WASHINGTON — Sen. Russell B. Long (D-La.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, announced unexpectedly Monday that he will retire at the end of his current term in January, 1987.
Long, 66, speaking to reporters at a news conference in his Senate office, said: "At some point, I think the good Lord permits you to live a long life, and, if the people are good to you, a senator ought to consider at what point he ought to retire.
"And that's my decision," Long said.
Long, son of the famous "Kingfish" of Louisiana politics, Gov. Huey P. Long, was elected to the Senate to fill a vacancy and began his service on Dec. 31, 1948. He is second in seniority in the Senate behind John C. Stennis (D-Miss.).
He inherited the rough, shrewd political savvy of his father and his uncle, Earl, another Louisiana governor, retaining the guile and folksiness but refining the rough edges to fit into Washington power circles.
Long, dubbed the "Princefish" early in his Senate career, overcame years of heavy drinking and erratic behavior--which coincided with the breakup of his first marriage--and, for a time, used the chairmanship of the Finance Committee as a base of power. He was chairman of that committee for 15 years.
"It's been my life for 36 years, and I love this body," Long said.