Sitting next to an active railroad track in Winnfield, LA, is a train depot that was moved there in pieces to serve as the “Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame. “. It had served as the L & A Railroad Depot since 1905 and was donated to the City of Winnfield in 1988. Volunteers and financial donations led to the museum opening on what would have been Huey P. Long’s 100th birthday – August 30, 1993. In 2003 the museum was given official statewide recognition by the legislature.
Each year nominations are made to a board of directors who select a limited number for inclusion in the Hall of Fame. There have been 140 inductees since the museum opened. Each of them is honored with a pen and ink caricature and pertinent memorabilia in a display case. For many years the pen and ink caricature was done by Pap Dean, a renowned cartoonist.
Three of the original honorees – Oscar (O.K.) Allen , Huey P. Long, and Earl Long – were born and raised in Winnfield. Two additional governors were born in the parishes that adjoin Winnfield.
The entry to the museum opens into the waiting room of the station and encompassed the ticket counter. This opens into a second area where the ticket agent worked. Added to the back was a large area that opened onto the tracks and allowed freight to be moved. The waiting room has been converted to office space for the museum staff and a gift shop that has souvenirs from the museum. The ticket agent area has been converted to an honoree display area where many of the pen and ink drawings were created by renowned cartoonist Pap Dean
The major exhibit area encompasses the freight area. In addition to the memorabilia associated with the honorees, there area additional exhibits about Huey P. Long and Earl Long.
Earl Long was drawn into politics by his older brother Huey. Becoming a consummate politician and extemporaneous speaker, he was governor 3 times in Louisiana. He lost many elections but seemed to regroup and try again. In a display of a February, 1940, copy of The American Progress (a Louisiana newspaper), there is a headline predicting that Earl Long would win the governorship by more than 100,000 votes. Earl Long lost that election but was already planning his next run for the office. One of the displays is a 1951 Chevrolet sedan that was converted by Earl Long into a campaign vehicle with a loud speaker system on top of the vehicle. Several of Earl Long’s spontaneous speeches are excerpted so that the visitor can experience his personality. The vehicle is in immaculate condition and was donated to the museum in 1998.
Another of the displays is a recreation of the dining room in the home of Mr & Mrs Huey P. Long when they lived in New Orleans.
Huey Long was born in Winnfield in 1893 and quit school in 1910 to become a traveling salesman. He entered Tulane Law School but dropped out before graduation. He passed the bar in Louisiana in 1915 and practiced law in Shreveport for 10 years. He won his first election to the Railroad Commission in 1918. He was elected governor in 1928. He believed that concentrated wealth was the greatest danger facing our society. Because of term limits in Louisiana, he ended his governorship and became a senator from Louisiana. He vigorously campaigned to implement laws on the federal level to combat this concentration. Because of this and his personal appeal , many people thought he would probably defeat Franklin Roosevelt in the 1936 presidential election. On September 9, 1935, he was assassinated on the steps of the capital building in Baton Rouge, LA.
Carolyn Phillips is the director of the museum and is happy to greet visitors and to help them understand what they see in the museum. The museum is open to the public during the week, Monday through Friday, from 9 AM to 5 PM. There is no admission charge.