Edwin Edwards, who died Monday at 93, is praised by Louisiana politicians

By: - July 12, 2021 1:25 pm

Former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards, 93, who served four terms as governor of Louisiana. In this file photo from 2014, the 86-year-old Edwards announces his run for U.S. Congress at the Belle of Baton Rouge Hotel in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Edwards spent eight years in prision following a felony conviction arising from the licensing of riverboat casinos in his fourth term as Governor. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Politicians from across Louisiana’s political spectrum expressed their condolences Monday following the news that Edwin Edwards, Acadiana’s political superstar who served four terms as Louisiana governor and eight years in federal prison for corruption, died early that morning at 93. The news of the former governor’s death was announced by the family in a written statement. Edwards died at his home in Gonzales “of respiratory problems that had plagued him in recent years.”

In a statement, Gov. John Bel Edwards (no relation), said, “Few people have made such an indelible mark on our state as Governor Edwin Edwards. At just 17, he joined the Navy during World War II, beginning a lifetime of service to his state and country. He represented Louisiana’s 7th congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives and served as the state’s only four-term governor, leading Louisiana through pivotal years of growth including launching efforts to create the state’s current constitution.

“Gov. Edwards was a fervent supporter of civil rights and ensured that his administration was as diverse as Louisiana, a commitment I have also made as governor. Edwin was a larger than life figure known for his wit and charm, but he will be equally remembered for being a compassionate leader who cared for the plight of all Louisianans,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “Our state has lost a giant, and we will miss him dearly. Donna and I send our deepest condolences to his wife, Trina, family and all who were blessed to call him a friend and ask everyone to join us in praying for God to comfort them during this difficult time.”

Gov. John Bel Edwards said flags will be flown at half mast until the day of the former governor’s interment.

Edwin Edwards was a Democrat, but the state’s leading Republicans issued statements praising his wit and compassion and commitment to helping the less fortunate.

In a written statement, Senate President Patrick “Page” Cortez called him “a trailblazer for the state of Louisiana…. His influence was greatly felt especially through his yearning to help minority groups and those less fortunate. His charm and wit along with his political fortitude will certainly be very much a part of his legacy.”

Louisiana House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, who once worked as a mechanic, said “The thing I admired most about him is whether I was working as a mechanic or serving as a Speaker of the House he treated me no different. He won over the people of Louisiana with a big personality and with compassion, holding the longest-running reign as governor to prove it.  He stood up for what he believed whether it was the popular opinion or not and led our great state through both trying times and through days of great strength. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him. I extend my thoughts and prayers to his family during this difficult time. May they find peace in knowing he lived a full life.”

Rep. Clay Higgins said: “Governor Edwards was an icon of Louisiana politics. His life and service will be long remembered. Our prayers are with his family.”

Mary Landrieu, a Democrat who served three terms as U.S. Senator for Louisiana, tweeted, “Edwin Edwards was a gifted and talented politician who advanced the cause of racial and social justice in Louisiana at pivotal moments in our history. His rise from very humble beginnings to the highest office in our state, attest to his skill, intelligence and charisma. We are grateful for his many positive contributions to our state.”

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Republican, tweeted, “Edwin Edwards led a remarkable life that will surely not be repeated. Louisiana is praying for him and his family today.”

U.S. Rep. Troy Carter (D-New Orleans) posted a photo of him and the two governors named Edwards and wrote, “Rest In Peace, Gov. Edwin Edwards!

State Rep. Scott McKnight (R-Baton Rouge), wrote on Twitter,  “Elizabeth & I offer our deepest condolences to Gov. Edwards’ loved ones. Many political giants have come before us, but Gov. Edwin Edwards was unlike any other. His legacy and leadership have forever shaped our state and our history books. Please join us as we pray for his family.”

Edwards last won elected office in 1991.  He defeated former Ku Klux Klan Wizard David Duke.  In a statement released Monday afternoon, state Rep. Sam Jenkins, a Shreveport Democrat who serves as the leader of the House Democratic Caucus, wrote, “Throughout his storied political career, the governor fought to improve the lives of Louisiana’s working people and was a strong supporter of civil rights. Famously, he showed that racists like David Duke have no place in Louisiana politics. In later years, Governor Edwards happily provided sage advice to new generations of Louisiana leaders—regardless of political party and ideology. He never stopped working to make Louisiana a better place, and he will be dearly missed.”

Convicted in 2000 of charges that included racketeering and conspiracy, Edwards reported to prison when he was 75 and was released eight years later. In 2014, he attempted to make a political comeback, announcing a run for Congress in Louisiana’s Sixth District. Edwards led a field of 12 candidates by getting 30% of the vote, but in the runoff, he was trounced by Garret Graves who won 62% of the vote to Edwards’ 38%

Edwards, who would have turned 94 next month, announced last week that he had entered hospice care, but suggested that it didn’t necessarily mean his death was imminent. “I’ve made no bones that I have considered myself on borrowed time for 20 years and we each know that all this fun has to end at some point,” he said in a statement. “But it won’t be anytime soon for me. In fact, I am planning my 95th birthday party for next summer and hope you’ll come.”

 

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Jarvis DeBerry
Jarvis DeBerry

Jarvis DeBerry, former editor of the Louisiana Illuminator, spent 22 years at The Times-Picayune (and later NOLA.com) as a crime and courts reporter, an editorial writer, columnist and deputy opinions editor. He was on the team of Times-Picayune journalists awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service after that team’s coverage of Hurricane Katrina and the deadly flood that followed. In addition to the shared Pulitzer, DeBerry has won awards from the Louisiana Bar Association for best trial coverage and awards from the New Orleans Press Club, the Louisiana/ Mississippi Associated Press and the National Association of Black Journalists for his columns. A collection of his Times-Picayune columns, “I Feel to Believe” was published by the University of New Orleans Press in September 2020.

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