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September 8, 1935, U.S. Senator Huey Long Shot In Louisiana State Capitol - Today in Crime History

On this day, September 8, in 1935, United States Senator Huey "The Kingfish" Long was shot in the Louisiana State Capitol.   Senator Long was shot after a confrontation with Carl Weiss, a Baton Rouge doctor.   Weiss was shot multiple times by Long's bodyguards and died at the scene.  Long died two days later of complications from the wound.

Huey Long led a controversial political career that spawned legions of supporters as well as enemies in Louisiana.  In depression-era America, Long’s “share the wealth” philosophy of class warfare inspired significant support across the nation and threatened to disrupt the Democratic Party and Franklin Roosevelt's hold on the presidency.   In the summer of 1935, Long published a book, "My First Days in the White House," and was widely seen as a potent challenger to FDR.

Even while holding a seat in the U.S. Senate, Lond expanded his power in Louisiana exponentially through legislative sessions granting him extraordinary control over state and local political realms, including election procedures and government employment.   Long waged political warfare on the influence of major corporations and the New Orleans business and political establishment.

In 1935 Louisiana was divided into factions of Longs and anti-Longs, a political dichotomy that would color state politics for generations. Among the anti-Longs was the Pavy family of St. Landry Parish, where district judge Benjamin Henry Pavy protected a pocket of opposition to the Long political machine.  Carl Weiss was married to the judge's daughter, Yvonne.

Two members of the Pavy family, a teacher and a school principal, lost their jobs in a Long political purge.  On the night of Sept. 8, 1935, the Louisiana House of Representatives met at the state Capitol in a special session to pass 39 bills, including one that would alter Judge Pavy's district and effectively prevent him from re-election.  Although Long was a U.S. senator at the time, he personally oversaw the proceedings in keeping with his tight grip on the governor's office and most of the state legislature.

The details of what actually happened on the evening of September 8, 1935 aren't clear, and several theories exist as to what happened.  The official story is that Weiss ambushed Long in the hallway of the Capitol and shot him.  Some historians believe, however,  that Long was mistakenly shot by his bodyguards.  One theory has it that Weiss never even drew a gun, and that Long's bodyguards overreacted, shooting Long and Weiss, then planting Weiss's .32 automatic (which he usually kept in the glove compartment of his car) at the scene.

Thanks to a lack of modern forensics and a politically influenced investigation, we'll probably never know what really happened that night in the Louisiana State Capital on September 8, 1935.

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