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Huey Long Praises the Official Reporters of Debates

August 21, 1935

Photo of Senator Huey Long

Described as "the most colorful, as well as the most dangerous, man to engage in American politics," Louisiana's Huey Long served in the Senate from 1932 until his assassination on September 10, 1935. He was just 42 years old. Three months earlier, he had held the Senate floor for 15 hours and 30 minutes—conducting the longest one-man filibuster of his era. A fiery orator and entertaining raconteur, there is no better way to capture the essence of this singular senator than to do it in his own words. Yet Long himself admitted that he got a little help from some Senate employees. In the summer of 1935, three weeks before his death, Long spoke to a shorthand reporters' convention at Washington's Mayflower Hotel. Here is an extended quotation

"I have made it a rule for a number of years to speak at no banquets. But these boys at the Senate, our Official Reporters of Debates, have such a claim on all of us Senators that I just had to agree that I would come here for a few minutes, because they have gone through so much since I have been there.

"Many times in the Senate we would have no one to listen to us at all were it not for the Official Reporters. I have made some wonderful speeches with nobody present except the Official Reporters and the Presiding Officer.

"Many of the fine speeches you folks read in the Congressional Record are really made by the Official Reporters. I wish you might know how eloquent our Senate Official Reporters are. They are the ones who have made out of ordinary United States Senators more statesmen and more orators like Demosthenes than anyone else. Recently I read [in the Congressional Record] a speech I was supposed to have made in the Senate a while back, and the language was so perfect, and the words so ‘high-falutin' that I mailed it back to [my wife] in Louisiana and told her I wanted her to read it and see what an improvement I had made since I came to Washington to the Senate. The first thing she told me when she got to Washington afterwards was, ‘I want to meet those wonderfully educated reporters of the Senate who take those supposed quotations you are making from the Bible and fit them into your speeches exactly as they are in the Scripture.'

"We do not worry about what we say in the Senate. If we want to quote from some ancient ruler who existed thousands of years ago, all we have to do is slip over it and say it a little faster so the newspaper men in the Gallery may not catch us in a mistake, if we make one. And then the Official Reporters go back and look up the ruler. They will find exactly what he said."

To great audience laughter, Senator Long concluded, "Or, [the Official Reporters] may find that there was never any such ruler, and they will ‘dig up' a ruler to fit the speech."