Russell B. Long
|Chair of the Senate Finance Committee|
January 10, 1966 - January 3, 1981
|Harry F. Byrd|
|Senate Majority Whip|
January 3, 1965 - January 3, 1969
|United States Senator|
December 31, 1948 - January 3, 1987
|William C. Feazel|
Russell Billiu Long
November 3, 1918
Shreveport, Louisiana, U.S.
|Died||May 9, 2003 (aged 84)|
Washington, D.C., U.S.
(m. 1939; div. 1969)
(m. 1969; his death 2003)
|Parents||Huey Long (father)|
Rose McConnell (mother)
|Relatives||Earl Long (uncle)|
George S. Long (uncle)
Gillis William Long (cousin)
Speedy Long (cousin)
Jimmy Long (cousin)
Gerald Long (cousin)
|Education||Louisiana State University (BA, LLB)|
|Branch/service||United States Navy|
|Years of service||1942-1945|
|Unit||United States Navy Reserve|
|Battles/wars||World War II: |
Operation Torch (Northern Africa)
Allied invasion of Sicily
Allied invasion of Italy
Operation Dragoon (Southern France)
|Awards||Four Battle stars for service in North Africa and Europe|
Russell Billiu Long (November 3, 1918 - May 9, 2003) was an American Democratic politician and United States Senator from Louisiana from 1948 until 1987, and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee for fifteen years from 1966 to 1981. The son of Louisiana governor and U.S. senator Huey Long, Russell Long served during the administrations of eight U.S. presidents from Truman to Reagan. According to biographer Bob Mann, "Russell became a leading voice for the plight of the elderly, the disabled, the working poor and the middle class." Long quietly wielded enormous power in the Senate and in 1980 was voted the most effective chairman and most effective debater by his colleagues in a US News and World Report survey. The Wall Street Journal once called him "the fourth branch of government."
Long was born in Shreveport, the son of future Louisiana governor and U.S. senator Huey Long and his wife Rose McConnell Long, who also served in the Senate after her husband's 1935 assassination. His unusual middle name came from his mother's favorite cousin.
Long received his bachelor's degree from Louisiana State University and his law degree from Louisiana State University Law Center, both in the capital city of Baton Rouge. He was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity (Zeta Zeta chapter). During his undergraduate years, he served as freshman class president, sophomore arts and sciences president, and then student body president.
In June 1942, during World War II, Long entered the United States Navy Reserve and completed his service as a lieutenant in December 1945. He participated in the Allied invasions of Northern Africa, Sicily, Italy and Southern France. He was awarded four battle stars for his service, including as the commander of a landing craft transport (LCT) vessel in the first-wave landing at Cavalaire-sur-Mer.
Upon his return from the war, Long entered legal practice and served as executive counsel to his uncle, Earl Long, who returned to the governorship in 1948. He was elected to fill the U.S. Senate vacancy created by the death of Sen. John Overton, which was briefly filled by the appointment of William Feazel. In winning election to the Senate, Long became the only person in U.S. history to be preceded in that chamber by both his father and his mother. He was elected on November 2, 1948, one day before his 30th birthday, and took office on December 31, thus meeting the Constitutional requirement that Senators be at least 30 years old upon taking office. Because he had filled a vacancy, he gained a few days of seniority over others in the Senate class of 1948, including Lyndon B. Johnson and Hubert Humphrey, whose terms began January 3, 1949.
Long was a member of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee from 1953 to 1987 and served as its chairman for 15 years from 1966 until Republicans assumed control of the Senate in 1981. Long served as President Lyndon B. Johnson's Senate floor leader for the bills that enacted many of the Great Society programs, including the 1965 creation of Medicare. He served as the Democratic Assistant Majority Leader (whip) from 1965 to 1969. As the Democratic ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, he served alongside chairman Bob Dole and was instrumental in the passage of the Tax Reform Act of 1986.
Long had an encyclopedic knowledge of the federal tax code, and he recognized that he could achieve his legislative goals most effectively by attaching his priorities as amendments to tax bills rather than sponsoring legislation under his name. With forty percent of all government spending controlled by the Senate Finance Committee, Long exercised authority over all major revenue bills and entitlement programs, as well as foreign trade and tariffs.
Long's legislative priorities balanced a desire to help the disadvantaged while providing tax relief for the middle class and businesses. He was particularly sensitive to the plight of the elderly poor, and his colleagues referred to Long's various aid proposals as his "grandma amendments."
