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Huey Long

4.18  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,074 Ratings  ·  58 Reviews
Who was Huey Long? He was an extraordinary figure in American political history – a great natural politician who looked, and often seemed to behave, like a caricature of the redneck Southern politico. Yet, at the time of his death, he had become a serious rival to Franklin Roosevelt for the presidency. In this biography, the first full-scale analysis of Long, this intrigui ...more
Paperback, 944 pages
Published August 12th 1981 by Vintage (first published October 1969)
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DICTATOR – in politics, a leader who rules a country with absolute power, usually by force

FASCIST – an individual who favors dictatorial government, centralized control of private enterprise, repression of all opposition, and extreme nationalism

DEMAGOGUE – a political leader who gains power by appealing to people’s emotions, instincts, and prejudices in a way that is considered manipulative and dangerous

POPULIST – an advocate of the rights and interests of ordinary people, e.g. in politics or th
An excellent biography of Huey "The Kingfish" Long. A controversial figure to this day (for those who are political history buffs) and probably the only man who might have been able to mount a serious challenge to FDR in 1936. However we'll never know because he was gunned-down in 1935. Professor Williams was a professor of history and approached this biography from the perspective of an academic. The amount of research that went into this book is impressive. Though Mr. Williams seems to have ad ...more
Erik Graff
Mar 06, 2014 Erik Graff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all Americans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: biography
This was one of the best biographies I've ever read--and I've read lots of biographies. Such praise is especially noteworthy in that its author was an academic historian. Few biographies I've seen combine the virtues of great writing with high standards of scholarship. Few biographies of such length have so captivated me that I poured through them so quickly.

Of course, I'd heard about Huey Long, Governor, the Senator of Louisiana. I'd seen both filmed versions of All the King's Men, read one bio
John Maniscalco
Jun 03, 2010 John Maniscalco rated it it was amazing
An objective and thorough book that tells the story of one of the most controversial and colorful leaders in American history, it is a must read for anyone interested in politics.

Huey Long genuninely cared for the working class and when he was elected governor he gave them things they always wanted but never dreamed they'd have. He gave students free textbooks, built free highways and bridges, educated the adult illiterate, built a reputable hospital, and brought respectability to LSU. But it c
Feb 16, 2013 Matt rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, pulitzer
On a trip to New York with my dad and my brother several years ago, we met his old college professor for dinner and he then kindly bought this book for me at a used bookstore (I think in the Village, maybe?). It's sat on my self since then but I figured that now that I'm living in Louisiana I had to finally read it.
And I'm glad I did!
This book is a detailed examination of Long's life. Strangely, however, after reading it I didn't necessarily feel like I really knew him all that well. He's at the
Aaron Crofut
Aug 15, 2014 Aaron Crofut rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
One ends this book seriously wondering how different this nation would be had the assassins bullet hit a less vital part of this man's body. Huey Long's political acumen and ambition were unparalleled in American history. His legal talent was incredible, his salesmanship was the best in the business, his energy inexhaustible. Though his policies are very much not what I would support, I can't help but be impressed by his political skills. It is kind of interesting to read his arguments, though; ...more
Dec 07, 2014 Ben rated it it was amazing
They don't make politicians like Huey Long anymore -- idiosyncratic to the bone, frequently profane, sometimes comic, always shrewd and intelligent, bursting with radical ideas and the will to bring them to fruition. Huey was ruthless in his campaign to destroy the conservative power base that had ruled Louisiana since Reconstruction, sincere in his desire to help the poor, selfish in his lust for power, and willing to play fast and loose with democracy in order to achieve his goals. He certainl ...more
Frank Stein
Aug 23, 2012 Frank Stein rated it it was amazing

Definitely one of the best political biographies of all time.

When T. Harry Williams published the book back in 1969, he was one of the first academically-trained historians to use oral history sources to compliment his research, and unlike academic historians today who use oral histories to beat to death some tired theory, he uses them to create a stunning political yarn.

