In the summer of 1959, every news outlet in Louisiana was filled with reports of the daily activities of then-Gov. Earl K. Long. Having just obtained a highly-publicized release from a state mental hospital in Mandeville, Long made headlines for soon afterward cavorting with a Bourbon Street stripper, Blaze Starr, before embarking on a wild vacation in the western states.
According to historian Jack McGuire in his book, Win the Race or Die Trying: Uncle Earl’s Last Hurrah, Long had stayed in touch with legislators during his vacation, mailing his lawmakers everything from postcards to cases of cantaloupes. Some, like Sen. Sixty Rayburn of Bogalusa, even joined the governor for parts of his multi-week trip.
Long had been institutionalized during the regular session of the Legislature, which had become bogged down in a debate over voting rights and racial integration. Because the governor was out of pocket, many of his favored bills had been voted down or died in committee.
Returning to Louisiana refreshed, Long called a special session of the Legislature to enact a litany of bills that he wanted passed. Included in his call were routine measures such as taxes, higher ed and local districts. Then there was a section asking to review the statutes around the involuntary commitment of a person to a mental institution.
Legislators, meanwhile, were tired of the governor’s behavior and unenthusiastic about going into a special session with elections only a few months away. Gauging the mood of their members, Long’s floor leaders tried to have him call off the session, but the governor ignored their pleas.
When lawmakers gaveled in at 5 p.m. on August 10, they made quick work of the session.
The House’s first order of business was to swear in a new member. As soon as that was done, another member, Rep. Ben Holt, moved to adjourn sine die.
The motion passed easily and the Senate concurred within minutes, ending the shortest special session — about 10 minutes total — in Louisiana’s history.
They Said It
“It’s not necessarily what’s best for the state of Louisiana, a lot of times it’s best for the lobbyists who are lobbying.” —State Rep. Terry Brown, _-Colfax, commenting on government relations
“It’s alive… I wouldn’t say it’s well. But it’s alive.” —State Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, on a sports betting bill that ultimately stalled.