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1900 - 1950

Long's alleged assassin wasn't armed



BATON ROUGE -- Dr. Carl Weiss, the man who allegedly gunned down U.S. Sen. Huey P. Long in 1935, threw a punch and hit the controversial former Louisiana governor on the lip, but Weiss was unarmed at the time, according to Dr. Donald A. Pavy of New Iberia.

Pavy is the author of "Accident and Deception: The Huey Long Shooting," which is published by Cajun Publishing of New Ibeiera. The book concludes that Long was accidentally shot by one of his own bodyguards, probably Joe Messina. Pavy's work joins others that dispute the official findings in the killing of Long on the night of Sept. 8, 1935.

Dr. Pavy is the nephew of Judge Benjamin Henry Pavy, one of the leading anti-Long political figures during Long's heyday. The judge's daughter and Dr. Pavy's first cousin, Yvonne, was married to Dr. Carl Austin Weiss, the alleged assassin of Long.

Weiss was in the Capitol corridor where Long was shot, but Pavy says he was only there to confront Long about how unfairly he treated others.

"... After the third very rough rebuff, Weiss, frustrated, lost his composure, screamed at Long and hit him on the lip. A scuffle occurred and Weiss was hit by bodyguard Elliot Coleman," Dr. Pavy said. "One bodyguard, probably Messina (a nervous type), always close and often in the rear of Huey, pulled his gun, which hung up in the holster and misfired, striking Huey in the back ... ."

Pavy isn't the first writer to blame a bodyguard for Huey Long's death. Ed Reed, author of "Requiem for a Kingfish: The Strange and Unexplained Death of Huey Long" in 1986, said Murphy Roden, who was trained to react immediately, fired at Weiss at close range and the bullet struck Long, "possibly even passing through Weiss' body before hitting Long."

Reed insists Weiss was armed when he went to the Capitol that night, but had no plans to shoot Long. In any case, Reed said, Weiss never got close enough to shoot before he was gunned down by Long's bodyguards.

Pavy insists Weiss had no gun with him in the capitol. He said it was retrieved from Weiss' car and placed there after the shooting, "but only after crime photos had been taken." Dr. Tom Ed Weiss, Carl Weiss' brother, said he saw his brother's car in front of the capitol and a gun in a sock in the glove pocket. The car had been moved later, was ransacked and the gun was missing, he said.

The theories advanced by Dr. Pavy are built on affidavits from people who were either in the Capitol or the hospital that night, from others who had firsthand reports on what happened in that corridor and from people who discredit the story that Long's assassination was planned and that Weiss was part of that conspiracy.

K.B. Ponder, an investigator for the Mutual Insurance Co. of New York, which insured Long, said there was no doubt his death was accidental, but the consensus was that he was killed by his own bodyguard.

Mrs. Melinda Delage was in the operating room when Long was brought in and said the senator had a lacerated and swollen lip. She said a doctor asked, "What is that on your lip?" and Long answered, "Oh, that's where he hit me."

Zilma Aubin Utz, a young nursing student who was the first to receive Long in the hospital, wrote to Pavy about the experience.

Both women were in attendance at a Monday news conference in Baton Rouge when Pavy discussed his findings and some of the book's contents.

Dr. Pavy reprints an affidavit from Francis C. Grevemberg, who was superintendent of State Police under the late Gov. Robert F. Kennon, 1952-1956. Grevemberg related how the shooting of Long came up during a conversation among four troopers accompanying Grevemberg on a casino raid.

Grevemberg said the troopers told how Weiss' gun had been taken from his car after the shooting.

"And then I made a mistake," Grevemberg said. "I said, 'It appears to me that all of the actions following the shooting were a conspiracy to cover up the accidental death of Sen. Long and the killing of Dr. Weiss.'

"After I made that unfortunate statement, the bodyguards became very quiet."

Delmas Sharp Jr., the son of Long bodyguard Delmas Sharp Sr., said his dad once talked about Long's death prior to a meeting the two of them had with bodyguard Messina.

After the meeting, he said, "So Dad and I left. Dad said to me, 'Well, that's Joe Messina, the killer.' "

Pavy said he also spoke to members of the Murphy Roden family, who said they understand Roden accidentally shot Long, and the son of Vernon McGee, a reporter who was an eyewitness to the shooting.

On Sept. 10, 1985, U.S. Sen. Russell Long, Huey's son, introduced into the Congressional Record what Pavy said "purports to be a transcript of a coroner's inquest over the body of Dr. Carl A. Weiss, including questions to witnesses."

Pavy calls that the "Political Version" of how Long was killed and asks why it took 50 years to surface. "Can this evidentiary debacle, which includes no physical or scientific evidence other than the body of Dr. Weiss, be accepted as proof of anything?" he asked.

Like any death under mysterious and confusing circumstances, we may never get to the real truth about the killing of Huey Long. However, Dr. Pavy has come up with significant new information that he contends proves Dr. Weiss was nothing more than another victim. He said what started out as a fist to Long's lip triggered an accidental shooting that ended in a hail of gunfire.

Unfortunately, Weiss, the only man who could explain what he was doing there, didn't live to tell his story. The research that Dr. Pavy has done and the conclusions he draws indicate that Weiss had no intention of killing Huey Long when he stopped to confront him at the Capitol the night of Sept. 8, 1935.

It's an old story, but Dr. Pavy gives it a different slant with new information and in a writing style that's easy to follow.

Story copyright 1999 by Jim Beam


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