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Huey long1

Huey Long

Real Name: Huey Pierce Long Jr.
Case: Unsolved History/Suspicious Death
Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Date: September 8, 1935

Case[]

Details: Louisiana senator Huey Long was assassinated at the State Capitol in Baton Rouge on September 8, 1935, decades before the political assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., and Senator Robert Kennedy. Like the ones since, Huey’s assassination rocked the United States to its foundation. It is believed that, had he lived, he would have become president. To many, he was a spirited visionary. But to others, he was a dangerous radical.
Huey, also known as the Kingfish, came to prominence in the 1920s. His “down home style” contrasted sharply with the brilliant legal mind. He completed just one year of law school, yet by the age of twenty-nine, he had already argued two cases successfully before the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1928, when he was thirty-four, he was elected governor of Louisiana. He was swept into office, thanks in part to his philosophy of redistributing American wealth.
During one speech, Huey said: “No man must be allowed to have too much. No man must be allowed to have too little. Unless you limit the size of the big, it necessarily means that the small people must become more and more impoverished as time goes on.”
In 1932, at the age of thirty-seven, Huey was elected to the U.S. Senate. Around this time, he became well known for his vocal criticism of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Roosevelt’s New Deal, which he felt was “insufficiently radical.” In 1934, he proposed the alternative “Share Our Wealth” program, which called for massive federal spending, a wealth tax, and wealth redistribution.
Huey was clearly a national figure, and there was serious talk of a run for president in 1936. The very thought of him in the White House prompted opposition groups in Louisiana to arm themselves, hoping to shatter his power base in his home state. Some claimed that his goal was to become dictator of the United States. To the rich and powerful, he was the devil incarnate. And many believed he was better off dead than being president. In fact, a few were convinced it was the only way to stop him.
During another speech, Huey said: “I was elected railroad commissioner of Louisiana in 1918, and they tried to impeach me in 1920. When they failed to impeach me in 1920, they indicted me in 1921. And when I wiggled through that, I managed to become governor in 1928. And they impeached me in 1929.”
Huey held great, almost “dictatorial” power in Louisiana’s state and local political realms. He had control over election procedures and government employment, among other things. According to author and historian Ed Reed, Huey had great compassion for many people, but that compassion did not extend to people who crossed him. Once someone crossed him, they had an enemy for life. People lost jobs, businesses, lands, and everything else because of Huey’s vindictiveness.
Judge Henry Pavy of St. Landry Parish was one of the many elected officials Huey targeted for political destruction. Two of his family members lost their jobs due to Huey’s actions. By contrast, Judge Pavy’s twenty-eight-year-old son-in-law, Dr. Carl Austin Weiss, was known to be apolitical. But it was Carl, a respected Baton Rouge physician, whose name was to become inextricably linked to Huey’s. On September 8, 1935, the two men would meet for the first and only time. It was a meeting that would change history.
Four days earlier, Huey had returned to Louisiana from Washington, D.C., for a special state legislative session. On September 8, despite the threats against his life, he strode boldly between the State House Chamber and Governor Oscar Allen’s office, where history records that Carl lay in wait behind a marble column. According to the official account, at 9:20pm, Carl approached and shot Huey in the hallway as he left Governor Allen’s office. One of Huey’s bodyguards batted the gun downward before the shot, moving the weapon away from Huey’s heart and towards his abdomen.
Carl was then shot more than sixty times by Huey’s bodyguards. He was killed instantly. His .32-caliber pistol was found beside him. Huey was rushed to Our Lady of the Lake Hospital, where he died thirty hours later. He was forty-two years old. His funeral on September 12 drew more than 100,000 mourners, most of them working people. No one could believe that a force of nature like him had been forever silenced.
Five days after Huey’s funeral, an inquest seemed to establish Carl as the assassin. Several witnesses identified him as the shooter. His gun, which can hold seven bullets, reportedly contained five live rounds and one empty shell jammed in the ejector mechanism. He allegedly told at least one person that he would kill Huey and told others that he hated Huey. He also “wept openly” when he heard people describe the “evils” that Huey was inflicting on others.
Some speculated that Carl’s motive was to stop Huey from sabotaging the political career of his father-in-law, Judge Pavy. Others claimed that Huey had made a racial slur about Pavy’s family, which angered Carl. Some even claimed he was part of a conspiracy to kill Huey, although no evidence was ever found to support that.
