Huey Pierce Long Jr. was an American politician who served as the 40th governor of Louisiana from 1928 to 1932. He was an outspoken populist and denounced the wealthy elites and banks. Author and researcher Donald Jeffries believes Long has been unfairly smeared for decades as a corrupt demagogue, when in fact he was one of the boldest fighters of corruption in the history of the United States. Jeffries joined guest host Richard Syrett to discuss the life and times of Huey Long, the mystery surrounding his death, and how he battled economic inequality and improved conditions for all in Louisiana.
Long accomplished much in his short time as governor, including providing free health care, paving roads and improving infrastructure, inventing the concept of adult education, and supplying free text books for children, Jeffries explained. During Long's tenure, the death rate in Louisiana dropped by 30 percent, foreclosures decreased, and the average family saved $5,000/year (in adjusted dollars), he added. The benefits to the poor and middle class, however, came at the expense of wealthy constituents and corporations. "He went after the rich, he went after Standard Oil and powerful people like that, with a tax on crude oil... they tried to impeach him for that," Jeffries reported.
Long made many enemies among the wealth and powerful, Jeffries continued, noting how Long advocated for shorter work weeks and basic income, and worked with economists to cap wealth at a certain level. "[Long] knew that the one percent... had so much money that in order to distribute it, to ever get down to the people, you had to go after it," he said. According to Jeffries, Long predicted his own assassination during a speech on the US Senate floor on August 9, 1935, when he mentioned plots brewing among powerful figures. He was killed a month later as he was gearing up for his presidential campaign, Jeffries revealed. "I don't think there's any question there were powerful forces that plotted to assassinate [Long]," he suggested.
The Escape Artist
During the first hour, author Brad Meltzer talked about his latest thriller, The Escape Artist. The novel follows Jim "Zig" Zigarowski, a mortician at Dover Air Force Base who attempts to unravel the mystery of a deceased/missing woman. Meltzer said he became fascinated by the Dover mortuary after visiting and meeting the people who spend hours helping put to rest the bodies of those who die on top-secret missions. The missing woman in his book, Nola Brown, is based on the Army's own artist-in-residence — a painter on staff who captures the lives of soldiers and scenes of conflict on canvas, he revealed. The book also delves into a conspiracy tracing back to legendary escape artist Harry Houdini and his friend John Elbert Wilkie, who in 1889 was put in charge of the Secret Service, Meltzer explained.
The last hour of the show featured Open Lines.