In 1956, Long led the first major expansion of Social Security to include benefits for the disabled and, later, to their dependents. Long's success in maneuvering President Kennedy's major tax reduction bill forward in early 1964 cemented his reputation as a rising leader. Long's other contributions include creation of the Earned Income Tax Credit, a program aimed at reducing the tax burden on poor working families, the Child Support Enforcement Act, and creation of employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs), employee benefit plans designed to allow employees to invest in the stock of their employers. In the year 2006, the Earned Income Tax Credit lifted more than four million people above the poverty line and was called "the nation's most effective antipoverty program for working families." Long also initiated the provision for the public financing of presidential campaigns, allowing taxpayers to allocate $1 of taxes for a Presidential election fund (the "dollar checkoff").
During his time in the Senate, Long was a strong champion of certain tax breaks for businesses, once saying, "I have become convinced you're going to have to have capital if you're going to have capitalism." On the other hand, he was aware of some of the political ramifications of "tax reform," stating that it simply meant "Don't tax you, don't tax me, tax that fellow behind the tree!"
In 1966, at the request of former National Football League Commissioner Pete Rozelle, Long and Congressman Hale Boggs used their influence to pass legislation that allowed for the merger of the American Football League and the National Football League (NFL). Without the legislation, the merger would have been prohibited by anti-trust laws governing monopolies. In exchange for ensuring the passage of the legislation, Long and Boggs requested that Rozelle award the next NFL expansion franchise to New Orleans. Rozelle complied, and Long and Boggs joined Rozelle in announcing that New Orleans had obtained the New Orleans Saints on November 1, 1966.
To win the Senate seat vacated by the death of Democrat John Holmes Overton, Long first defeated Judge Robert F. Kennon of Minden in the Democratic primary, 264,143 (51 percent) to 253,668 (49 percent). The margin was hence 10,475 votes. Long then overwhelmed Republican oilman Clem S. Clarke of Shreveport, 306,337 (75 percent) to 102,339 (25 percent). Clarke was the first Louisiana Republican U.S. Senate nominee under the implementation of the Seventeenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1914. He carried Iberia, Caddo (Long's native parish), Lafayette, and East Baton Rouge parishes. Clarke had tried to get the courts to forbid Long from running on both the Harry Truman and Strom Thurmond slates in Louisiana, but he failed to convince the judges, and Long's votes on the Truman and Thurmond slates were counted.
Harvey Locke Carey of Shreveport was Long's campaign manager for northwest Louisiana. Later, he was the short-term U. S. Attorney for the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana.
After his election in 1948, Long never again faced a close contest for reelection. Because the 1948 election was for a two-year unexpired term, Long had to run again in 1950 for his first full six-year term. That year, he had no trouble defeating the intraparty challenge of Malcolm Lafargue, a great-nephew of Senator John Overton who stepped down as U.S. Attorney for the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana in Shreveport to make the Senate race. In an advertisement, Lafargue questioned how Long is the self-proclaimed "poor man's friend" because the incumbent "pretends to sneer at millionaires, but Long is a millionaire himself."
Mayor deLesseps Story Morrison of New Orleans formally endorsed Lafargue in the primary against Long, but the move was a smokescreen. Morrison had struck a deal with his intraparty rival, Governor Earl Long, that he would not oppose Russell Long for a full term in the Senate if Earl Long would agree to restoration of home rule for New Orleans. The city was at the time was virtually being governed from Baton Rouge. Though Morrison endorsed Lafargue, he privately urged his followers to support Russell Long.
After he dispatched Lafargue and former U.S. Representative Newt Mills from Louisiana's 5th congressional district, Long overwhelmed his Republican opponent, Charles Sidney Gerth (1882-1964), a businessman from New Orleans, who had also run for senator in 1948 against Long's colleague, Allen J. Ellender, but as a Democrat. In the 1950 general election, Long polled 220,907 (87.7 percent) to Gerth's 30,931 (12.3 percent).
In 1962, Long defeated Philemon Andrews "Phil" St. Amant, I (born February 1918), a retired career United States Army lieutenant colonel from Baton Rouge, 407,162 votes (80.2 percent) to 100,843 votes (19.8 percent) in the Democratic primary. In 2016, St. Amant was listed by the Louisiana Secretary of State as a "No Party" voter.
Long then trounced his Republican challenger Taylor W. O'Hearn, a Shreveport attorney and accountant and later state representative for Caddo Parish, with 318,838 votes (75.6 percent) to O'Hearn's 103,066 (24.4 percent).
