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Friends & former state lawmakers remember former Gov. Edwin Edwards

Edwards was Louisiana’s only four-term governor
Published: Jul. 12, 2021 at 6:51 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Close friends of former Gov. Edwin Edwards are mourning his loss while reflecting on his legacy of standing up for working-class and poor Louisianans.

Edwards, a Democrat, was a populist who served four terms as Louisiana governor.

Former state Senate President John Alario, who also served as Louisiana House Speaker, spent time with Edwards during the final hours of his life.

“Men have a difficult time telling another man we love you, but at least I had an opportunity to tell him. We held hands and he acknowledged me, knew I was there, and stayed with him a while,” said Alario.

Former journalist Leo Honeycutt is Edwards’ official biographer. Honeycutt was also with Edwards near the end.

“I was there all afternoon yesterday and last night and we slowly watched him go down,” said Honeycutt.

Edwards died peacefully at his home on Monday morning, according to his family. He was 93.

Honeycutt said Edwards kept his humor until the end.

“Last Monday he was very lucid and joking, I mean we were trying to get him off the bed, he needed to move around and so the hospice nurse was with him and Trina was on one side and I was pulling from the front and he stopped me and he said you know I’m running again and I said, what and he said I’m running for the bathroom so get out of the way, so he kept his sense of humor right up to the end,” said Honeycutt.

Honeycutt recalled how he would travel to a federal prison where Edwards was sent after being convicted in 2000 of corruption to work on the Edward’s biography.

“He was happy with it, but we did have some knockdown drag-out about certain things, wiretaps and the 2000 trial and testimony and that kind of thing, but I said you better throw it all in there,” said Honeycutt.

Alario who is the former dean of the legislature credits Edwards with getting him to the House Speakership.

“Edwin was easy to work with, he believed in the legislature having this particular role; he returned phone calls religiously,” said Alario.

He said Edwards governed with the people in mind.

“What I remember was special about Edwards was his true feelings for the poor and working people of this state,” said Alario. For those who needed help the most, those he cared for tremendously and would not ever turn his back on them,” said Alario.

Former senator Francis Heitmeier was in the legislature during two of Edwards’ terms as governor.

“He had more charisma than you imagine, he was born for politics. It was a pleasure working with him all those years,” said Heitmeier.

He said Edwards helped the New Orleans area.

“I was with him in two terms and if I went to him for something he would give it to me, if he could not, he would just tell me I can’t do it, already promised to somebody else but he helped us with drainage over here, he helped us with roads,” Heitmeier stated.

Glynn Boyd, also a former journalist, says Edwards caught his attention when he was a child, and later, he would cover Edwards and become a close friend.

“I said to myself, I’d really like to meet those guys, how can I do that? So, it kind of thrust me, one of the things that thrust me into journalism, Edwin Edwards, Jimmy Fitzmorris, and some of these powerhouses I would see on television, and I’ll never forget in the 4th grade we ran a Students for Edwin Edwards Campaign, and our slogan was Edwin Edwards, he’s our man,” said Boyd.

Boyd said even when he was a young reporter Edwards made him feel comfortable.

“And I was just a cub reporter when I first met him out of Lafayette and he, I’m standing way in the back and that sort of thing and he was giving some of the reporters the business, and I’m like I’m not going to ask this guy a question because he was so sharp, you know, I was afraid to ask him a question until we built that trust,” said Boyd. “The David Duke campaign, the Edwards-Duke campaign, I met a lot of folks in his campaign, a lot of sources and I was able to once he won, I was able to get those sources to put me close to Edwin Edwards, and from there we had a professional relationship and a friendship as well from that time.”

Boyd had lunch with Edwards recently along with some other close friends.

“And, I was surprised because I hadn’t seen him in months and to see him in the wheelchair really kind of just brought things home to me that Edwards must be really sick because he wasn’t walking and he didn’t say much, he just gave me the thumbs-up and gave me that patent Edwin Edwards smile but everybody showed him, love,” said Boyd.

Alario said Edwards’ legacy is much more than his legal problems.

“I’m sure that will be one chapter in his life, but I think the overall good he did will certainly overcome that. We all count on forgiveness as a virtue and hoping that that comes about for us,” Alario stated.

And Heitmeier says Edwards’ intelligence cannot be overstated.

“He was one of the brightest men I’ve ever known in my life. You could tell him something, six months later he would come and say you told me this last time,” said Heitmeier.

Honeycutt and Alario say Edwards was eager to forgive others.

“He never held a grudge at the times, as many stones as people would throw at him, he never seemed to hold a grudge and worked with lots of people across all kinds of party lines,” said Alario.

“We were doing one of the interviews one day in the prison and he said you know how to live a long life, he said don’t hold a grudge,” said Honeycutt.

Honeycutt said Edwards asked him to do the eulogy. Honeycutt said he initially said it should be Alario or one of the other legislators Edwards was close to but finally gave in to Edwards’ wishes.

“He said you know me better than anybody so you might as well go ahead and do it since it’s not going to be that hard for you to write,” said Honeycutt.

He said funeral arrangements will be finalized soon. He said Edwards’ body will be brought to the state capitol building.

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