The United States’ tallest capitol building is in Baton Rouge. It’s a monumental 34 story tower that looks out-of-place in a town of no other soaring multi-level buildings. It can be seen for miles as you approach. Inside, it’s showing its age, 83 years. Inside, there are 26 kinds marble and one bullet hole. The bullet hole is what most intrigued me.
I would have missed it if a guide hadn’t engaged Ruth in conversation and taken her to see the House and Senate. I didn’t go because I was reading about the first Governor of Louisiana, William Charles Cole Claiborne, who voted for Thomas Jefferson as President and was described as a Democratic Republican. Ruth and the guide found me, and he asked if I wanted to see the bullet hole.
Sure. He led us down a corridor and pointed to what looked like a navel in a column just outside the Governor’s office. It resulted from the many shots that were fired on Sunday evening, September 8, 1935. The hail of bullets immediately killed Dr. Carl Austin Weiss. He sustained 24 gunshot wounds. Huey Long, former Louisiana Governor and a U.S. Senator, died about 40 hours later from a single gunshot wound. The entire incident is still cloaked in mystery including which bullet caused the hole.
I vaguely remembered reading about this some years ago and seeing the Academy Award winning film All the King’s Men, but I was hazy about the details and asked if there was a book I might read. The guide recommended The Day Huey Long Was Shot. I finished it last night.
Huey Long was certainly a controversial public figure. An explanation of what happened that Sunday evening is next to the bullet hole. It says that to some Long was a champion of the poor who promised to share the nation’s wealth with them and that in 1935 he had Presidential aspirations. To others, he was the Kingfish, a powerful demagogue who threatened constitutional liberties. He was used to having his way. His main goal to create the tallest one in the country, Long had his capitol built during The Depression in 14 months at a cost of only $5 million. Three years later he was murdered inside and buried just outside. The picture above is of his funeral that 100,000 people reportedly attended. An imposing statue of Huey hovers over the grave and can be seen from the observation deck on the 27th floor.
In 1935, Dr. Carl Austin Weiss was thought to be the man who killed Huey Long. The Day Huey Long Was Shot, written by David Zinman in 1963, offered many theories about what happened on 9/8/35. Zinman’s conclusion was that Weiss probably didn’t kill Huey Long. All the versions he presented add up to one reliable conclusion–we’ll never know for sure what really happened that day.