Little Bits of History

Mental Institutions and Being Governor

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 18, 2010

Earl K. Long

June 18, 1959: Three time governor of Louisiana, Earl K. Long is committed to a mental institution by his wife, Blanche. Earl was the brother of Huey Long, Louisiana governor from 1928-32 and a US Senator from 1932-35, when he was assassinated.

When the previous governor resigned, Earl became governor in 1939 but failed to be elected officially to the office in 1940. He served as governor again from 1948-52 and then again from 1956-60.

Although he was not trying to eliminate the Jim Crow laws in Louisiana, he was trying to ease the legally induced indignities faced by African-Americans who were being denied the right to vote. He also supported equal pay for teachers, regardless of race.

Long was not hospitalized for just spouting unpopular support for blacks. He was said to have wild or eccentric behavior. Today he might be diagnosed as bipolar. During his last term as governor, his wife tried to remove him from office due to “mental instability,” however he was never formally diagnosed. It seems his wife may not have minded her husband’s politics, but was instead incensed regarding his extra-curricular activities with stripper, Blaze Starr. Earl used his powers of office to effect a discharge from the mental hospital.

While in the hospital, he was able to manage his duties as governor via telephone. There was no law stating being held in a mental institution negated his ability to rule the state. Long eventually fired the head of the mental hospital, replaced him with a sympathetic supporter, and had himself released. He and Blanche separated, but Earl died of a heart attack while on the campaign trail (for United States House of Representatives) and before the divorce could be finalized.

“All it takes to make a good idea generate steam is a person who can get all fired up over it.” – O. A. Battista

“Never express yourself more clearly than you think.” – Niels Bohr

“Don’t write anything you can phone. Don’t phone anything you can talk. Don’t talk anything you can whisper. Don’t whisper anything you can smile. Don’t smile anything you can nod. Don’t nod anything you can wink.” – Earl Long

“The kind of thing I’m good at is knowing every politician in the state and remembering where he itches. And I know where to scratch him.” – Earl Long

Also on this day, in 1923 Checker Cabs began production.

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