Study Guide

Oscar K. Allen in Every Man a King

By Huey Long

Oscar K. Allen

Oscar Kelly Allen Sr. is perhaps the least accomplished man to have ever been governor of a state in U.S. history.

Seriously. We don't bestow that honor lightly.

His principal claim to fame is an accident of geography; he happened to be born in the same hill-of-dirt town as Huey P. Long. It wasn't much, but it was enough to cement Allen's name on bridges, universities, and the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame.

Allen was born in a log cabin in Winn Parish, and though he wouldn't have the Cinderella story of Huey Long he did manage to get into a small-time college in Springfield, Missouri. Considering the state of education services in Winn Parish at the time, this alone was a fairly remarkable feat. But what's truly stunning about the life of OK Allen is that despite earning degrees from two institutions of higher learning, he went back to Winn Parish to become a teacher.

Even more astonishing, this was the best decision he could possibly have made.

While a teacher in Winn Parish, Allen got interested in politics. He became a local tax assessor in 1916 and then clerk of the Winn Parish Police Jury. Despite the irrelevancy of these two posts, he went on to become a state senator in the wake of Huey Long's massive victory in the gubernatorial election of 1928.

This had less to do with Allen's political chops and more to do with his connections to the Long family. He became Long's point man and floor leader for all state Senate business and was even named to the new governor's former post as Chairman of the Louisiana Highway Commission. By all accounts, Long was grooming a successor, and OK Allen was happy to oblige.

When Long finally, reluctantly, vacated his seat as governor in order to take up his duties in the senate, he made sure that Allen would keep the seat warm for him. Allen was handed the keys to the kingdom, and he was dutiful in his actions thereafter.

Allen signed a lot of legislation during his term as governor, virtually all of it proposed by Long. In the final days of Longist Louisiana, it would be Allen who signed into law the revocations of civil liberties and the emergency powers granted to Long.

He was the ultimate puppet and was indebted to Long in virtually every capacity. After Long's assassination, Allen and the rest of the Longist legislators limped onward. Allen wouldn't be limping long, however. He died of a brain hemorrhage in the first month of his final year as governor. This was unfortunate for the Longists, as Allen had been the proposed replacement for Huey Long in the U.S. Senate and had won the nomination by an unheard of 200,000 vote plurality.

A more fitting end is hard to imagine for OK Allen. Seems he just couldn't live without Huey Long.

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