Gov. Earl K. Long (La.) Sent to Mental Institution In 1959: Fires Administrators, Absconds From The Premises

1959 was not a good year for Governor Earl K. Long, the Democratic governor of Louisiana. Governor Long wanted to retain his position as governor, but was prevented from running again, since he was not allowed to succeed himself. So that problem, along with the return of his heavy drinking and taking up smoking again, combined to place him in a bad mental state. In addition he was taking pills to make him sleep, in combination with uppers and downers.
The situation was exacerbated when he was in a rage as he ranted during a legislative session. He later meant to apologize for his behavior, but instead flew into another rage instead.
The following short audio of Governor Long ranting  in the legislature can be heard here:
Jesse Bankston, the Louisiana Director of Hospitals, thought that Long needed immediate treatment, so had him restrained for two days, while mulling over what to do next about the governor.
It was determined that it would be better to transport Governor Long to an out-of-state hospital, so that he could not use his power of governor, so he was sent to a Galveston, Texas hospital.
Taken to Galveston Hospital
He was strapped into a gurney and flown from Baton Rouge to Galveston and taken to John Sealy Hospital. Dr. Titus Harris had been informed that Governor Louisiana was there on his own volition, but found out that was not the case.
Governor Long filed papers to be released from the hospital, after threatening his wife Blanche with federal kidnapping charges, for having him transported across state line to Texas. He then made a deal with Blanche and Russell Long, that he would consent to be sent to Oschner Foundation Hospital in New Orleans.
However after one day there, he told Blanche wanted to Winnfield to rest. Blanche told him that he had promised to stay at Oschner, but Earl said that he didn’t say how long he would stay.
Blanche Long worried about what the governor might do next, had Chester Williams the coroner of Baton Rouge prepare the papers, to have Governor Long committed to a state mental institution. Meanwhile Long who had left Oschner Foundation Hospital in New Orleans, was intercepted by six sheriff’s deputies and taken to Baton Rouge.
This paragraph from Inside Northside Magazine describes the chaotic scene at the courthouse:

The deputies dragged the governor of Louisiana, kicking and screaming, out of the car. They punched him, knocked him to the ground, and put him in their car. He was examined by the coroner, who was not a psychiatrist, and by a psychiatrist who had never met him. The psychiatrist rendered a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, which was quite commonly used at that time to commit anyone for any reason.
He was taken to Southeast Louisiana Hospital in Mandeville, where he was admitted under the commitment order. While he was treated there, the acting director of the hospital, Dr. Charles Belcher, later indicated that they had not made any final diagnosis of his true condition.

Governor Long contacted Joe Sims to represent him in a habeas corpus hearing in Covington, Louisiana. The governor had a trick up his sleeve though. He called a meeting of the state hospitals board to meet before the hearing.

The governor had Jesse Bankston removed from office at the meeting, then appointed a friend of his as the new director. The new director then proceeded to fire Dr. Charles Belcher the superintendent of Southeast Louisiana Hospital. The new superintendent, then stated that there was no reason for Governor Long, to remain in the hospital and authorized his release.

Feared Being Poisoned

Governor Long was taken to the Green Springs Motel in Covington to eat breakfast, but refused to eat food off his plate, fearing it might be poisoned, so helped himself to the food on the plates of the others eating there.

He would spend the next few days at the Pine Manor Motel in Covington and while he was there Blaze Starr a stripper, from Bourbon Street in New Orleans paid him a visit on July 2, 1959. His romance with Starr seemed to be more of a revenge thing, after Blanche had  him committed.

Long Garnered National Attention

Governor Long was in the national news that summer and we happened to be on vacation from Louisiana to Canada. One vehicle we encountered on the trip had someone holler “Hey Governor Long” at us. They probably couldn’t help themselves, when they saw the Louisiana license plates on our vehicle.

To read the complete article about him being committed the entire Inside Northside Magazine article, which is very lengthy can be read here:

53 years have passed since our governor went off the deep end and while researching today, have learned more about those days in one day, than what I have learned in the previous 53 years.

Runs For Lieutenant Governor

Governor Long was intent on becoming governor, but when he saw it wasn’t going to be allowed, he ran on the Noe-Long ticket with former governor of Monroe. The ticket came in a disappointing fourth place polling only 97,654 votes. They finished behind deLesseps Morrison with 278,956 votes, former governor Jimmie Davis with 213,551 votes and Senator Willie Rainach, who Long had ranted against in his legislature outburst received 143.095. The three candidates garnered 635,602 votes compared to the 97,654 votes for the Noe-Long ticket.

It looked like the political career of Governor Earl K. Long was dead in the water. But this is Earl K. Long we are talking about and he entered the race for the 8th Congressional District against incumbent Rep. Harold B. McSween. Surprisingly he won the election but died on September 5, 1960 at the age of 65, before he could take office.

The years 1959 and 1960 were turbulent years for Governor Long. It all started with his rant in the Louisiana legislature, then progressed to him being committed in two mental institutions, firing the administrators to be released. Then came his affair with the Bourbon Street stripper Blaze Starr, his loss as a lieutenant governor candidate in 1959, then he arose from the ashes to win the 8th Congressional representative seat, shortly before dying.

I only saw Governor Long once. He was at the Continental Trailways bus station making a speech on the stump, while handing out chickens to those, he hoped would vote for him.

Louisiana politicians were and are still known for taking their politics seriously and nobody took politics more seriously than Earl K. Long.


Author: Andrew Godfrey

Retired from newspaper work after 38 years. Had served in the Army in Hawaii and Vietnam in the 60's. Am now retired and living in Sulphur, Louisiana.

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