Jack McGuire’s Lifelong Fascination With Earl Long

Jack McGuire and I have been friends for nearly 30 years, dating back to when my time as managing editor of the St. Tammany News Banner. Jack was a member of the Mandeville City Council then and had authored many of the ordinances that protected the city from some of the worse impulses of developers.

He’s the author of a new book from University Press of Mississippi entitled Win The Race Or Die Trying: Uncle Earl’s Last Hurrah. Technically, the center of the story is about Earl Long‘s 1960 congressional campaign against incumbent Harold McSween for Louisiana’s 8th District. But, the story also includes great detail and analysis of Earl’s tumultuous 1959, when his wife Blanche Revere Long and his nephew Senator Russell Long drugged and kidnapped him and flew him to a mental hospital in Galveston, Texas, after he suffered a breakdown on the floor of the Louisiana House.

Earl and Blanche Long on the tarmac in New Orleans after a flight from Galveston, Texas. Earl agreed to go to Ochsner Hospital in Metairie if Blanche agreed to take him back to Louisiana. He left the hospital the next day, heading to Winnfield for rest. Blanche intervened in Baton Rouge and had Governor Long committed to Southeast Louisiana Hospital in Mandeville.
Earl and Blanche Long on the tarmac in New Orleans after a flight from Galveston, Texas. Earl agreed to go to Ochsner Hospital in Metairie if Blanche agreed to take him back to Louisiana. He left the hospital the next day, heading to Winnfield for rest. Blanche intervened in Baton Rouge and had Governor Long committed to Southeast Louisiana Hospital in Mandeville.

The story behind the breakdown is that Earl was fighting black voter purges being run by the noted racist Leander Perez of Plaquemines Parish and state Senator Willie Rainach of Claiborne Parish.

In our interview on KPEL which aired on Sunday, Jack goes into a lot of the detail about the voter purges, Earl’s breakdown and how he outsmarted Blanche and Russell to win his release from Southeast Louisiana Hospital in Mandeville.

Jack was actually in the temporary courtroom in Covington where there was going to be a habeas corpus hearing for Earl in 1959. Jack was a student at Isidore Newman School in New Orleans. His father, David McGuire, was chief of staff to New Orleans Mayor DeLesseps “Chep” Morrison. Jack had been assigned a paper on the 1959 statewide elections. Because his father worked for Morrison, he decided to do his paper on Earl Long, who was barred from seeking re-election to governor in that year’s election.

Unlike previous podcasts, this one opens up with the podcast only segment because it contains significant political history.

Jack’s dad David was a member of the Reveille Seven, a group of journalism students who proposed to run a front-page editorial in the Reveille in 1934 critical of Huey Long‘s meddling with the LSU football team. Long found out about the upcoming editorial and had the seven students who refused to apologize to him expelled from LSU. The paper  ended up running a blank box where the editorial would have appeared.

David McGuire and his six fellow non-apologists were offered scholarships at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, which he accepted. That history is detailed in the opening segment of the podcast and details how Jack, from a staunch anti-Long family, developed this lifelong fascination with Earl Long that has resulted in two books. The first was Uncle Earl Deserved Better, which I published in 1995 for him under Good Reading Books. It is a refutation of the biography of Long by two Louisiana historians that relied on unsubstantiated materials contained in Long’s FBI file. That book also attempts to separate fact from fiction in the move Blaze, which was ostensibly about Long and his relationship with the stripper Blaze Starr.

I am not an impartial observer when it comes to Jack’s new book. I had the honor and privilege of working as editor on the book with him. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have done so and proud of the finished product.

I think you’ll really enjoy this podcast.

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