Political History: Ellender’s impeachment document

The recent impeachment proceedings in the U.S. House of Representatives has no doubt made a few Louisiana political junkies reflect on the similar proceedings brought against Late Gov. Huey P. Long.

On April 6, 1929, the Louisiana House of Representatives voted to impeach Long for blasphemy, bribery and a laundry list of 17 other misdeeds, including one incident involving a stripper and another that alleged a planned assassination of a rival at the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans.

Eight of the 19 counts stuck after fistfights broke out on the floor. But when the matter moved across Memorial Hall to the Senate, a document surfaced from 15 senators vowing to block the proceedings, thus saving his governorship. Trump, too, is expected to find a political backstop in the Senate.

The author of the so-called “Round Robin” document would have celebrated his 129th birthday on Sept. 24, 1890. His name was Allen J. Ellender, and he went became one of the U.S. Senate’s longest serving members. Before becoming a senator, Ellender was an influential state legislator. He was a trusted confidante and campaign manager to Long, so he was a natural pick to float the “Round Robin” document in 1929.

Five years later, some 500 men, many of them armed, stormed Baton Rouge to force the ouster of Ellender, then the House speaker, and the lieutenant governor. (Ellender, in fact, was one of the last people the Kingfish spoke to before being shot.)

He was preceded in the U.S. Senate by Rose McConnell Long, who was appointed after her husband-governor was assassinated, becoming Louisiana’s first woman senator. When Ellender passed away, he was also succeeded by Elaine S. Edwards, who was appointed directly by her own husband-governor, Edwin Edwards, making her the state’s second woman senator.

The Terrebonne Parish native died in office in 1972 shortly before his re-election — and still received 10 percent of the vote. Ellender’s funeral was attended by then-President Richard Nixon, Vice President Spiro Agnew and roughly one-third of the U.S. Senate.

 

About Jeremy Alford 211 Articles
Jeremy Alford is an independent journalist and the co-author of LONG SHOT, which recounts Louisiana's 2015 race for governor. His bylines appear regularly in The New York Times and he has served as an on-camera analyst for CNN, FOX News, MSNBC and C-SPAN.

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