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Uncle Earl

John W. Pinkerton


The other evening while attending a social event, I had a conversation with an Iranian American soldier about Trump.  She kept pointing out things she didn't like about Trump---his language, his bullying, well you get the picture---and I kept laughing and agreeing with her, but I indicated that I was still supportive of President Trump.

Even I have noticed that I have become increasingly tolerant of Trump's behavior, and I began to wonder why.  Then I had a “epiph” (a Southern epiphany) moment: Hell, I was reared in Louisiana, and if one can't get toughened up to the odd behavior of politicians there…well, you just can't be toughened up anywhere.  I was reared in that atmosphere, and I particularly remember one politician  who will serve as our archetypical Louisiana politician, Earl Long.

For those of you who aren't familiar with “Uncle Earl,” here is a brief update:  Earl Long was born in '95 and died in '60.  In between these dates, he served three non-consecutive terms as governor of the great state of Louisiana.  He was first elected as Lieutenant Governor, and due to a “scandal” in the office of the governor, Earl became Governor.  Because of a scandal of his own, he couldn't get elected to the governorship in '40.  He ran for Lieutenant Governor again in '44 but didn't win the spot on Jimmie “You Are My Sunshine” Davis' ticket.  But in '48 he was elected Governor by the biggest landslide in the state's history and won handily in '56.  Due to term limits, Earl had to sit out the next contest for Governor.  While he was sitting, he ran and won as the new representative to the US Congress.

I never attended any of his campaign rallies, which I’ve always regretted, but my younger brother, Jerry, did, and said they were wonders to behold.  Based on Earl’s down home manner,  you would never have guessed he had attended LSU and had a law degree from Loyola.  Earl brought bags of groceries along for his avid supporters.  Indeed, he was a Populist which is code for a politician who appeals to the great unwashed.  His speeches were folksy with colorful oratory.  He ran on expanding the school lunch program, teacher pay, public works, and minority voting rights.  (See “Louisiana Boys - Earl Long, Legendary Louisiana Governor.”)

His language sometimes went off track; a good example occurred from the podium of the legislative body when nuns and their young charges were shocked by the language the Governor chose that day.  You can believe me when I say the press took full advantage of this faux pas.

Indeed, much of the press was opposed to “Uncle Earl.”  I don't think he met with their high moral values.  Hell, Earl didn't meet with anyone's high moral values.

Speaking of the press, the editorial staff of the largest newspaper in Long's congressional district, The Town Talk, despised him.  Unable to persuade the legislature to change the state's constitution so that he could run for another term as Governor, he ran against the interim US Congressman, “Catfish Mouth” Harold B. McSween.   Yeah, he liked nice nicknames for his opponents.  He beat old “Catfish” but died in a hotel in Alexandria, Louisiana, before he could be sworn in.  The Town Talk reported that Earl,  accompanied by an unknown woman in his room at the Bentley Hotel, had coughed twice, rolled over, and died.  They really didn't like Uncle Earl.

When Earl wasn't being Governor (well, even when he was Governor), he had other activities in which he liked to participate: chasing women (Blaze Star, stripper from New Orleans, was the best known.); drinking; and generally having a good old time.

To explain who “Uncle Earl” really was, I have to tell you about his unfortunate incarceration in a hospital in Galveston,Texas, by his wife and a lawyer friend.  Earl put his rhetorical skills to work and convinced them to place him in a state “asylum” in Louisiana.  You guessed it: being Governor, he fired the head of the asylum, replaced him with a friendly, more cooperative fellow, and was released to return to his wicked ways.

You know you have arrived when a song is created in your honor: in '59 singer Jay Chevalier composed "The Ballad of Earl K. Long". 

Yeap, “Uncle Earl” was quite a ride.

Now you're probably asking yourself why the good people of Louisiana kept electing this miscreant to powerful political positions.  The answer is simple: he got stuff done and the stuff was good for the state and there was no doubt where he stood on issues.

Sound like anyone you know?