Williams understood early on that Huey Long was not one to leave many written notes, so he interviewed everyone from his bodyg
Conlin Conlin
Jan 03, 2013 Conlin Conlin rated it it was amazing
Fascinating and well-written biography of a complex and controversial figure. Unlike so many other Long biographers, Williams presents a balanced view of The Kingfish, his programs, and his methods, and is well-deserving of the Pulitzer he won for this work. In the end, despite his numerous flaws, I found Huey to be quite likable, and really felt somewhat of a sadness when he's assassinated in 1935. Ultimately, I felt that while he may have (and most certainly did) do things that would not pass ...more
Oct 12, 2011 Michael rated it it was amazing
Academic historians spend a lot of time complaining about the merits of so called popular history. This is of course mostly due to the fact that popular histories outsell what the academics generally turn out. I've read both types and have always felt that if the academics would turn out books that weren't so dull they could attract readers also. In his biography of Huey Long, T. Harry Williams delivers absolute proof that academics can turn out extremely interesting books. This book is fascinat ...more
Jan 08, 2010 Justin rated it liked it
I have to state up front that I believe that Huey Long was a greater threat to this country than FDR was, so that made this impeccably researched book tough for me to trudge through at times. With that being said, you will not find a less biased biography of such a polarizing figure. I enjoyed reading about his manipulations and tactics that led to his rise to power in Louisiana more than his Redistribution of Wealth efforts on the national scene. This is a must read for LSU alumni, all Louisian ...more
Karl H.
May 14, 2014 Karl H. rated it liked it
Even after reading an 884 page biography, I still have to ask the question: Just who the hell was Huey Long? A man of genuinely humble beginnings, he was a man of huge contradictions. He was just as capable of clownish buffoonery as he was of brilliant legal arguments. He was a man capable of cynical calculation and selfless caprice. He appealed to the Bible for his plans to implement ideas typically associated with socialism. Politically, he was capable of ruthless domination and sensible compr ...more
May 15, 2016 E rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
Read decades ago. No Louisiana individual's education is complete without some understanding of the power, charm, depth, demagoguery, questionable tactics, corruption, progressive social reform, and foresight of Huey and his Long family dynasty. Come to think of it, much that Huey stood for and delivered (social programs, health care for the poor, improved public infrastructure, equalizing the great divide between wealth and poverty, taking on the overweening power of big financial institutions ...more
Jul 30, 2014 BMR, MSW, LSW rated it it was amazing
The rise and sudden fall of a legend in the body politik.

The only way to get things done in politics is to run over other people. Huey Long ran over other people better than most, and all in the name of "the poor and the working man."

The Kingfish and the Louisiana pols put Tammany Hall (and the state of IL) to shame, and put the UP in corruption.

