Carl Weiss Jr., a physician who spent much of his adult life trying to prove that his father did not assassinate the legendary Louisiana politician Huey Long in 1935, died Aug. 1 at the age of 84. Weiss was just 3 months old when his father, Carl Weiss Sr., and Long were both fatally shot at the state capitol in Baton Rouge that Long had been instrumental in constructing.
Long had left the governorship to become a U.S. senator by 1935, but he remained the state’s leader in all but name. That year, Long supported legislation that would have gerrymandered Benjamin Henry Pavy, who was Carl Weiss Sr.’s father-in-law, out of his judgeship. Weiss confronted the senator at the capitol, and while there’s no question that Long’s bodyguards ended up shooting Weiss (his body was riddled with 61 bullet holes), other details about that event remain in dispute to this day.
According to the official version of events, Weiss shot Long once before the senator’s bodyguards took out the assassin. Skeptics, including some historians, allege that Weiss only punched Long in the mouth, though, and that the senator’s guards overreacted by firing wildly and accidentally killing the man they were supposed to be protecting. The bodyguards then supposedly covered up what they’d done by blaming Weiss for the shooting.
Carl Weiss Jr. championed this theory, and he was hardly the first person to suspect that this is what really happened. A year after Long’s death, the bureau of investigation for the MONY Life Insurance Company wrote a report declaring, “There is no doubt that Weiss attacked Long, but there is considerable doubt that Weiss ever fired a gun. … There is no doubt that [Long’s] death was accidental, but the consensus of more informed opinion is that he was killed by his own guard and not by Weiss.” Because it ruled that Long’s death was the result of an accident rather than a murder, MONY paid the senator’s widow double indemnity. The company only released this report in 1985, 50 years after Long and Weiss died.
Carl Weiss Jr. spent years trying to prove that his father had not murdered Long, but the question was never resolved. The younger Weiss eventually learned the location of his father’s lost gun and acquired custody of it in the early 1990s after a long court battle. He allowed the state police to test the weapon for a new investigation into Long’s death, but they ultimately concluded that Carl Weiss Sr. had indeed murdered Long. Carl Weiss Jr., though, argued that the elder Weiss didn’t even have the gun with him when he confronted Long at the capitol.
Carl Weiss Jr. also gave a forensic scientist named James Starrs permission to exhume his father’s body in 1991 to look for clues. Starrs ultimately decided that there were “grave and persuasive doubts” that the elder Weiss had been Long’s killer, but that hardly settled the matter, especially since Long’s own corpse was never examined.
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