 4,900 votes. Relations between the two cousins were strained for years afterwards. In Congress, Speedy Long did as he had promised, often voting more like a Republican.

The challenge from Republican William Stewart Walker[edit]

Speedy Long faced a much stronger Republican candidate than was usually offered in the district because of the popularity in Louisiana of the Republican presidential nominee, Senator Barry M. Goldwater of Arizona. Retired United States Army Lieutenant Colonel William Stewart Walker (1914–1999) of Winnfield, who had earlier lost a state senate race to W.L. Rambo by a decisive margin, appeared strong as the Republican congressional nominee. At the Republican National Convention in San Francisco, in fact, Walker secured the endorsement of former President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Walker won Rapides Parish, which includes Alexandria and Pineville, with 51.4 percent of the vote and nearly won Winn Parish, which was both Walker's home parish as well as the traditional center of the Long dynasty. Walker received 27,735 votes (45.5 percent) to Speedy Long's 33,250 (54.5 percent).

Long in Congress[edit]

Speedy Long quickly established his hold on the Eighth District. He hired the lawyer Theodore "Ted" Jones as his first executive assistant, but Jones soon left to join the McKeithen administration in Baton Rouge. As he had promised, Long voted conservatively in Congress, sometimes in line with the Republican leadership under the direction of a future president, Gerald Ford. Speedy Long was reelected to the House in 1966, 1968, and 1970. In the latter year, he defeated in the Democratic primary John K. Snyder, later the mayor of Alexandria, 59,032 to 24,112.[5]

In Congress, Long served on the Armed Services and the Merchant Marine and Fisheries committees. His subcommittee held hearings in South Vietnam that discovered why the M-16 rifle was failing in combat conditions. The Pentagon subsequently authorized changes in design, ammunition, and the cleaning procedures, and the weapon has since performed well. Long was also credited with convincing the Pentagon to designate Fort Polk near Leesville in Vernon Parish as a permanent military installation. He also joined others in the congressional delegation to fight for the development, control, and the navigation of the Red River in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas.

From 1965 to 1971, one of Long's aides in his Washington office was Thomas "Bud" Brady, later a member from 1976 to 1988 of the Louisiana House of Representatives from Long's own La Salle Parish.[6]

Running for governor, 1971[edit]

Main Article: Louisiana gubernatorial election, 1971-72

In 1971, Speedy Long filed as a Democratic candidate for governor. He entered a huge field that included: Lieutenant Governor Clarence C. "Taddy" Aycock, 70-year-old former Governor Jimmie Davis, fellow Congressman Edwin Washington Edwards of Crowley, two state senators, John G. Schwegmann, a supermarket mogul from Jefferson Parish, and J. Bennett Johnston, Jr., a lawyer from Shreveport, and Speedy Long's competitive and more liberal cousin, Gillis Long. Speedy Long polled only 61,359 votes.

La Salle Parish district attorney[edit]

Speedy Long decided not to run for the U.S. House again. As a result of redistricting, the Eighth District was geographically enlarged to include culturally Acadian French parishes to the south of Alexandria and to endow it with a higher ratio of liberal voters; additionally, Speedy Long's home parish of LaSalle was switched to the Fifth District. The change in district apportionment, pushed by Governor Edwards, proved conducive to the return of Gillis Long to the seat that he had lost eight years earlier.[7] Speedy Long instead was elected district attorney of LaSalle Parish, a position that he held for 12 years.

One last run for governor, 1987[edit]

In 1987, Speedy Long, then fifty-nine, launched a final campaign for governor. He faced a field of seven opponents in the jungle primary, including incumbent Governor Edwards (the father of the jungle primary), Secretary of State James H. "Jim" Brown, originally of Ferriday, three congressmen, Wilbert Joseph "Billy" Tauzin of Lafourche Parish, Robert L. "Bob" Livingston of suburban New Orleans, and Charles E. "Buddy" Roemer, III, of Bossier Parish.

Speedy Long polled 18,736 votes (1 percent). In La Salle Parish, he received only 643 ballots from his diehard supporters, but Roemer led even there with 3,540 votes. Roemer (33 percent) and Edwards (28 percent) were slated to compete in the general election, but Edwards withdrew, and Roemer became governor based on his plurality primary showing. Livingston, who had hoped to garner a general election berth based on solid Republican support and then tackle Edwards, ran a disappointing third.[8]

Bill Dodd's analysis of Speedy Long[edit]

In his Peapatch Politics: The Earl Long Era in Louisiana Politics, pp. 19–20, former lieutenant governor, state auditor, and superintendent of education William J. "Bill" Dodd described Long as follows:

"Speedy knew his politics and had the usual amount of Long ambition and energy to get ahead. He had something else, something the other Longs didn't have. He had the ability to see things in perspective, and he seems to have made a good self-analysis of his capabilities and desires. He got himself elected to Congress and appeared able to parlay his success into a still bigger office [the governorship].