Densely packed but a fun read if you love reading about dead politicians as much as I do. Wonky wonk badonkadok.
Aug 05, 2015 David rated it really liked it
From the introduction, I take this to be an official biography of Huey Long. With that, I am always concerned that the author may not be willing to show all the weaknesses of their subject. The work is extensive, and covers the whole of Huey's life with great attention to detail. Certainly, the author does show the more troubling parts of Huey's character. There are so many questions left by this book, such as what happened to the money? Was he a real threat to FDR in the 1936 election? What was ...more
Eleanor Belcher
This is a monster of a book and at times it is hard going. However Huey Long is a fascinating politician and he achieved a great deal for the poor of Louisiana in his short life. He did some corrupt things but perhaps they were for the greater good. He intended to challenge Franklin D.Roosevelt for the presidency and the thought that he might have been president during World War II is somewhat scary as he would not have wanted the US to enter the war. A number of changes he brought about struck ...more
I highly recommend this book be read. It doesn't matter if you have heard of Huey Long or not. Whether you like him or you don't, this book takes an unbiased stand, which is hard to come by when it comes to such a figure as the Kingfish.
Josh Shelton
Sep 04, 2011 Josh Shelton rated it really liked it
Definitely pro-Huey on the balance, but Williams seems to make an effort to show both sides. Very worthwhile read about an amazing politician. Great (and frequently humorous) anecdotes scattered throughout.
Oct 26, 2007 Scott rated it it was amazing
The best biography of Huey P. Long, written by a University of Southern Mississippi professor who manages to keep it neutral.
Aug 15, 2007 Daniel rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all
He won a big lawsuit against a big oil company and parlayed that into becoming the Kingfish. Eleanor Roosevelt hated him.
Jul 01, 2008 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-history
The standard biography (and a competent one) of the larger-than-life governor of the great state of Louisiana.
Zach Vaughn
Mar 31, 2012 Zach Vaughn rated it it was amazing
As much now as during his own lifetime, the tale of Huey Long is a mixture of truth and legend, but in this exhaustive biography, T. Harry Williams takes an objective look at Huey and separates the myth from the man. Using a variety of sources, including in-person interviews with people who knew him, Mr Williams covers the extent of Huey Long’s 42 years of life from his small beginnings to his first election to the Railroad Commission (later the Public Service Commission) to his modernization of ...more
Carl R.
May 16, 2012 Carl R. rated it it was amazing
Few figures in American life have been as mythologized as Huey Pierce Long. He was a Louisiana senator and governor, which is like saying that Henry Ford was a really good mechanic. He was a man impossible to describe merely by his honorifics. He certainly was a boon for writers. T. Harry Williams (pictured below) got the 1969 Pulitzer for this bio. Robert Penn Warren got
one for his 1947 novel, All The King’s Men; and that book in turn spawned a 1949 film starring Broderick Crawford and Joanne D
Jon Abbott
Mar 23, 2016 Jon Abbott rated it it was amazing
I don't know how many decades ago I read eminent historian T. Harry Williams definitive biography of travelling salesman turned astute politician Huey Long. It had a profound influence on my thinking about what makes a successful politician. Perhaps we were better off in the days when pols didn't have to pass personal behavior scrutiny the likes of which we have today?
Jul 05, 2016 Eric rated it really liked it
An enjoyable read that pulls you along. After reading all of Robert Caro, this scratched my itch for high quality political writing. Huey is an entertaining character, a powerhouse of the political game.
Oct 02, 2011 Greg rated it it was amazing
Amazingly, when I was in college I read this while also reading ALL THE KING'S MEN, having no idea at all going into either book that they were, literally, about the same guy. About halfway through both I sheepishly asked one of my professors, "Hey, is Governor Stark based on Huey Long? Because I'm reading two books...." He laughed at me like as was an idiot for not knowing (in a nice, professorial way).

The same professor, going down a gigantic list of books we could choose from, described this
Phil Overeem
May 26, 2012 Phil Overeem rated it really liked it
FINALLY--started it in November (!) and just now finished it, and, actually, loved pretty much all of it. I am not a political science student nor a frequent reader of American history, but I was fascinated even with the more minute details through which Williams gets at the truth about Long and describes the construction of his machine. It may be slightly biased towards Long, but the commitment the man showed to the bettering of the state of the poor and loosening of the grip of bankers and ind ...more
Feb 02, 2014 Rob rated it really liked it
Enjoyed reading this book very much
Richard Thomas
Nov 25, 2014 Richard Thomas rated it it was amazing
A sympathetic biography of someone who was both a significant force in US politics and a great might have been to boot. Williams portrays Huey in perhaps his best light and glosses over his peccadilloes. Having said that, he covers his subject's life in considerable depth and, I think, fairly assesses his significance both as a southern politician of the first rank and his unrealised potential on the national stage.
Mike Bloom
May 03, 2016 Mike Bloom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lengthy, very thorough biography that was originally published in 1969. The author was an academic historian, but the writing is accessible. The subject is, in my judgment, very relevant today--picture a Southern-fried mixture of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.
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t. harrry williams 1 14 Jan 07, 2010 10:16AM  
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T. Harry Williams (Thomas Harry Williams) was an historian at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge whose writing career began in 1941 and extended for thirty-eight years until his death in 1979. Williams is perhaps best known for his American Civil War study, Lincoln and His Generals, a "Book of the Month" selection from 1952, and Huey Long, winner of both the National Book Award and the Puli ...more
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