Carl’s family, in a state of shock, had no choice but to accept the verdict. However, today, strong evidence has been amassed that indicates that Huey may have been killed accidentally and that Carl may have been innocent.
Carl married Judge Pavy’s daughter, Yvonne, in 1933. They had a three-month-old son, Carl Austin Weiss Jr. On September 8, 1935, the day Huey was shot, the Weiss family gathered as usual for Sunday dinner at the home of Carl’s father in Baton Rouge. At the special legislative session then in progress, Huey was trying to gerrymander Judge Pavy’s judicial district out of existence. He had held the position for twenty-eight years. According to those present at the dinner, it was Carl’s father who was railing against Huey that day. Ironically, Carl minimized Huey’s actions and tried to calm his father down.
Before the day was over, Carl would be dead, and his name would be vilified. He left behind his wife and infant son. Most of what Carl Jr. knows about his father is secondhand. But his father’s death has been one of his major life interests. He says there has been a lot of interest in the minute-by-minute detail of his father’s day, where he went, what he did, etc.
According to Carl Jr., his father spent the afternoon at home. At 7pm, he left to visit the home of a patient named Morgan. He made a phone call from the Morgan home to make plans for surgery the next morning. After that, he left. For reasons that may never be known, he did not go directly home. Instead, he stopped at the State Capitol.
At the Capitol that evening, the career of Judge Pavy hung in the balance. House Bill Number One, the redistricting plan, was Huey’s top priority. During a meeting, Huey said he was tired of Judge Pavy “sitting on that bench” and wanted him out that night. The others in the meeting said they had just started working on the bill, were getting resistance, and did not have enough votes to pass it. Huey argued with them, saying he was tired of their excuses. He told them he would go on the floor and get the votes himself.
At 9pm, the special session was still going strong. Huey trod his familiar territory, oblivious to the arrival of Carl. Some people believe Carl went to the capitol not to shoot Huey but to plead Judge Pavy’s case. According to Ed Reed, Carl took his position outside the governor’s office. He was not hidden outside the office. He was in plain view. In fact, he was approached by other people who knew him and saw him there; they shook hands with him and talked with him.
According to Reed, Carl approached Huey three times that night. And he was brushed aside each time. Carl was a bit more urgent during one pass, telling Huey that he really had to talk with him. Huey, once again, told Carl that he did not have time to speak with him. He told him to make himself comfortable and that he would be back in a few minutes. Reed says it is uncertain what exactly happened next.
At 9:20pm, after Huey spoke with Governor Allen, Carl approached him for the third and final time. The revisionist historians who are convinced that Carl did not kill Huey believe that when this third approach occurred, Huey became angry, saying something like, “Will you leave me alone, you little piss ant?” In response, Carl punched him in the face. Huey’s bodyguards then hastily fired at Carl, with at least one of their bullets accidentally hitting Huey, possibly after ricocheting off the marble walls.
After the shooting, Huey was taken to Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. Despite his wounds, he remained very much in charge. He was briefed about Carl, the man his bodyguards claimed shot him. Reed believes that Huey took charge of this story. He believes that Huey told his bodyguards not to talk about the shooting and that he would “do all the talking.”
Huey was operated on at around 11pm, two hours after the shooting. During the operation, doctors discovered that his colon had been punctured in two places. They sutured his colon in both places and cleaned up the spillage. They sewed him up and pronounced him “cured,” not realizing until it was too late that they had overlooked a serious wound to his kidney. A day and a half later, just after 4am on September 10, 1935, Huey died. It was the end of an era. Life in Louisiana and possibly in the United States would never be the same again.
At the official coroner’s inquest eight days later, Carl was named as Huey’s alleged assassin. However, some remain unconvinced. Some of the witnesses refused to testify for several days. One of the bodyguards refused to testify at all. Allegedly, Huey’s supporters and bodyguards were the only witnesses to testify at the inquest. One of the witnesses was reportedly a “puppet judge” who later admitted that he had not witnessed the shooting.
Witnesses disputed over whether they heard one or two shots before the bodyguards shot Carl. And it was unclear whether those shots were from him or the bodyguards. Witnesses claimed that Carl’s body fell towards them, but photographs showed that he had fallen away from them.
No ballistic or medical evidence was examined at the inquest. No bullets fired by Carl’s gun were ever produced. No autopsies were performed on either Huey or Carl. The inquest members were not allowed to examine Huey’s body closely. For reasons unknown, the Louisiana legislature stopped a bid to investigate Huey’s death.
