Interviews and Stories
|There are fewer and fewer people around these days who knew Loula Long Combs up close and personal. As I am out in the community, doing my historical talks, I have met several folks who encountered her briefly. There are still some individuals that knew her well, mainly when they were children at Longview Farm.|
Jim Bernard represents someone who was both mature in forming his memories and who was well placed to know Loula. His story is generously shared in this 2009 interview with me.
Loula Long Combs’
When did you Meet Loula Long Combs?
I met her toward the end of her life. I was 26-27 years old. My offices were in the Long Bell Building. When she first started seeing me I was just a young pup of a lawyer and she was very polite to me. She always called me Mr. Bernard instead of Jim. I went out to see her at Longview Farm and we became good friends. Pryor (her husband) was still alive and she was more interested in my talking to him.
Tell us about your visits to Longview Farm.
Toward the end (of her life) her sister (Sallie) and her husband (Robert Ellis) came to live with her. They had me to dinner. That was interesting. They raised flowers in their green houses and she always gave me a dozen roses to take to my wife. She found out that I liked a certain candy, I can’t even remember now what it was, but she always had them for me when I visited.
She continued to be very charming, called me Mr. Bernard, took me through the stables, while they were in operation. She really felt very close to those animals! They knew her and she gave them treats.
When I first met her she was still showing at the American Royal. She was maybe in her 60s or 70s, but soon wasn’t showing anymore. (Still,) she took me down to the stables and the horses knew her and she always gave them something to eat.
I understand you were instrumental in the formation of the R. A. Long Foundation. Please tell us about that.
Mrs. Combs gave $25,000 to $50, 000, something like that, to (create) the R. A. Long Foundation. (The foundation, in those early days, consisted of) Robert Ellis, the secretary and I, also one man on the board who is a nephew, the son of a niece.
She was pretty spoiled, you know. She was used to spending money and was not thinking of the future or being a great philanthropist like her father. I encouraged her to think about something that could outlive her and her sister. At my urging, we created the foundation. She had always supported groups like Wayside Waifs (Animal Welfare League) and was very interested in animals, more so than people.
How did any of the family fortune survive during the depression? In 1945 the KC Star reported she was worth 25 million.
The family placed its funds in things that were not owned by anyone who owed money to Long Bell.
Tell us what happened after she died.
We had lots of problems after she died. Every one wanted a piece of her (fortune). I still have things that belonged to the Longs. I still have one of Mr. Long’s original desks. It will (eventually) go to one of his grandsons.