In 1929, Huey Pierce Long, then governor of Louisiana, was impeached in the state's House of Representatives on a variety of charges ranging from corruption to "blasphemy". It was the beginning of a two-month drama which would end with his conviction in the Louisiana Senate by a single vote after the failure of an effort to derail the impeachment by obtaining sworn statements from one-third of the body?s members saying that they would vote to acquit regardless because the charges themselves were unconstitutional.
Kingfish Impeached by Eric LippsLong had run afoul of powerful business interests, in particular Standard Oil, which had been angered by his efforts to raise revenue for his ambitious social and construction programs through a five-cents-per-barrel tax on oil refining. Standard Oil had played a crucial role in building support for Long's impeachment. Ironically, though, this was to work to the ousted governor's advantage.
In October 1929, the stock market collapsed, touching off the cascade of economic failures which would produce the Great Depression. Long, quick to seize the moment, branded his Standard Oil adversaries as among those responsible for the spreading misery. In 1930, he won election to the U.S. Senate, and in 1932 ran for president of the United States, posing such a serious challenge to New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt that upon winning the Democratic nomination FDR offered the vice-presidential slot to Long.
Long accepted, despite privately sharing the pungent view of Texan John Nance Garner as to the worth of the vice-presidency. His acceptance, however, came with conditions: he demanded FDR's assurance that he would be allowed to speak and travel freely. Badly needing Long's support in the South, where he was viewed as deeply suspect for his liberal politics and Yankee background, FDR agreed.
Long would prove a capable second - so much so that Roosevelt would retain him through the 1936, 1940 and 1944 elections despite strong pressure from within the party to dump the outspoken and flamboyant Louisianan. As a result, when President Roosevelt died in April 1945, it would be Huey Long who would become the 33rd president of the United States.