Politics and a Pulitzer: The Legacy of T. Harry Williams

EPISODE 1   (15:05)

 

Dr. T. Harry Williams lectures a full class, 1975

Dr. T. Harry Williams lectures to a full class, 1975

Join host Jennifer Abraham for our first podcast, which highlights the man for whom the Williams Center for Oral History was named:  Dr. T. Harry Williams.  We’ll hear from a former student, Winnie Byrd, and from his late wife, Estelle Skolfield Williams. We’ll also listen to an excerpt Williams conducted with former Governor, Richard Leche, in 1962 about Huey Long’s 1935 assassination and whether or not Long would have supported Leche’s run for the governor in 1936.  Also included is a clip from a speech Huey Long delivered in 1934 along with the song, “Every Man a King.”

 

AUDIO EXCERPT TRANSCRIPTIONS AND CITATIONS

RICHARD LECHE is the key excerpt.  * For full transcription, see below.

 

WINNIE BYRD: Well Dr. Williams was like no teacher I had ever had before because, of course, he was just so natural, and he was so unto his own self, and he was very informal in his attire as well as his manner, but he was very structured.  He was very organized always.  He expected your complete attention.  He had that gorgeous sense of humor that would just crack you up, and of course quite often, he’d lose us all because of that, but he was strict in his own way, but he was so captivating, he didn’t have to work hard to hold your attention, really, and he was so dramatic as everyone says about him.  I mean, you know, if you weren’t in his class and you were walking down the hall you would stop and listen and quite often you’d look around and you’d see the hall would be filled with people because he was up there giving it his all, and he would act out, and impersonate . . . his voice.  It was like he was giving a performance in many instances.

Byrd, Winnie, interview by Melisse Campbell, audio recording, 1993, 4700.0302.  Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

 

Estelle S. Williams

Estelle S. Williams

ESTELLE WILLIAMS: And, he was very thoughtful, you know, he . . . when we were in Wisconsin, he did not want me cooking. He wanted to go somewhere and sit down at a restaurant, and talk about what he had written that day, and what he was going to write the next day. And, of course, we did that here. We did it wherever we were. It was . . . when Harry was writing, when he would stop for the day, he would always try to write the opening sentence in the next paragraph, because he . . . then, he didn’t have to start from cold, you see. He had something, maybe, you know, a loaded sentence there, at the beginning of the paragraph, ready to go. And, I did all of his typing, and, you know, we worked together very well. I loved to do the research with him, it was fun.   

You know, if an editor wanted to change something that Harry had written, he had to know why. He didn’t just accept it that an editor wanted it changed. Even in a textbook, anything that Harry wrote, he was . . . well, I don’t know exactly how to express it, but, he was very jealous of his writing, and he wanted it to be his. And, if you had a good suggestion to make, that was fine, but, don’t pick any nits.

Williams, Estelle S., interview by Pamela Dean, audio recording, 1994, 4700.0505.  Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

 

Williams, Russell Long, and Huey Long (shown in photo)

Williams (left), Russell Long (right), and Huey Long (shown in photo)

*RICHARD LECHE:  Well, he [Huey Long] said, “You are my candidate for governor.  I want to talk to you in the next two or three days about it in the next two or three days.”  I said, “Oh man, you’re nuts.”  “I’m going to talk to you,” [said Huey]. And he hung up.  I don’t remember the exact time but it was sometime after dinner.  Then I got in the car, my wife and I.  Maybe one hour and fifteen minutes.  As we stopped the car in front of the house I could hear the telephone ring.  I picked up the phone and he said “That you Dick?  This is Abe.”  He says, “Huey has just been shot.”  That was just a few hours since I had spoken to him on the phone. I turned around went out and got in the car.   

T. HARRY WILLIAMS: Were you in the hospital room before his death?

LECHE: Yes.

WILLIAMS: Did you hear him say anything in his period of consciousness?

LECHE:  No he never uttered a sound.  Of course, he had already been operated on.

WILLIAMS: Harvey Fields says that Huey didn’t pick a candidate or decide on a candidate for governor.

LECHE: Perhaps that’s true technically.   That fact that Huey told me that over the phone didn’t mean that he had selected me, but I was close enough to Huey, frankly…you can believe me when I say this…I was on the court and we were happy and our lives were quiet, but I owed Huey a lot of appreciation for putting me there.  Now if Huey had wanted me as a candidate for political purposes I would have announced and I would have withdrawn whenever Huey wanted me to and been delighted to do it.  Whether I would have accepted seriously, I never quite made up my mind.   

Leche, Richard, interview by T. Harry Williams, audio recording, 1962, T. Harry Williams Papers; Mss. 2489, 2510.  Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Williams' portable reel-to-reel recorder

Williams’ portable reel-to-reel recorder

ADDITIONAL AUDIO

Long, Huey P.,  tape recording, ca. 1934-1935. Radio statement on the Share the Wealth program from the files of radio station KWKH in Shreveport, Louisiana.  Mss. 3038. Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

x

IMAGES

Dr. Williams lecturing class, 1975, p. 126.  Under Stately Oaks,  Louisiana State University Press, 2002

T. Harry Williams and Russell Long.  Russell B. Long Papers, Mss. 3700, Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections

Estelle Skolfield Williams, ca. 1992.

Reel-to-reel player used by T. Harry Williams for his biography of Huey Long

MUSIC

King, Freddie, interview by Tatiana Clay and Eric Julien, audio recording, 2008, 4700.1921.  Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

 

This podcast is copyrighted by LSU Libraries Special Collections.

For a full transcript of the podcast, please contact Jennifer Abraham at jabrah1@lsu.edu.

 

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  1. [...] the fall of 2009, the Williams Center, after years of planning, launched its first episode in the series What Endures  and produced 12 to 13 episodes at regular intervals over 18 months. [...]

  2. […] for Oral History is launching its first podcast, “What Endures.” The first episode, “Politics and a Pulitzer” highlights the mission of the Williams Center and focuses on our namesake, Dr. T. Harry […]

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What Endures

Welcome to the blog and podcast for the Williams Center for Oral History. Our goal is to provide updates on Center projects and activities as well as to share with you on a regular basis audio excerpts from our collection.

The Center launched the first episode of the Podcast on Oct 1, 2009. Subsequent podcasts will be posted approximately once a month.

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