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Most Prominent Politicians (XVIII): Louisiana


You people and your demands for me to continue this series. When I was at Netroots Nation, I had several people, including Dave Dayen from Firedoglake, come up to me and ask when I was getting back to this. Who knew anyone cared?

Overall, I’d have to say that Louisiana politicians have somewhat underwhelmed given its long tenure in the Union. That’s especially true when compared to other southern states. I suppose the peculiarities of Louisiana have something to do with it. And probably the massive corruption.

1. Huey Long. The Kingfish! Enough said.

2. Zachary Taylor. In some ways, Taylor is an underrated president. Although a slaveowner, he did not aggressively push for the expansion of the evil institution, leading to frustration among other southerners. Sadly, his successor Millard Fillmore was too weak to lead effectively during the battles over the Compromise of 1850. I am skeptical that Taylor would have done that much better really, but given his time and place, he was better that you’d think.

3. Edward White. Supreme Court justice, 1894-1921. Although a Democrat named to the Court by Cleveland, the Republican William Howard Taft elevated White to Chief Justice in 1910, much to people’s surprise since everyone thought he’d name Charles Evans Hughes. White of course voted with the majority in Plessy. In 1916, he did write the opinion ruling the Grandfather Clause unconstitutional but since that’s the most obviously absurdly unconstitutional law in American history, I’m not feeling too warm and fuzzy here.

4. Hale Boggs. House Majority Leader from 1971 until his death in an Alaska plane crash in 1973. Although generally a conservative Southerner, much to his credit he supported the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Also was Whip from 1962-71. Father of Cokie Roberts.

5. Judah Benjamin. Key figure of the Confederacy, serving in multiple cabinet positions. Fled to Europe immediately upon the Confederacy’s defeat, never to return to the United States. Interestingly turned down offers for Supreme Court positions from both Millard Fillmore and Franklin Pierce. I am very excited to reference Fillmore twice in this post.

6. John Slidell. Aggressively pro-expansion Southern senator in the 1850s. Ambassador to Mexico during the Mexican War when the U.S. stole half of its southern neighbor in order to expand slavery. Helped lead the walkout of Southern Democrats at the 1860 Democratic National Convention. Was on the ship to London that the U.S. Navy intercepted, leading to the Trent Affair. Also moved to Europe at the end of the Civil War. Both he and Judah Benjamin are buried in Paris.

7. Edward Livingston. Scion of the New York Livingston family who actually served as Mayor of New York City from 1801-03 before leaving to make his fortune in Louisiana. Upon arriving in New Orleans, he basically tried to take over the whole waterfront, riding roughshod over a long history of French law that provided something like common access. This turned the whole city against him and since Jefferson didn’t trust him (believing him to be a Burr supporter), he managed to destroy his political career for a time. Yet he rebounded later in life, serving in Congress, the Senate, Secretary of State under Andrew Jackson from 1831-33, and Minister to France from 1833-35.

8. Russell Long. Son of Huey Long, served for nearly 40 years in the Senate, from 1948-87. Pretty typical Southern segregationist senator, although he did swallow that enough to play a key role in several floor fights to push Great Society legislation through the Senate.

9. Pierre Soulé. Senator, writer of the Ostend Manifesto in 1854, calling for the annexation of Cuba into the United States in order to expand slavery.

10. Edwin Edwards. Only the best for Louisiana. I like that he named his wife to fill a vacant Senate seat. But hey, he did beat David Duke before going to prison.

I thought this was a very clear top 10, with a pretty big dropoff after this, unless you want to include Earl Long, which I do not.

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