by Michael D. Wynne
Of all of the flamboyant and entertaining characters who have called Louisiana home, none were more legendary than Governor Earl K. Long (1895-1960). “Uncle Earl,” as he was known in later years, served three nonconsecutive terms as governor.
Long connected with voters through his folksy demeanor and colorful oratory. He departed from other southern politicians of his time by promoting a progressive agenda, expanding school-lunch programs, teacher pay, public-works projects, and minority voting rights. His sometimes erratic behavior – including a liaison with New Orleans stripper Blaze Starr – did not affect his electoral success. Long ran in the summer of 1960 for Congress in the now defunct 8th Congressional District, but died before he could take office. Long was fantasy-portrayed by actor Paul Newman in the 1989 Touchstone movie, “Blaze.”
Of all of the well-known homes that Earl K. Long can be officially be associated with, the best known ones are his birthplace home site in Winnfield, the “old” Louisiana Governor’s Mansion in Baton Rouge, and the now-demolished “Peapatch” farm home located just outside of Winnfield.
But there is one other home of note that Uncle Earl lived in, and it is right in our own backyard. Every day, hundreds of Alexandrians drive past this humble abode without even knowing that it exists. The current resident has lived in it for almost 65 years and has kept the house much as it looked when Uncle Earl last drove into its driveway.
Governor Earl K. Long’s official home from February of 1953 to May of 1956 is located at 2913 Hill Street, just to the right of the old John Ward (hardware business) home. On February 26, 1953, a Raymond Pullin, then the owner of the home, sold the home to Clara Long Knott (1888-1973), Earl’s beloved older sister and mentor. Earl either sublet or was loaned this home from Clara to use as his home and base of operations between his terms as governor (the period of 1952-1956). Once re-elected to governor and sworn in for his third term on May 8, 1956, Clara sold the home 21 days later, on May 29, 1956, to William G. and Mary James. Mary still lives in the home that Earl Long is known to have cherished.
Clara Long Knott is rather well-known also. The creator of Fort Jesup State Park, she was on the state Board of Education when Alexandria attorney Harold McSween defeated her in the 1956 election. McSween went on to become Congressman in 1958. Earl Long, possibly in an act of revenge for his sister’s defeat, ran again McSween for Congress in 1960 and defeated him.
Although the home’s address is now officially 2913, the home was originally listed in the Alexandria city directories in the 1950s as being numbered 2765 Hill Street. The discrepancy, according to the city, was the renumbering of houses in the 1970s due to the new 911 system being installed. In the 1955 and 1956 city directories, Earl is listed as living there along with his wife, Blanche Revere Long (1902-1998). Blanche, a political legend and early female political leader herself, was a “partner in power” with Earl. She served on several state commissions and managed several men’s political campaigns, including Governor John McKeithen’s successful run for governor in 1964.
It should also be noted that in a political advertisement paid for by Long during the gubernatorial race in the fall of 1955, Long published an open “letter” in the TOWN TALK addressed to the voters using as his home address this Hill Street home. Rickey James, who was brought up in the Hill Street home, remembers finding signed Earl Long documents in the home’s attic.
Can you imagine the backroom deals orchestrated in that house? Or the (in)famous politicians near and far that came there? The next time you drive by that or any of the many historic homes in the Garden District in Alexandria, imagine all of the history that there is just behind their front doors.
PICTURED: EARL K. LONG
DISPLAY ABOVE AT Louisiana Political Museum & Hall of Fame, WINNFIELD, LA