The East Baton Rouge district attorney responsible for the inquest said he was never satisfied he “got to the bottom of the case.” He claimed that Huey’s associates tried to pressure him not to hold an inquest. He believed it was possible that Carl merely pulled out his gun, and the bodyguards accidentally shot Huey as he tried to flee.
Reed notes that most assassins leave a paper trail. They leave some hints as to what they did and why they did it. However, Carl did not leave anything like this behind. There was no evidence found to indicate he was planning an assassination. Reed claims that Carl was not a man preparing to shoot anyone. He says that at the family dinner on September 8, Carl was the model of propriety and in complete control of himself.
Reed notes that Carl was a loving husband and a doting father. He was known as mild-mannered and professional. He had a successful, rising career and was regarded as an intelligent, gifted surgeon. He had no history of violence or mental instability. He was making provisions for the future; he had scheduled surgery for the morning after the shooting and was planning to renovate his house. He spent a very normal Sunday, and nothing indicated that he had murder on his mind. Reed thinks it is incomprehensible that Carl could have been the perpetrator of this crime.
No one disputes that Carl owned a gun – a Belgian Browning .32-caliber automatic pistol – which he carried with him during house calls (a common practice at the time) and kept in the glove compartment of his car. However, Reed believes that he has uncovered evidence that Huey was not shot by Carl’s gun.
The discrepancies can be traced back to the operating room. The official version alleges that Huey was struck by one bullet that entered his abdomen and went out his back. It makes no mention of a bullet being retrieved from Huey’s body. But Reed has heard a conflicting story from a relative of one of the surgeons present.
According to this relative, a .38-caliber bullet was removed from Huey’s body during the operation. This is significant because Carl was alleged to have been carrying a .32-caliber pistol, but the bodyguards were carrying .38s and .45s. Therefore, if a .38-caliber bullet was removed (and Reed believes it was), then it could not have come from Carl’s gun.
According to Reed, a second bullet was found while Huey’s body was being prepared for burial. The mortician in charge, Merle Walsh, told Reed he was visited late that night by Dr. Clarence Lorio. Dr. Lorio was a close friend of Huey’s and was one of the surgeons who had operated on him. According to Walsh, Dr. Lorio asked him to step aside momentarily. Walsh asked him what he was going to do, but he did not respond.
According to Walsh, Dr. Lorio opened Huey’s body, “rooted around,” and finally pulled out a spent bullet. Walsh described it as being about as big as the first joint on a person’s index finger. Reed notes that the guns involved in the shooting were .32s, .38s, and .45s. The one that matches Walsh’s description would have been a .45, which would have to have come from a bodyguard’s gun.
To further support his conclusions, Reed believes it is highly unlikely that anybody other than one of the bodyguards could have gotten into the State Capitol with a gun that night. He says that every police officer working for the state of Louisiana was at the Capitol that night. He wonders: how could Carl have gotten past 100 security people without anyone frisking him or noticing the outline of a .32-caliber pistol in his suit?
Within half an hour of the shooting, Carl had been tentatively identified as Huey’s assailant. Carl’s brother, Tom, and cousin, Jim, heard the rumors and proceeded to the Capitol. They had no idea that Carl had been killed. While there, they noticed his car in the parking lot in front of the Capitol with his instrument bag inside. They did not have the keys to the car, so they went to Carl and Tom’s father’s home to get the spare set.
When Tom and Jim returned to the Capitol to take Carl’s car home, they found that it had been moved to another side of the building. When Tom finally opened the car, he found that Carl’s instrument bag was open and in some disarray, even though Carl always kept it packed very orderly. They also discovered that the glove compartment had been opened, and Carl’s gun was missing.
To this day, no one can be sure who removed the gun from the car. However, Elois Sahuc, a security guard at the Capitol that night, told Reed that it was someone other than Carl. Sahuc said that he believed the gun found with Carl was a “throw-down gun.” He believed that one of the bodyguards had gone to Carl’s car, grabbed his gun, and thrown it next to his body. Interestingly, the coroner did not find Carl’s car keys in his pockets.
Reed believes his theory is bolstered by Carl’s actions inside the Capitol. Reed says that if Carl was actually there to kill Huey, he had a perfect opportunity that passed. At one point, Huey had his back turned to Carl. It would have been easy for him to shove his pistol up against Huey’s body, empty out the magazine, and make his escape.