Speculation persisted that Long would run for governor in the 1963 Democratic primary. He had received encouragement from "all the shades of factionalism in the state." Instead, he endorsed his cousin, Gillis W. Long, the U.S. representative from the since disbanded Eighth Congressional District based about Alexandria. At the time, Long was second to the aging Senator Harry F. Byrd, of Virginia on the Senate Finance Committee and had already presided as chairman during Byrd's prolonged absence because of failing health.
As a result of President Johnson's signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Long (along with more than a dozen other southern Senators, including Herman Talmadge and Richard Russell, both of Georgia) did not attend the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City. However, Long defied conventional wisdom by delivering a television address in Louisiana in which he strongly endorsed the Johnson-Humphrey ticket, which lost the state to the Republican Barry M. Goldwater-William E. Miller electors. The action had no consequence on Long's future, however, as Republicans declined to challenge his reelection in 1968, 1974, and 1980.
In 1968, Long overpowered a primary rival, Maurice P. Blache Sr. (1917-1991), to win renomination. He was unopposed in the general election when the presumed Republican candidate, Richard Kilbourne, the district attorney in East Feliciana Parish, withdrew from the race. Kilbourne abandoned his campaign so that his party could concentrate on trying to elect David C. Treen to represent Louisiana's 2nd congressional district over incumbent Democrat Hale Boggs.
In the 1974 Democratic primary, Long defeated state Insurance Commissioner Sherman A. Bernard of Westwego in Jefferson Parish, 520,606 (74.7 percent) to 131,540 (18.9 percent). Another 44,341 ballots (6.4 percent) went to a third candidate, Annie Smart. Louisiana Republican state chairman James H. Boyce of Baton Rouge said that the party could not find a viable candidate to challenge Long.
In 1980, Long defeated State Representative Woody Jenkins of Baton Rouge, 484,770 (57.6 percent) to 325,922 (38.8 percent) in the state's nonpartisan blanket primary. During the 1980 campaign, Long's friend and colleague, Robert J. "Bob" Dole, the Kansas Republican who had been his party's vice presidential nominee in 1976 and who would be the presidential nominee in 1996, made a television commercial for Long in the race against Jenkins. Dole and Long were both running for reelection that year. The 1980 primary was the last time Long's name was on a ballot. Jenkins had run against Johnston in 1978 and ran again in a disputed outcome against Mary Landrieu in 1996 for the seat Johnston vacated on retirement.
Jenkins won majorities in only four parishes, Rapides, La Salle, Iberia, and St. Tammany. When Jenkins claimed to have received 55 percent of the votes cast by whites, Long called the claim "racist." Long urged the media to investigate Jenkins' claim. He contended that his own research was in conflict with Jenkins' assertion.
Near the end of his last term in office, Long hired the young journalist Bob Mann as his press secretary. Mann, who now holds the Douglas Manship Chair of Journalism at LSU, later penned the 1992 book, Legacy to Power: Senator Russell B. Long of Louisiana.
After he considered and rejected a run for governor of Louisiana, Long retired from the Senate in January 1987. Senator J. Bennett Johnston said of his colleague: "His absence will leave a huge void that's going to be very, very difficult to fill here in Washington."Edward J. Steimel, president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, described Long as "very well regarded in the business community nationally."
In 1986, Democratic U.S. Representative John Breaux of Crowley, a former legislative aide and House successor of Governor Edwards, was elected to succeed Long in the Senate. Breaux defeated the Republican U.S. Representative Henson Moore of Baton Rouge. Moore had led the balloting in the nonpartisan blanket primary but lost the general election to Breaux in a nationally Democratic year.
Long remained in Washington, D.C., after his senatorial retirement as a highly sought-after lobbyist. For a brief period following his retirement, he was a partner in the law firm of Finley, Kumble, Wagner, Underberg, Manley, Myerson & Casey, which dissolved in 1987. He later founded the Long Law Firm, where he remained a partner until his death. Long served on the board of directors of the New York Stock Exchange, Lowe's Companies, Inc., and Metropolitan Life Insurance Company.
In 1996, he endorsed Mary Landrieu, the Democratic nominee, in the race to succeed retiring Senator J. Bennett Johnston. Coincidentally, Landrieu defeated the same Woody Jenkins, a Democrat-turned-Republican, whom Long had beaten in Long's last Senate race in 1980. Long was particularly critical of Jenkins' national sales tax proposal to supersede the federal income tax, a move which Long claim would benefit "the wealthy".
