Today in French Quarter History, on September 8, 1935. At 9:22 at night, lone assassin, Dr. Carl Weiss, shot and killed US Senator, Huey Long at the Capitol building in Baton Rouge. Huey Pierce Long’s bodyguards, in turn, shot and killed Weiss, riddling his body with sixty-one bullets.
A number of legends surround Long’s death. Did Weiss kill Long or was it Long’s bodyguards who shot and killed him accidentally? On the evening of September 7th, had someone else attempted to assassinate Long in the Sazerac Bar of the Rosevelt Hotel in New Orleans?
Huey Long and New Orleans
Beginning with his first failed bid to become Governor in 1924, Huey Long always preferred to stay in his suite at the Roosevelt Hotel whenever he was in New Orleans. Folklore has it that he even built Airline Highway so he could travel from the statehouse in Baton Rouge to the Roosevelt Hotel quickly.
Whatever people may think about Long and his style personally, he did a lot for the people of New Orleans. This includes building the Huey P. Long bridge, the first bridge to span the Mississippi River in the city. Long also pushed through numerous road improvement projects for New Orleans. In addition, he built the Lakefront Airport and Charity Hospital. He also established the LSU Medical School in New Orleans. Critics claim all of these improvements came about after Long, as Senator, cut a politically expedient deal with his rivals in New Orleans. Long would take care of New Orleans so long as the city political machine supported Long in his bid to consolidate power over the state.
Huey Long sends 2,500 troops to occupy New Orleans
Mayor T. Semmes Walmsley and Huey P. Long just didn’t get along. Once a Long ally, but now Long’s adversary, Walmsley won the election over Long’s candidate in the January 1934 mayoral election. Walmsley controlled the “Old Regulars” who were vehemently opposed to Long’s populist agenda. The democratic party primaries were to take place the following September. Walmsley supported one slate and Long supported the other.
Huey Long knew that he would have to win the primaries to secure total control of the entire state. He claimed that the Walmsley New Orleans political machine was overrun with corruption, graft, and shady dealings. He held “hearings” in the city and broadcasted them on WDSU. In July of 1934, Long ordered the entire Louisiana National Guard to occupy New Orleans. He claimed this was the only way to guarantee a “fair” election. Walmsley countered by deputizing 500 of his supporters. He armed them with sub-machine guns. Both sides agreed to mediation and there was no violence on election day. Long’s slate won in a landslide.
Murder in Baton Rouge
We will almost never know with certainty how Huey Long died. The widely accepted version is that Dr. Carl Weiss shot him with a pistol and that Long’s bodyguards shot and killed Weiss. However, there are many problems with this take on the story. In fact, there have been several investigations in the intervening years since Long’s death.
While officially the “murder weapon” was recovered, it disappeared for more than 50 years. In 1991, it was discovered in the estate of the man who had originally led the investigation into the assassination. Along with the pistol were two intact bullets and a spent bullet. Ballistic tests revealed that the spent bullet did not match Weiss’ pistol. Weiss’ pistol was .32 caliber, but the wife of one of the surgeons who operated on Long stated shed had been told a .38 caliber bullet had been removed from Long’s body. The official report claimed no bullet had been found.
Was Dr. Carl Weiss unarmed?
A respected colonel in the Louisiana State Police reported eyewitness accounts by his own officers that Weiss was unarmed at the time of the shooting. Furthermore, nurses who were present during Long’s surgery testified that he pointed to his lip and said, “This is where he hit me.” Later, Dr. Weiss’ son would have his father’s body exhumed from his grave. X-rays revealed a fracture in his hand that would be consistent with throwing a hard punch. Many people believe that Dr. Weiss never intended to physically harm Long, that Long verbally accosted him, and that Weiss punched Long in the face in anger. It was then that guards opened fire, accidentally hitting Huey Long.
Huey Long and the Sazerac Bar of the Roosevelt Hotel
New Orleans is famous for its folklore, and one story says that someone fired at Long while he was drinking at the Sazerac Bar. This supposedly occurred the night before the assassination. There is even a bullet hole in the wall at the bar. Every week, visitors to the bar ask about the bullet hole and if the bullet was meant for Huey Long. Most of the bartenders answer that they don’t know for sure, but some will say that it can’t have anything to do with Long because the Sazerac Bar opened several years after he died.
Did you enjoy reading about Huey P. Long in Today in French Quarter history? If so, won’t you please share this post on Social Media? If you are interested in taking the best French Quarter History tour in New Orleans, please visit our Home Page for more information. Happy touring!