Cathy Long, former U.S. Representative, wife of Gillis Long, dies at 95

Former U.S. Representative Catherine Long (Photo Credit: George H. Long Photography)

WASHINGTON (KALB) - Former U.S. Representative Cathy Long, who was married to Gillis Long, died Saturday morning. She was 95.

A native of Dayton, Ohio, Long came to Louisiana after serving in the Navy to attend LSU. There, she met her husband Gillis, and the two were married in 1947.

Gillis Long went on to become an 8-term Congressman, and upon his death in 1985, Cathy was urged to by supporters to succeed him, which she did by winning a special election.

A strong supporter of women's rights, Long wrote and often presented a speech entitled "From Adam’s Rib to Women’s Lib" during the effort to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

A memorial service for Cathy Long will be held at All Souls Church Unitarian in Washington, D.C. at 11 a.m. on Dec. 7. Her family intends to cast ashes in the Mississippi River on Mardi Gras, into the Potomac River on Easter, and in the Caribbean Sea near San Pedro, Belize where she loved to fish and scuba dive.

Her family asks that donations be made to her church at all-souls.org or to Miriam’s Kitchen at miriamskitchen.org.

Below is her full obituary:

Former U.S. Representative Cathy Long died this morning in Chevy Chase, Maryland at the age of 95. The cause of death was dementia.

Mary Catherine Small was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1924. Concerned for her country and with an adventurous spirit, at age 20 she joined the Navy, serving for two years at the Naval Hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas during World War II, earning the rank of Pharmacist’s Mate 2nd Class. Upon completion of her service and eager to take advantage of the GI Bill, she moved to Baton Rouge to join a Navy friend and attend Louisiana State University, where she received a B.A. in sociology. In 1947, Cathy Small married Gillis Long, a decorated World War II veteran, LSU Student Body President, eventual two-time candidate for Governor of Louisiana and elected to eight terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Cathy’s early career included working on Capitol Hill for Senator Wayne Morris and others. She also worked for an event management company giving speeches, arranging programs and fundraisers for candidates and organizations such as Special Olympics, and giving tours of Washington. She served as a delegate to two Democratic National Conventions and was a member of the Louisiana State Central Committee. She was a loyal Democrat and steadfast campaigner for her husband.

During the effort to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, Cathy wrote and often presented a speech entitled ‘From Adam’s Rib to Women’s Lib’. She worked for women’s equality with well-known feminists of the day including Betty Friedan, Geraldine Ferraro, and her dear friend Lindy Boggs. She traveled with Lady Bird Johnson during her 1964 Whistlestop Tour of the South.

In 1985, Gillis died while serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, a position he held for 14 years. His supporters believed Cathy to be the logical choice to succeed him, having served as his campaign surrogate, speechwriter, and close advisor. She easily won the special election to fill his seat in March of that year, defeating four formidable candidates and carrying every parish in the district. As a U.S. Congresswoman she worked on issues impacting women and minorities but chose not to seek re–election.

After leaving Congress, Cathy volunteered for many years at Miriam’s Kitchen serving food to the homeless and as a reading tutor. She was passionate about her church and spending time with family and grandchildren. She loved art, music, and theatre and never ceased to appreciate the natural beauty around her.

Cathy lived in Washington for 25 years. She moved from the Watergate Apartments to Brighton Gardens assisted living facility in Chevy Chase, Maryland to be closer to family. She proudly led a veterans group for her fellow residents at Brighton Gardens. Her family is deeply grateful for the care she received there and also the staff of JSSA Hospice.

She is preceded in death by her parents Erma and Sydney Small and sister Patty Altice. She is survived by her son George (Courtney), daughter Janis, son-in-law Hank Savage, grandsons Dana and Connor Savage, brother-in-law Ernie Altice and nephews Jim and Jeff Altice (Mimi), nephews Frank Jr. (Brenda) and Mark Long Fletcher (Paul), and nieces Peggy Long Pierce (Steve) and Judy Fletcher Leary.

Photographs and remembrances are being shared on the Facebook page Friends of Cathy Long. Her family intends to cast ashes into the Potomac River on Easter, in the Mississippi River on Mardi Gras, and in the Caribbean Sea near San Pedro, Belize where she loved to fish and scuba dive.

A memorial service will be held at All Souls Church Unitarian in Washington, D.C. at 11 am on December 7, 2019. Her family asks that you consider a donation to her church at all-souls.org or to Miriam’s Kitchen at miriamskitchen.org.