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Russell Billiu Long (November 3, 1918 – May 9, 2003) was an Americanmarker Democrat politician who and Senator of Louisianamarker from 1948 until 1987.

Early life

Long was born in Shreveportmarker, and received bachelor's and law degrees from Louisiana State Universitymarker in Baton Rougemarker, where he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity (Zeta Zeta chapter). He was a naval officer during World War II.

Early career

Long was the son of the flamboyant Louisiana governor and Senator Huey P. Long and Rose McConnell Long, who served about a year in the Senate following her husband's death. When Russell Long was elected in November 1948, he became the only person in U.S. history to have been preceded in the Senate by both his father and his mother. The U.S. Constitution requires Senators to be at least 30 years old and Long barely met this requirement. He was elected to the Senate on November 2, 1948, one day before his 30th birthday. He did not take office, however, until December 31, giving him a few days of seniority over others in the Senate class of 1948, including Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey. 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

To win the Senate seat vacated by the death of Democrat John Holmes Overton, Long first defeated Judge Robert F. Kennon of Mindenmarker in the Democratic primary, 264,143 (51 percent) to 253,668 (49 percent). The margin was hence 10,475 votes. Long then overwhelmed Republican Clem S. Clarke of Shreveport, 306,337 (75 percent) to 102,339 (25 percent). Clarke was the first Republican senatorial nominee in modern Louisiana history and did carry Iberia Parish, Caddo Parish, Lafayette Parishmarker, and East Baton Rouge Parish.

Clarke had tried 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. According to William J. "Bill" Dodd, who was running for lieutenant governor at the time, Judge Leander Perez of Plaquemines Parishmarker, a segregationist and conservative member of the Democratic State Central Committee, wanted the panel to tap Clarke as the official "Louisiana Democratic" senatorial nominee. Had Perez pursued that strategy, Clarke might have won the seat on combined Thurmond-Dewey coattails. Dodd claimed that Governor Earl Long reconciled with Perez on other matters of importance to Perez to make sure that Russell Long got the "Louisiana Democratic" position on the ballot.

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 a minor Republican opponent, Charles S. Gerth, a businessman from New Orleansmarker. Long polled 220,907 (87.7 percent) to Gerth's 30,931 (12.3 percent).

Specialist on tax law

Long was known for his knowledge of tax laws, much like his House colleague, Wilbur D. Mills of Arkansasmarker. In 1953, he began serving on 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!"

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, and Employee Stock Ownership Programs (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.” Long also initiated the provision that allows a taxpayer to allocate $1 of taxes for a presidential campaign-financing fund (the "dollar checkoff").

Senate career

After his election in 1948, Long never again faced a close contest for reelection. In 1962, he defeated attorney Philemon A. "Phil" St. Amant in the Democratic primary, 407,162 votes (80.2 percent) to 100,843 votes (19.8 percent). He then defeated Republican challenger Taylor W. O'Hearn, a Shreveport attorney and accountant, with 318,838 votes (75.6 percent) to 103,066 (24.4 percent). Both St. Amant and O'Hearn challenged Long from the right.

In 1964, 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 impact on Long's future, however, as Republicans declined to challenge his reelection in 1968, 1974, and 1980.

Democratic senators named him the party whip in 1965. He lost his leadership position in 1969 to Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusettsmarker. He had especially good relations with both of his senatorial colleagues from Louisiana, first Allen J. Ellender and, then, J. Bennett Johnston, Jr., who like Long was born in Shreveport.

The presumed Republican candidate against Long in 1968, Richard Kilbourne, the district attorney in East Feliciana Parish, withdrew from the race, and Long ran without opposition that year.

In 1974, Long defeated state Insurance Commissioner Sherman A. Bernard of Westwegomarker in Jefferson Parish, 520,606 (74.7 percent) to 131,540 (18.9 percent), in the Democratic primary. (Another 44,341 (6.4 percent) went to a third candidate, Annie Smart.) State Republican Chairman James H. Boyce of Baton Rouge told the Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report that Louisiana Republicans were "so badly outnumbered that we can't find enough candidates to run in local elections". Boyce noted that the party could not find a suitable candidate to challenge Long.