Reed says that “fuses were very short” because of rumors that an attempt would be made on Huey’s life that night. He believes something happened, such as Carl hitting Huey or moving too fast near him. And the bodyguards, who had no training whatsoever in security, overreacted. He thinks the bullets that entered Huey’s body came from the bodyguard’s guns.
Reed offers up what he believes is one final piece of evidence. By all accounts, when Huey was admitted to the hospital, his lip was bruised, swollen, and bleeding. When someone asked him about it, he said, “That’s where he hit me.” Was he referring to his encounter with Carl? According to an affidavit from one of the nurses present, he definitely was. Another nurse later confirmed this story. However, according to two of the bodyguards, Huey was actually struck in the face when one guard tried to punch Carl.
In hindsight, there seems to be considerable doubt about who actually shot Huey. But at the time, it was essentially an “open and shut” case. Anyone who attempted to investigate further was stymied because all the official records and Carl’s gun disappeared a few years after the inquest and remained missing for more than half a century.
In 1987, Professor James Starrs, a forensic expert at George Washington University renowned for his ability to unearth missing evidence, began researching the case after meeting with the Weiss family. In trying to find the gun and the state police files, he decided that the police were the “prime suspects” that should be looked at, starting from the top down. He made a “laundry list” of these individuals.
Louis Guerre was at the top of Professor Starrs’ list. He had been the head of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation in Louisiana at the time of Huey’s death. He was also a known “Huey crony” who died in 1966. In 1987, Gary Eldredge, a New Orleans investigator hired by Professor Starrs, began an extensive search for Guerre’s will.
When the will was found, Professor Starrs’ suspicions were confirmed. There was a listing in the inventory for miscellaneous files of “no value.” However, being a lawyer as well as a scientist, he knew that inventories of estates do not list items of no value. And they certainly do not list them in a mysterious way by calling them “miscellaneous files.” He was certain that those were the state police files.
Another item on the will was not nearly as vague. Listed under Guerre’s personal effects was “Carl Austin Weiss’s gun.” Interestingly, Guerre had long denied knowing what had happened to the gun. Its location was eventually traced to a safe deposit box in downtown New Orleans, where it had been in the possession of Guerre’s daughter, Mabel. In September 1991, acting on a court order, a New Orleans sheriff opened the deposit box. After over half a century, Carl’s gun had been located.
With the gun were several unused .32-caliber bullets and one spent .32-caliber bullet. Examination of the spent bullet showed that it had been fired and had “adhering tissue-like material” on it. It also had a flat spot where it had hit a hard surface. Calcium carbonate, a mineral common in marble, was found on this flat spot.
Initially, many people assumed that this spent bullet was the one that killed Huey. However, ballistics tests conducted by the Louisiana State Police showed that it had not come from Carl’s gun. It is important to note that it probably did not come from the bodyguards since they carried larger caliber weapons. The discovery of the alleged murder weapon only served to deepen the mystery. If Carl’s gun had not fired the spent .32 bullet, then where had it come from? And why had it been kept with the gun?
Some believed the answers lay with the official state files, which were recovered from Mabel’s home. After the discovery, the Louisiana State Police opened their own investigation into the case. In June 1992, they concluded their investigation. After reviewing the files, the police determined that nothing in them would change the verdict of history.
Among the files, the police found a photo of the coat Huey was wearing when he was shot. According to them, the photo showed a hole consistent with a very close-range shot from a .32-caliber handgun. The hole in the back of the clothing was consistent with a bullet exit wound. The tearing of the material and the residue left on it indicated that he had been shot at point-blank range. This evidence supported the official version and seemed to disprove the theory that a ricocheting bullet had hit Huey.
Captain Ronald Jones of the Louisiana State Police believes that Carl was the assassin in this case. From a law enforcement standpoint, he believes that Carl had the motive, opportunity, and means to do the job. The police also note that the seven witnesses closest to Huey that night gave the same story (which matches the official version) and stuck with it for the rest of their lives.
The Louisiana State Police did state, however, that they believed Guerre ran the investigation into Huey’s death almost single-handedly and conducted “confidential” interviews with key witnesses, including Huey’s bodyguards.
In October 1991, Carl’s body was exhumed, and an autopsy was performed. It was determined that he was shot from many different angles. A .38-caliber bullet was found in his skull. According to Lucien Haag, a ballistics expert hired by Professor Starrs, a bullet of this size should have had enough energy to exit the skull.
