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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Orval Faubus, June 14, 1974. Interview A-0031. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

The paradox that is Huey Long

Faubus reflects on the legacy of Huey Long, known as a demagogue but who brought much-needed infrastructure to Louisiana. Long was a complex figure, Faubus believes, and he declines to try to characterize him as either a dictator or a man of the people.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Orval Faubus, June 14, 1974. Interview A-0031. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JACK BASS:
How about Huey Long?
ORVAL FAUBUS:
And FDR. Well, Huey did a lot for the common people of his state. They classified him, the press did, as a demogogue. Maybe he was to some extent, I don't know enough about the man and he wasn't permitted to live long enough, you know, to really see. But he built roads; took the farmers out of the mud. He set up housing, of whatever kind he could on the campuses of the college and sent young people of Louisiana to college that never would have gotten to go. He stopped the exploitation of the state by the Standard Oil Company, which had held it in virtual bondage. If you read the history of it and see how they actually ruled it. No man had a chance there, unless he was blessed by Standard Oil. Just like it used to be in this state, you had to be blessed by AP&L. Huey Long broke that bondage. They restored it somewhat what after he was gone. And then they said he was a dictator, but he brought them the basic democracy. He was one of the first leaders in the South to abolish the poll tax and let everybody vote. Well, that doesn't, you know, smack too much of a dictator. He was a strange mixture. I guess some of the things he did he had to do to survive against the opposition which he had. Just as some of the things I did while I was governor in the turmoil, you know, that came with the desegregation decisions. I don't know, maybe Huey wished he didn't have to face some of those things, just as I wished I didn't have to face that, that it never occurred, that it would never have been necessary. That we could have made the same progress in harmony and peaceably and with a lot more good will than the way in which it was done. Or the way it's still going. I'd have to say that Huey Long's good overbalanced whatever there was bad about his administration. As an individual, I don't know. I wouldn't want to classify him as an individual. Whether he had desire for power that would have overcome the good that he was doing, I don't know. As I say, he wasn't permitted to live long enough to tell.