The recent talks regarding potential impeachment proceedings in the U.S. House of Representatives has no doubt made a few Louisiana political junkies reflect on the similar proceedings that were brought against Gov. Huey P. Long.
On April 6, 1929, the Louisiana House of Representatives voted to impeach Long for blasphemy, bribery and a laundry list of 17 other misdeeds, including one incident involving a stripper and another that alleged a planned assassination of a rival at the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans.
Eight of the 19 counts stuck after fistfights (brass knuckles were deployed) broke out on the floor. But when the matter moved across Memorial Hall to the Senate, a document surfaced from 15 senators vowing to block the proceedings, thus saving the Long governorship. Trump, too, is expected to find a political backstop in the Senate, should his own hearings move forward.
The author of the so-called Round Robin document would have celebrated his 129th birthday last month (Sept. 24). His name was Allen J. Ellender, and he went on to become one of the U.S. Senate’s longest serving members.
Before becoming a U.S. senator, Ellender was an influential state legislator. He was a trusted confidante and campaign manager to Long, so he was a natural pick to float the Round Robin document in 1929.
Five years later, 500 men, many of them armed, stormed Baton Rouge to force the ouster of Ellender, then the House speaker, and the lieutenant governor. At one point, Long had planned to call out the militia on the organized group, and it was Ellender who talked Long out of the plan.
Ellender was one of the last people the Kingfish spoke to before being shot. He was preceded in the U.S. Senate by Rose McConnell Long, who was appointed after her husband-governor was assassinated, becoming Louisiana’s first woman senator. When Ellender died, he was succeeded by Elaine S. Edwards, who was appointed directly by her husband-governor, Edwin Edwards, making her the state’s second woman senator.
Ellender died in office in 1972 shortly before the election for his Senate seat. Even after his death, he still received 10 percent of the vote. Ellender’s funeral was attended by President Richard Nixon, Vice President Spiro Agnew and a third of the U.S. Senate.