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Former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards dies at age 93

Published: Jul. 12, 2021 at 7:51 AM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WVUE) - Former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Washington Edwards has died at the age of 93.

Edwards died peacefully Monday morning at his home in Gonzales with family and friends by his bedside.

Edwards was less than a month short of his 94th birthday.

Family spokesman Leo Honeycutt released a statement Monday:

Last Monday, Edwards had placed himself in hospice care following a trip the day before by ambulance to nearby Our Lady of the Lake St. Elizabeth Hospital with complaints of pain in his right lung. Physicians took X-rays and a CAT scan of both lungs but said the tests revealed nothing.

In placing himself in hospice, the former governor explained he was saving others the trouble of his repeated trips to the hospital.

“Since I have been in and out of hospitals in recent years with pneumonia and other respiratory problems, causing a lot of people a lot of trouble, I have decided to retain the services of qualified hospice doctors and nurses at my home.”

Family placed a hospital bed in his bedroom at the Edwards home in Pelican Point subdivision where he was administered 24-hour care. No intravenous tubes or heart monitor were used, only oxygen was administered. He had stopped eating two days earlier. The former governor stopped breathing at 7:00 this morning, surrounded by his wife Trina and son Eli, his hospice nurse Peggy Gautreau, and other close family and friends. Louisiana House Speaker Clay Schexnayder and his wife Phoebe were part of the small group holding vigil overnight.

Among Edwards’ last words were, “I have lived a good life, had better breaks than most, had some bad breaks, too, but that’s all part of it. I tried to help as many people as I could and I hope I did that, and I hope, if I did, that they will help others, too. I love Louisiana and I always will.”

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Earlier in the week, the former governor commented, “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.” For him, that time was shortly after daybreak this morning.

His widow, Trina Scott Edwards, said, “He was so optimistic all the time. Nothing bothered him except bothering other people. It’s heartbreaking for me because I know he so wanted to make Eli’s 8th birthday party August 1.” Eli Wallace Edwards, 7-years-old, is the late governor’s fifth child. The Edwards’ would’ve been married ten years on July 29.

Mrs. Edwards added, “His last words were to Eli. Eli told him every night, ‘I love you.’ And he told Eli, ‘I love you, too.’ Those were his last words.”

Edwin Edwards’ oldest child, Anna Edwards, said, “I am heartbroken at the loss of my father. He was a profound influence in my life and I will always miss him. His passing will create a huge void, but I sincerely thank everyone who expressed love and concern. He touched the lives of many fellow Louisianans and I know he will be remembered with great fondness.”

Son Stephen Edwards, who worked alongside his father in the Edwards Law Firm, said, “My dad never saw color and never turned his back on anyone in need. He helped all -especially me. He was an infallible pillar of strength but he kept a piece of tremendous pain for the rest of his life for the murder of his baby brother Nolan. Dad’s successes made him a legend but his losses made him human and his humanity made him easy to love. Louisiana has lost the love of its life. Goodbye Dad.”

Edwards was undoubtedly one of the most colorful politicians to serve in the state. He did not run from controversy, he embraced it as opportunity.

The former governor entered hospice on Sunday (July 4) after a visit to St. Elizabeth’s hospital near his home in Gonzales.

Edwards political ambitions started as a child, but he would spend a brief time in the U.S. Navy then complete LSU Law School at age 21 before his itch for elected office would become too strong to ignore.

He spent time on the Crowley City Council, the Louisiana State Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives with his sights always set on the governor’s mansion in Baton Rouge.

He wanted to be in politics and voters wanted him.

Edwards was sworn in by his brother, in both French and English, in 1972 as Louisiana’s 50th governor. He served two terms.

The state prospered during the 1970′s oil boom.

His third term came in 1984 when he unseated Republican incumbent Dave Treen.

Edwards had swagger and flaunted his one-liners on the campaign trail. During that race saying, “The only way I can lose this election is if I’m caught in bed with either a dead girl or live boy.”

In 1985, he scored an even bigger touchdown. He convinced Tom Benson to purchase the New Orleans Saints and keep the NFL team from leaving town.

But federal prosecutors were after Edwards. That same year, the governor stood trial on charges of mail fraud, obstruction of justice and bribery over allegations of illegal dealings involving state hospitals.

After two trials, he was acquitted in 1986.

Edwards took a break from the governor’s mansion until he would go up against the former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan David Duke in 1991.

It was a landslide victory for Edwards.

In his fourth term, Edwards pushed for casino gambling in Louisiana - one land-based casino in New Orleans and 15 casino riverboat licenses.

But the rise of gambling would lead to the governor’s fall. Two years after leaving office, the feds indicted him again for racketeering along with his son, Stephen, for extorting millions of dollars from businesses seeking to win lucrative riverboat casino licenses in Louisiana.

“The Chinese have a saying that if you sit by the river long enough, the dead body of your enemy will come floating down the river. I suppose the feds sat by the river long enough, and here comes my body,” Edwards said.

Edwards always insisted he was innocent. This time, a jury disagreed.

“All I did that I shouldn’t have done was to trust my friends. And I’m not the first person or the last to be betrayed by friends,” Edwards said.

At the age of 76, in 2002, Edwards reported to a federal prison where he would spend the next 8 years. Stephen also went to jail.

“I never was investigated for stealing money from the state and never was accused of it and take it to bed I never was convicted of it. Whatever my problems are or were, they did not and do not and will not involve taking money from the people of this state,” Edwards decreed.

He authorized Leo Honeycutt to write his biography from behind bars. Honeycutt wrote about all aspects of his life, including his reputation as a womanizer, but said his two ex-wives paid him regular visits in jail.

“Elaine (and) he was married for 40 years, and Candy I think was about eight years. And you know, they both still love him,” Honecutt said. “I asked him what it was about Candy. You know why he felt he needed to marry her? And he said, you know, I thought about that a lot myself and he said I think it’s basically because she just needed me.”

Ironically, it was in jail where his relationship with his third wife began. It started with Trina Grimes Scott writing him letters, then paying him visits.

“For one solid year, every Saturday and every Sunday on Christmas, on Thanksgiving, every time we had a business day, she showed up at 8 o’clock in the morning and stayed until 3(p.m.). And I’ll never forget that, that is something I’ll never forget because it meant so much to me,” Edwards said.

Scott said many of the former governor’s qualities and quirks drew her to him. Just months after he was released from prison and a halfway house, the two got married in New Orleans.

At the age of 85, he was not ready to give up the limelight. In 2013, he and Trina welcomed their first child, Eli.

That same year, they launched a reality television show called The Governor’s Wife. The show was cancelled the same year.

In 2014, the four term Louisiana governor decided he would try to make a comeback.

“I will be a candidate for congress in the Sixth Congressional District this year,” Edwards declared.

The 87-year-old came up short in the race and lived a fairly quiet life after that with his health becoming more of a concern. He was hospitalized several times with pneumonia, blood sugar issues and dehydration.

Through it all, he never lost his sense of humor and often said his life after politics and prison was exactly how he hoped it would be.

“The thing that mystifies me is that the people of this state could be as forgiving and understanding and compassionate as they have been to me. You know while I was in prison, I spent many nights wondering what it would be like when I got out because I had such a good relationship with people in Louisiana before all that business happened and now I find out it’s even better than I thought it could be and in many ways, better than it ever was,” Edwards said.

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