"Speedy got tired of Washington . . . and wanted to live at home with his family. So he came home voluntarily and hence became a quiet, plodding, and seemingly happy country prosecutor and small-town lawyer in central Louisiana. He may be the only Long who was ever happy . . . "

Later years[edit]

Speedy Long resided in the town of Jena in La Salle Parish and maintained a family law office in Jena until his retirement in 2005. His law partner for ten years was the Third Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jimmie C. Peters. In 1979, Peters ran for the same state Senate seat that Long had held earlier, but he lost out to then fellow Democrat Daniel Wesley "Dan" Richey, then of Ferriday in Concordia Parish.

Long was a member of the First Baptist Church of Jena, the American Legion, a Mason, and a Shriner. He died about 7:40 a.m. on October 5, 2006,[1] at his home in Jena. In addition to his wife, sons, and granddaughter, Shelby Ann Long of Ventress in Pointe Coupee Parish, he was survived by four brothers, Willie F. Long of Jena, Earl K. Long and Steve Long, both of Olla, and Charles Long of Tullos; three sisters, Jo Beth Long Barber of Vicksburg, Mississippi, and Sarah Long Allison and Willa Long Freeman, both of Natchitoches. Services were held on October 7, 2006, at the Hixson Brothers Funeral Home in Jena. Judge Peters delivered Long's eulogy. Mrs. Long, also a member of First Baptist in Jena and a graduate of Golden Meadow High School, died in a Baton Rouge hospice on March 3, 2007, after suffering a stroke—just five months after her husband's death. The Longs are interred in Magnolia Cemetery in Tullos.

Speedy Long was inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in Winnfield in 1998, along with his former congressional colleague Joe Waggonner.

Speedy Long was inducted posthumously into the "Long Purple Line" of Northwestern State University of Louisiana on October 24, 2008. Northwestern State University established The Long Purple Line in 1990 to provide recognition and appreciation to former students whose career accomplishments or service to their fellow man have enhanced the reputation of the university.[9]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Liberty Chapel Cemetery.
  2. ^ Obituary from Hixson Brothers Funeral Home.
  3. ^ William C. Havard, Rudolf Heberle, and Perry H. Howard, The Louisiana Elections of 1960, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Studies, 1963, p. 98
  4. ^ Ironically, the southmost Louisiana congressional district at the time was the 1st district, represented by one of the most-conservative members of the House, Democrat F. Edward Hebert, who was in no way subject to allegations of liberalism.
  5. ^ Louisiana Almanac, 2006
  6. ^ "Obituaries: Thomas "Bud" Brady". meaningfulfunerals.net. Retrieved July 5, 2013. 
  7. ^ After Gillis' death, his widow Cathy Long briefly occupied the seat before its new composition, intended to be friendly to a somewhat liberal white Democrat like Gillis, produced the anomalous victories of Clyde C. Holloway when (for three elections) the still-majority white electorate was faced with the dilemma of choosing between race and party as repeatedly Holloway faced African American Democratic candidates from left of center on the political spectrum (the conservative Democratic courthouse operatives in the district became at home with Holloway until the district was dismembered after the 1990 census).
  8. ^ Roemer aggressively courted Republican voters during the gubernatorial campaign and siphoned enough of them from Livingston to go into the runoff against Edwards, who at that time was widely considered unreelectable. During his last year as governor, in 1991, Roemer switched to the Republicans a few days before the state Republican convention, its delegates already having been chosen, endorsed U.S. Representative Clyde C. Holloway for governor; Holloway occupied the same 8th congressional district seat earlier held by both Gillis Long and Speedy Long.
  9. ^ Obituary from the Town Talk (Alexandria, Louisiana).

Additional sources[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Gillis William Long (D)
United States Representative for the 8th Congressional District of Louisiana

Speedy Oteria Long (D)
1965–1973

Succeeded by
Gillis William Long (D)
Louisiana Senate
Preceded by
Gove D. Davis (D)
Louisiana State Senator from District 32 (including La Salle Parish)

Speedy Oteria Long (D)
1956–1964

Succeeded by
Willard Lloyd Rambo (D)