Huey P. Long made changes to many of the Bayou State’s cherished traditions during his reign over Louisiana. After all, the Kingfish tore down the Governor’s Mansion and rewrote the LSU fight song.
While Long’s fingerprints can be found all over the state even today, the exclusive world of Mardi Gras in New Orleans was one area where his efforts to impose were unsuccessful. For years, the legend was that the Kingfish had even wanted to abolish the Mardi Gras holiday entirely … talk about an abuse of power.
While there is no record of Long ever publicly pushing to eradicate Carnival, there is a story of petty insults and invitations that stuck in the craw of Louisiana’s most infamous politician. According to historian Richard D. White in his book Kingfish, while there was no set tradition, governors prior to Long had been typically invited to the Crescent City’s Mardi Gras balls as an honored guest. Then-Gov. John Parker had even ruled as King of Comus in 1924.
However, no krewes extended an invitation to Long to attend their festivities when he took office in 1928. Part of the reason was the new governor angered most of New Orleans’ movers and shakers in the campaign the previous fall, railing against the city to win over rural voters. To add insult to injury, Long’s House Speaker, John Fournet, had only appointed two Crescent City lawmakers to the New Orleans City Affairs Committee and gave the other 13 seats to members from rural districts.
According to James Gill in Lords of Misrule, the Kingfish, taking his lack of invitations as a snub, took to attacking the New Orleans Carnival traditions. “He responded in public speeches by saying that the city leadership’s obsession with the frivolities of Mardi Gras were responsible for a decline in the fortunes of its maritime trade and had handed a golden opportunity to the go-getters of Houston,” Gill wrote.
While Long was ultimately unable to secure any invitations that year, he did venture down to the Roosevelt Hotel for Fat Tuesday, holding court in the lobby with a Ramos Gin Fizz in hand, still going on and on about how ridiculous the whole holiday was.