Thursday, February 16, 2012

Earl Long

In 1948 Louisiana’s gubernatorial race was in full swing. Roger E. Wheless, Bossier Parish Chairman for the Sam Jones Campaign Committee, took out a large ad in The Bossier Banner to express his concerns about Earl Long who was running against Sam Jones in the race. His concerns are reprinted in part below from the February 19, 1948 issue of The Banner.

“This letter is primarily directed to the people of Bossier Parish, but it is hoped that it will be read by all who are interested in good government. Bossier Parish is my homeland—I was reared there. Now I am serving as Parish Chairman there for Sam Jones’ campaign. I think Jones is a real statesman—not a politician— and that he made an excellent governor. But it isn’t just that which makes me want to help him win; but because I think his defeat by the man he is running against would hurt everything in the state, including our own little parish.

It’s every man’s job to do what he can when he thinks there is danger threatening, and I surely think there’s danger now. I tell you and the wide world that I AM afraid of Earl Long. That doesn’t mean that I am afraid of what he would do to me or that I wouldn’t fight him on any ground. I AM AFRAID that he will, if elected, bring back all the hates and prejudices; all the political trading and intimidations; all the extravagances, graft and dishonesty; and all the personal favoring of friends and persecution of enemies that went on in Dick Leche’s and his own administration.

That would be mighty bad, but it could be worse that it was then. Earl Long is getting a lot of money (maybe most of it) for his campaign from outside of the state—and he is spending an awful lot of it. It is said to be coming from a bad source. When people outside OUR state put up money to elect OUR governor, they are sure to be gambling for something—and that something is just what I don’t want them to have, even if we wouldn’t have to suffer from all the ills I have just mentioned.

Many of you already know, just as I do, what the money-givers are gambling on. You and I don’t know just what agreements have been made but it is likely that the money-givers are to have control of the Conservation Department or the Highway Department. They wouldn’t be likely to gamble four or five hundred thousand dollars unless they were after some such big prize. Millions of dollars can be taken in graft in either of these departments. And it is certain that they will insist upon control of the Public Safety Department for only by this means can they assure themselves of the protection they MUST have.

Louisiana is rich in oil, timber, sulphur and furs, and the man who controls the Conservation Department controls them. The Highway Department is just about to enter upon the biggest road building campaign the state has ever had, and the graft that can be taken there will be enormous, There is now in the state treasury two hundred million dollars, saved up since the war stopped all road building. If the money-givers could take ten percent of that in graft, that would be twenty million dollars. That’s a big prize and that’s probably what they are playing for.”

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