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American Rambler with Colin Woodward

Oct 6, 2021

Robert Mann has dedicated his life to politics. A professor at LSU in the Manship School of Mass Communication, he is the author of numerous books about American history and politics. He now has a memoir out, Backrooms and Bayous: My Life in Louisiana Politics. 

Born in west Texas, Bob moved to Louisiana as a young man. A conservative at first who had politically minded parents, he developed his writing chops as a reporter and journalism student. He learned many lessons about politics along the way and eventually got his first major job working for Senator Russell Long. Long was a Democrat and son of the notorious senator and governor Huey Long, the "Kingfish," whose shadow falls long over the state's history. Senator Long made an impression on Bob, and he is still grappling with the Long legacy in Louisiana.

Louisiana has a colorful political history, from "Uncle" Earl Long to Edwin Edwards. Some figures have been sinister, such as Klansman and neo-Nazi David Duke, and Bob was on the ground floor of making sure Duke did not win a prominent seat in Louisiana government. He also worked with Kathleen Blanco, who had the misfortune of being governor during Hurricane Katrina.

While a unique state in many ways, Louisiana is also reflective of American politics generally. Bob has seen many politicians come and go, which is why it's worrying that he fears for this country's political future more than ever.  


Music used: "Every Man a King," originally by Huey Long, performed by Randy Newman; "Louisiana, 1927," by Randy Newman; Professor Longhair, "Go to the Mardi Gras"; and in the outro, "Iko Iko" by Dr. John.