Louisiana State University Press, 1996
When I was a teenager growing up in Lake Providence, Louisiana, the biggest event of the year was the Miss Louisiana Beauty Pageant that took place in the local baseball stadium during the Fourth of July weekend. In 1959, however, Miss New Orleans and Miss Monroe and the others had to make way for the unannounced appearance of Governor Earl K. Long, brother of Huey who had been assassinated a quarter century earlier. Then in the twilight of his career, Earl was seeking his third term as governor. Just released from two mental institutions to which he had been committed by his wife following a breakdown on the floor of the legislature five weeks earlier, Earl was in a fighting mood. As he stood on the platform with his sleeves rolled up, thumbs tucked into his suspenders, and the sweat pouring from his face in the thick humidity and heat of a summer night, he blasted his enemies in a spontaneous harangue. “I just wanted you to judge for yourself what a nutty man looks like,” he bellowed in his gravelly voice. The case would probably not have been settled in his favor on that occasion, but the crowd loved the performance all the same. After all, what were a couple of dozen curvaceous beauty queens in comparison with yet another bombast from one of the Longs?