HUEY LONG by T. Harry Williams
Kirkus Star


Email this review


Louisiana State U. Professor T. Harry Williams (author of the well-received Lincoln and His Generals, 1952) has made pretty darn sure that his is going to be the definitive biography of Long. In 1955 he secured the blessing of (but also a duly contracted free hand from) Senator Russell B. Long, Huey's son, who provided access to Huey's friends and intimates for interviews which proved frank enough to require occasional anonymous billing as a ""confidential communication."" (Because of a lack of significant Long documents, Williams adopted and became increasingly enchanted with the method of oral history.) Williams spent over ten years accumulating the material for his monumental (896 pages) volume. In dealing with so controversial a figure, Williams admits to only two predispositions: he regards Long as one of those rare men of power with a potential for great good or great evil or both, who ""appear in response to conditions, but . . . may give a new direction to history""; he also perceives Huey as a tragic figure as in Robert Penn Warren's All The King's Men, a great politician who ""in striving to do good was led on to grasp for more and more power, until finally he could not always distinguish between the method and the goal, the power and the good."" Thus Williams tends to discount Long's fascist image and emphasize his leftist leanings, though his misdeeds receive as thorough coverage as his sense of mission in the epic of his rise from humble beginnings, his barefaced political manipulations, his revolutionary legislative program, the unsuccessful attempt to impeach him, his short but stormy Senate career, his bitter rivalry with FDR (which Williams attributes basically to Huey's refusal to be second best), and the successful attempt to assassinate him. A king-sized portrayal of the extraordinary Kingfish.

Pub Date: Oct. 30th, 1969
ISBN: 0394747909
Publisher: Knopf