Haag and others believe the bullet passed through Carl’s arms before entering his skull. Fibers matching his suit were found with the bullet. He also had bullet wounds to his left wrist and right arm. Professor Starrs claims that this suggests Carl was in a “defensive posture” with his arms raised in front of him when he was shot. None of the bodyguards ever mentioned this in their testimony.
Professor Starrs says his investigation has cast significant doubt over the official version of events. However, he notes that the exhumation of Carl’s body and the new examination of the evidence do not conclusively prove whether or not Carl shot Huey.
Carl’s family believes that he was framed. They also believe that Guerre covered up the true story to protect the bodyguards, foment anger towards Huey’s enemies, and build his legend as a martyr.
Carl Jr. says the amount of time that has passed since the shooting does not change his desire for the truth to be brought out. He says he cares probably more today than he did when he was younger about the truth concerning his father. If he were asked now if his father shot Huey, he would say no. Carl’s brother, Tom, also does not believe he shot Huey, saying he was too “sensitive, gentle, caring, and good.”
Perhaps we will never completely resolve the controversy. Did Carl Weiss, acting alone, murder Huey Long? Or did Huey’s bodyguards go haywire, killing the man they should have protected? Although Carl’s family believes he is innocent, Huey’s family believes he is guilty. Huey’s most prominent biographer, T. Harry Williams of Louisiana State University, dismissed the alternative theory as a “myth” and believed Carl wanted to be a “martyr.”
There is one final piece of evidence suggesting that Huey’s death might have been a tragic accident. Huey had a life insurance policy of $10,000 with a double indemnity clause should he die by accident. In 1985, journalist David Zinman, who was writing a book about the case, discovered that Huey’s family had been awarded a sum of $20,000.
Shortly after the assassination, Huey’s insurance company, Mutual Life Insurance, assigned an independent investigator to look into the case. The investigator concluded that Huey had been the victim of an accidental shooting at the hands of his bodyguards.
Extra Notes:

  • This case first aired on the September 30, 1992 episode.
  • Carl Jr. granted a rare interview for the show.
  • Huey Long and Robert Kennedy are the only two sitting United States senators to be assassinated.
  • Several books have been written about this case, including: Requiem for a Kingfish: The Strange and Unexplained Death of Huey Long by Ed Reed; The Day Huey Long Was Shot by David Zinman; and Accident and Deception by Judge Pavy’s nephew, Donald Pavy.
  • Some sources spell Judge Pavy’s last name as “Pavey” and state that Carl was twenty-nine; he spent the afternoon with his wife’s family; the shooting occurred around 9:30pm; and witnesses had seen Carl’s car parked in one location and his brother and cousin found it in another.

Results: Unresolved - In September 1993, seventy-nine-year-old Colonel Francis Grevemberg, superintendent of the Louisiana State Police during the 1950s, came forward. He claimed that in October 1953, two state troopers who had witnessed the shooting told him Carl was unarmed when Huey was shot. According to the troopers, bodyguards Joe Messina and Murphy Roden opened fire on Carl after he punched Huey. In the process, they accidentally shot Huey.
One of Huey’s former bodyguards also told Grevemberg that another guard removed Carl’s gun from the glove compartment, fired a shot into the ground, and then planted the weapon at the scene. Grevemberg claims that the coverup was conducted on Louis Guerre’s orders. Grevemberg says he was thwarted in his attempt to investigate the case. He also claims he waited forty years to come forward because the Louisiana legislature was packed with pro-Huey politicians who would not believe him or support an inquiry.
Ed Reed also believed that Roden was the one to fire the first shot at Carl, which accidentally hit Huey. Another witness, the son of one of Huey’s bodyguards, claims that in 1951, his father brought him to a bar owned by Messina. He claims that his father identified Messina as the man who killed Huey. Messina turned his back on them but did not deny the claim.
In 1993, one of Huey’s sons sent Carl’s brother, Tom, a letter, essentially stating that he had doubts over whether Carl had killed Huey. He said that he publicly stated that he believed the bodyguards’ testimony, but privately, he was unsure what to believe. The official position of the Louisiana State Police is that Carl killed Huey.
On January 22, 2006, Reed passed away at the age of eighty-one. On August 1, 2019, Carl Jr. passed away at the age of eighty-one.
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