NO POLITICAL LEADER is more closely identified with Louisiana State University than the flamboyant governor and US senator Huey P. Long, who devoted his last years to turning a small, undistinguished state school into an academic and football powerhouse. From 1931, when Long declared himself the “official thief” for LSU, to his death in 1935, the school’s budget mushroomed, its physical plant burgeoned, its faculty flourished, and its enrollment tripled.
Along with improving LSU’s academic reputation, Long believed the school’s football program and band were crucial to its success. Taking an intense interest in the team, Long delivered pre-game and halftime pep talks, devised plays, stalked the sidelines during games, and fired two
coaches. He poured money into a larger, flashier band, supervised the hiring of two directors and, with the second one, wrote a new fight song, “Touchdown for LSU.”
While he rarely meddled in
academic affairs, Long insisted
that no faculty member criticize
him publicly. When students or
faculty from “his school” opposed
him, retribution was swift. Long’s
support did not come without
consequences. His unrelenting
involvement almost cost LSU its
And, after his death, several of his allies—including his handpicked university president—went to prison in a scandal that almost destroyed the school.
Rollicking and revealing, Robert Mann’s Kingfish U is the definitive story of Long’s embrace of LSU.