NEW ORLEANS, April 23 (UPI) -- The assassination of former U.S. Sen. Huey P. Long at the Louisiana State Capitol, exactly 80 years ago this September, will get another look this year on its fourscore anniversary -- and because of a new exhibit opening in New Orleans next month.
"From Winnfield to Washington: The Life and Career of Huey P. Long" will open May 13 at The Historic New Orleans Collection's Williams Gallery -- and feature a comprehensive exhibit detailing Long's life, all the way to the evening of Sept. 8, 1935 and his mysterious assassination.
Included in the exhibit will reportedly be new elements the public has never seen or heard before, curators said.
The display includes a new audio interview, for example, with former New Orleans Tribune reporter C.E. Frampton, who was one of dozens at the State Capitol when Long was gunned down at the age of 42.
"Out of [a] number of reporters, I was the only one who was on the scene and actually saw the shooting," he says in the interview, the New Orleans Advocate reported Wednesday.
Sen. Long was an extremely polarizing and controversial figure during the 1920s and 1930s, during which he served as a U.S. senator and governor of Louisiana. A proponent for the redistribution of wealth, the southern Democrat compiled a long list of enemies during his time in public office.
In just his second year in the statehouse, Long faced an impeachment movement that was sparked by state legislators angered by his proposal of an oil tax to help fund his social programs. The impeachment proceedings, among other things, led to an actual brawl in the state legislature on a date that later became known as "Bloody Monday."
After a whirlwind public speaking campaign, which was Long's specialty, the governor secured enough votes in the state senate to avoid removal from office and the effort was abandoned. But political angst against Long remained for the remainder of his career.
However, owing to enthusiastic support among his constituents and his mastery of communication, Long was planning to run for the White House in 1936.
"If you look at his accomplishments, he managed to accomplish a lot in a short career," co-curator Amanda McFillen said. "Thousands of miles of paved road, Charity Hospital, the Huey P. Long Bridge, the State Capitol."
But Long's presidential bid was cut short the night he was killed. Also known as "The Kingfish," Long's distinguished and tragic career are detailed with great context by the new exhibit.
"I like to call them the little forgotten corners of historical material," co-curator John Lawrence said of exhibit elements the public has never seen or heard before. "When people see these and realize they were of the moment, then I think they gain a greater understanding of what Huey Long was all about."
Last month, the Louisiana Art & Science Museum opened an exhibit that featured a large 1955 painting by artist Conrad Albrizio, titled, "Elements of Government," which he intended to hang in the State Capitol to cover bullet holes that pock-marked a wall the night Long was shot.
"But Earl K. Long [Huey Long's brother] was governor at the time, and he thought the wall should remain uncovered as a testament of what happened there," curator Elizabeth Weinstein said.
Just as the deaths of President John F. Kennedy, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King would attract significant controversy three decades later, Long's assassination has also been cloaked in mystery for the last 80 years.
The accused assassin, Dr. Carl Austin Weiss, was immediately killed at the scene -- shot 62 times by Long's bodyguards after he allegedly shot the senator. However, substantial doubt about Weiss' guilt has been raised by skeptics for decades.
Perhaps the most oft-cited argument against Weiss' guilt is the fact that he left no writings or any indications whatsoever that he was planning to shoot Long -- something experts say nearly all political assassins leave behind. Further, family members have stated, Weiss was actually a supporter of Long's, and gave absolutely no behavioral indications that he was plotting to kill a public official.
Another argument for Weiss' innocence was the fact that he approached Long in the halls of the statehouse three times the night of Sept. 8, allegedly shooting him on the third encounter. Skeptics say it's doubtful that any assassin would pass up two easy opportunities to shoot their target, as Weiss supposedly did.
Scholars and historians generally agree that Weiss was Long's assassin, but skeptics believe there is ample evidence to suggest otherwise. That evidence, they say, indicates that Weiss only wanted to plead a personal case with Long, not kill him. And when he was brushed aside for the third time, the theory posits, a frustrated Weiss punched Long in the mouth. Then, in a gross and chaotic overreaction, skeptics believe, Long's corps of bodyguards opened fire on Weiss and accidentally shot the senator.
"Anybody who is aware of Huey Long is rarely neutral on the subject," Lawrence said of the politician's life and death. "There are opinions people have, sometimes they have been transferred generationally, sometimes they are firsthand experiences, and sometimes they're from their own reading and study."
In his exhibit interview, journalist and eyewitness Frampton describes a scene in which Weiss is clearly the assassin.
"Just as I opened those doors, this man [Weiss] who I didn't recognize, in a white suit, who had been leaning against a marble column on the opposite side of the corridor, moved away and took a couple of steps without saying a word, pulled his hand out from under his coat and fired point blank at Huey," he says. "Almost simultaneously, Huey spun around and shouted, 'I'm shot!"
"From Winnfield to Washington: The Life and Career of Huey P. Long" is free to the public and will run through Oct. 11.