In 1980, Long defeated State Representative Louis Woody Jenkins of Baton Rougemarker, 484,770 (57.6 percent) to 325,922 (38.8 percent) in the state's jungle primary. In the 1980 campaign, Long's friend and colleague, Robert J. "Bob" Dole, the Kansasmarker 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 jungle primary was the last time Long's name was on a ballot.

In 1986, Democratic Congressman John Breaux of Crowleymarker was elected to succeed Long in the Senate. Breaux defeated the Republican Congressman W. Henson Moore, III, of Baton Rouge, who had served in the House since 1975, in the general election after having trailed Moore in the primary election. Breaux served three terms in the Senate; when he left the body he was as popular as Long had been. Breaux, unlike Long, however, did not secure the election of his chosen successor. The seat went Republican in 2004, with the victory of Congressman David Vitter of the New Orleansmarker suburbs.

After he considered and rejected a run for governor of Louisiana, Long retired from the Senate in 1987. Summing up his career in the Senate, Ronald Reagan called him a "legend" and "one of the most skillful legislators, compromisers and legislative strategists in history." The Wall Street Journal once called Long "the fourth branch of government." He remained in Washington, D.C.marker, as a highly sought-after lobbyist after his retirement. For a brief period of time following his retirement, he was a partner in the law firm of Finley, Kumble, Wagner, Underberg, Manley, Myerson & Casey, which dissolved in 1987. He later founded the Long Law Firm, where he remained a partner until his death. Long also served on the Board of Directors of The New York Stock Exchange, Lowe's Companies, Inc., and Metropolitan Life Insurance Company.

Political positions

Long was opposed to judicial intrusions into police power (such as a case in which a confessed rapist was set free by the Supreme Court because he had been held too long without questioning), calling the liberal members of the Warren Court "'the dirty five' who side with the criminal."

Death

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 the legendary Strom Thurmond arrived for what turned out to be 48 years of service. The funeral, held in Baton Rouge, is remembered in part for the moving eulogy delivered by his grandson, Russell Long Mosely, and for those delivered by former colleagues Bennett Johnston and John Breaux.

Personal life

Long married the former Katherine Mae Hattic in June 1939. They had two daughters, Rita Katherine (born 1944) and Pamela. The Longs divorced, and the senator thereafter married the former Carolyn Bason, a former Senate staffer from North Carolinamarker.

In popular culture

Long appears as a character in Oliver Stone's film JFK, portrayed in a cameo appearance by legendary actor Walter Matthau. In the scene, based on a real-life occurrence, Long chats with New Orleansmarker District Attorney Jim Garrison during an airplane ride, during which he denounces the lone gunman theory of the John F. Kennedy assassinationmarker as, at best, improbable. 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.

In 1993, Long was among the first thirteen inductees into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in Winnfieldmarker, along with his father and his Uncle Earl Long.

References

  1. Taxes in Ancient Mesopotamia
  2. Kilbourne withdrew so that the GOP could concentrate on trying to elect David C. Treen to represent Louisiana's 2nd congressional district over incumbent Democrat Hale Boggs. Removal of Kilbourne's name from the ballot also had the effect of dis-burdening Treen's candidacy in that district from the dead weight of Kilbourne's simultaneous candidacy. Boggs was narrowly re-elected, but not without a substantial scare from Treen. The Democratic Louisiana Legislature redrew the district lines to entrench Boggs and to move Treen's residence into Louisiana's 3rd congressional district, where in 1972 Treen became Louisiana's first Republican U.S. Representative since the Reconstruction era.
  3. Jenkins had earlier sought election to the U.S. Senate, running as a Democrat against the state's other senator, J. Bennett Johnston, in 1978 when the state had never before used the jungle primary in a U.S. Senate regular election; Johnston won with 52 percent. Jenkins later became a Republican and ran once more for the Senate in 1996, only to lose by 5,788 votes to then state treasurer Mary Landrieu.
  4. Ronald Reagan - Remarks at a Dinner Honoring Senator Russell B. Long of Louisiana - October 16, 1985
  • William J. "Bill" Dodd, Peapatch Politics: The Earl Long Era in Louisiana Politics, Baton Rouge: Claitor's Publishing, 1991


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