Long opposed judicial intrusions into police power and termed the liberal members of the Warren Court "'the dirty five' who side with the criminal." At a gathering in Minden in 1958, Long criticized the Court, some of whose members had no prior judicial experience. He accused the justices of pitting whites against African Americans and vice versa. In 1955, he had proposed an amendment to the United States Constitution to limit Supreme Court justices to six or twelve-year terms.
Long was the only Deep South senator who did not consistently oppose Hawaiian statehood which had been blocked for a quarter of a century by the "Solid South"'s refusal to accept the possibility of non-whites in Congress.
Long criticized both major parties nationally for courting bloc voting by African Americans; he cited the 1958 campaign for governor of New York in which incumbent Democrat Averell Harriman and the ultimately successful Republican nominee, Nelson Rockefeller, sought to out-do the other in currying the favor of the civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. He was a signatory to the 1956 Southern Manifesto that opposed the desegregation of public schools ordered by the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education.
At the time of his death in 2003 from heart failure, Russell Long was the last living former senator who had served in the 1940s. The funeral was held in Baton Rouge, and included eulogies delivered by his grandson, attorney Russell Long Mosely, and former colleagues Johnston and Breaux.
In June 1939, Long married the former Katherine Mae Hattic (September 27, 1919 - January 29, 2003). She predeceased her former husband by just over three months. Both Russell and Katherine Long are interred in Baton Rouge but in different sections of Roselawn Memorial Park and Mausoleum. The couple had two daughters, Rita Katherine (born 1944) and Pamela.
After the Longs divorced in 1969, the senator married the former Carolyn Elizabeth Bason (December 1, 1922 - July 27, 2015), a native of Yanceyville in Caswell County in northern North Carolina. Her father, Samuel Bason, was the long-term president of the Bank of Yanceyville and a Democratic member of the North Carolina State Senate during the 1940s and 1950s. Her mother, the former Martha Eliza "Mamie" Hatchett, was a homemaker. There were two other Bason children, William Hatchett Bason and Dorothy Helen Burke, both of whom predeceased Carolyn. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Carolyn Bason worked for U.S. Senator Clyde Hoey and became personal secretary to Hoey's successor, Sam Ervin, a position which she held until her marriage to Russell Long on December 23, 1969. Ervin retired in 1974. Carolyn Long was active in many charitable and civic causes and historical preservation during her 34-year marriage to Russell Long. She resided at the time of her death at the age of ninety-two in Bethesda, Maryland. She is interred beside her parents and siblings at the Yanceyville Presbyterian Church Cemetery.
Long's brother, Palmer Reid Long Sr. (1921-2010), of Shreveport, was named for two of his father's lawyers in the 1929 impeachment case. The Long children had learned to fold and mail campaign literature by the time they could walk. Palmer Long worked in the 1948 Senate campaign for his brother as well as the successful effort to return Earl Long to the governorship. Palmer Long attended Sewanee Military Academy in Tennessee and LSU in Baton Rouge and was a flight instructor in the United States Army Air Corps, forerunner of the Air Force during World War II. Married to the former Louene Dance (1994-2010), who preceded him in death by nine months, Palmer Long was also involved in the family's oil and natural gas business and shunned most other political participation beyond personal contributions.
Long and New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison were reported to be longtime personal and political friends. According to Garrison, Long voiced doubts to him about the thoroughness of the Warren Commission aboard an airplane flight back from Washington. He was portrayed by Walter Matthau as expressing skepticism of the Commission's findings regarding the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Oliver Stone's film JFK.
William C. Havard, Rudolf Heberle, and Perry H. Howard, in The Louisiana Election of 1960 noted that Russell Long as a US senator extended his family dynasty. "Russell Long represents a modified and tone-down version of Longism but retains a basic orientation toward the active use of governmental power as a means of adjusting social and economic imbalances among group interests."
|Party political offices|
John H. Overton
| Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Louisiana
1948, 1950, 1956, 1962, 1968, 1974, 1980
| Senate Democratic Whip
William C. Feazel
| U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Louisiana
Served alongside: Allen J. Ellender, Elaine S. Edwards, J. Bennett Johnston
| Senate Majority Whip
Harry F. Byrd
| Chair of the Senate Finance Committee
| Chair of the Joint Taxation Committee
| Baby of the Senate
Berkeley L. Bunker
| Most Senior Living U.S. Senator
sitting or former