Earl Kemp Long (26 August 1895 - 5 September 1960) was an American politician and three-time Governor of Louisiana.
Earl K. Long was born in Winnfield, Louisiana. He was the younger brother of Huey Long, who preceded him into politics.
Earl Long was elected lieutenant governor in 1936, and first served as governor from 1939 to 1940, rising to that office after Governor Richard Leche resigned. Long failed to win reelection in 1940. Long was elected governor and served from 1948 to 1952 and from 1956 to 1960.
He was a colorful character, often known as "Uncle Earl". Beneath his public persona as a simple, plain-spoken rural Louisianan of little education was an astute political mind of considerable intelligence.
While not attempting to dismantle the segregationist Jim Crow laws of his state, he was notable for a southern white politician of the time for easing the governmental indignitites placed on African-Americans and allowing many of them to vote.
Eccentricity and hospitalization
Long was well known for eccentric behavior, leading some to suspect that he suffered from bipolar disorder. In his last term in office his wife and others attempted to remove him on the grounds of mental instability. He was never formally diagnosed with any mental illness, and a large part of the motivation for this effort may have been political; his wife's involvement may have been related to his affair with stripper Blaze Starr.
Additionally, in his later years he was alleged to have suffered from strokes, resulting in further mental impairment.
While confined in the mental hospital in Mandeville, Louisiana Long kept his political machine running via telephone. His staff discovered that nothing in Louisiana law required him relinquishing power due to commitment to the mental hospital, so Long ordered the head of the state hospital system fired and replaced him with a crony who had Long released.
After his term as governor expired in 1960, Earl Long was elected to the United States House of Representatives, but died before taking office.
The prominent American journalist A.J. Liebling wrote about Long's unusual career in a series of the articles for The New Yorker which were published 1961 as The Earl of Louisiana.