This will appear in The Gazette, week of 10/6/2014, Farmerville, Louisiana, USA

Leadership is epitomized by the ability to look to the future and envision a final product or goal and then drive to fulfill this vision. We see this daily in various programs and legislation that are going forward at the national, state and local level. Good, bad or indifferent, these all represent ideals that are being acted on by our government. It is very rare that a governor will take such a dedicated stand in building a dream as what was witnessed in Louisiana during the latter 1920s and early 1930s.
Huey Long has been characterized as being everything from a saint sent to deliver the oppressed from the shackles of the unscrupulously rich and powerful to being a demagogue obsessed with his own power. While this is still being debated one thing is abundantly clear, Huey Long wanted to build an institution of higher learning in Louisiana that would be beacon for the world to see and he was determined to make this happen.
Long was brought up very poor near Winfield, Louisiana. The family did not lack in drive and intelligence. One brother became a doctor and another, Earl, became a lawyer, governor and congressman. The one thing that Huey was missing was his ability to pay for an education. He was accepted to LSU but he did not have the funds to pay for his text books. Long went to seminary in Oklahoma where his brother was practicing law, and dropped out of school to become a traveling salesman. These early experiences helped to form his image on life and provide tools that he would need to forge his dreams.
In 1928 Long was elected as governor of Louisiana. He had a vision to transform Louisiana. Long wanted to take on big oil and provide a fair treatment for land owners; he wanted to pave Louisiana roads; he wanted to disperse the wealth within the state and he wanted to provide the ability for every child to have the ability to obtain both a high school and college education. In his flamboyant manner he not only wanted colleges to be within driving distance of any child in the state, he also wanted a flagship university that would stand out among all the other universities in the world. LSU was to be that school.
In 1928, the year that Long became governor, LSU had 1,800 students and according to the Association of State Universities LSU was listed as a “third rate university”. The annual budget was a paltry $800,000 and the university had only 168 faculty members. Two years after his election Long began an ambitious building program. Farmerville resident Leon Wise was one of the chief architects of the building program. Five years later Long was assassinated in 1935. In 1936, one year after Long was killed and only six years into its’ reconstruction, LSU had the finest facilities in the South which included a new medical school. In the eight years from when Long took office attendance rose to 6,000 students and propelled LSU from being 88th of all universities in the nation to 20th and was the 11th largest state university in the country. Long funded the program by selling land near the university and raised eight million dollars for the expansion. Long knew it would take more than facilities to build his flagship university.
One of the best way to build a school’s reputation is through athletics and Long wanted to build LSU’s program into one of the best. This was not only the football program but also all the parts that go with it. LSU had a band that numbered 28. Long wanted a large grandiose band so it was quadrupled in size to 125. On occasion Huey would walk with the drum major and lead the band. His love for LSU led him to write two songs about his beloved university. These songs were titled, ”Darling of LSU” and “Touchdown for LSU”. The latter song is still played today before every LSU Game.
He was very protective of his school and was all ways promoting it. When LSU played Vanderbilt at Vanderbilt, he arranged to have a special train to take students to the game. He gave seven dollars to each student that could not afford the trip.
On another occasion, Ringling Brothers brought its’ circus to Baton Rouge. It would open on the night of a football home game. Long was concerned about attendance he and asked that the circus wait to open on Sunday. The circus rejected the offer. Long dispatched his head of agriculture to the circus and informed them that Louisiana had a dip law and since the circus had come from out of state all the wild animals would have to be dipped for ticks. Ringling Brothers thought a day of rest was in order and it would open on Sunday.
While lying on his death bed at the Lady of the Lake hospital Long was to have said, “What will happen to all my boys and girls?”

  1. Diklik.Tk says:

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