Former Louisiana Governor Edwin W. Edwards died early Monday at his home in Gonzales with his family by his bedside.
Louisiana’s only four-term governor passed away from respiratory problems that grew worse in recent months. Edwards was less than a month away from his 94th birthday.
Highlighting the former governor's impact on the state and expressing condolences to his family, Gov. John Bel Edwards (no relation) commented, "Few people have made such an indelible mark on our state as 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. 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."
Rep. Julia Letlow, who represents Washington Parish and other parishes in Congress, said:
“I want to express my condolences to the family of Gov. Edwin Edwards and his countless friends across Louisiana. He lived a long and remarkable life that took him from rural Avoyelles Parish to the Governor’s Mansion and left a lasting impact on our state. Like many, I will remember him as a true Louisiana original for bringing his own unique style to our politics and embodying our state’s joie de vivre."
Edwards spent more than 8 years in prison before being released in 2011. He was convicted of taking bribes, although he always maintained that he was innocent.
Last week Edwards 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 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 (Monday), surrounded by his wife Trina and son Eli and other close family and friends.
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 Edwardses would’ve been married ten years on July 29.
“He was this generation’s Huey Long,” said Edwards biographer Leo Honeycutt who was also at the governor’s bedside. “He cared about people who didn’t have a voice and he stood up to those who did. He accomplished everything on the list of the Public Affairs Research Council within his first term, including defeating energy interests in 1974 when he changed the severance tax from 25-cents a barrel to 12.5% of value. That change made Louisiana the most cash-rich state in the nation at the time while New York City was going bankrupt.”
Funeral arrangements are pending, according to the family, but will include lying in state in the rotunda at the Louisiana State Capitol for visitation by the public. The day has not been set.
Edwin Washington Edwards was Louisiana’s only four-term governor and one of only eleven such governors in U.S. history. He served from 1972 to 1980; 1984 to 1988; and 1992 to 1996. Born in Marksville in Avoyelles Parish on August 7, 1927, as the Great ’27 Flood receded, in 1944, Edwards joined the U.S. Navy when he was 17.
He became a Navy pilot but, as his squadron was deploying to the Pacific, Japan surrendered, ending World War II.
Edwards graduated from LSU Law School in 1949, served two terms as a Crowley City Councilman in Acadia Parish; one term in the Louisiana Senate as a floor leader for Governor John McKeithen; one term in Congress; and four terms as governor.
Governor John Bel Edwards said flags will be flown at half-staff from now through the day of the funeral.
Funeral arrangements have been finalized for former Louisiana Governor Edwin W. Edwards, who passed away early Monday at the age of 93. He was Louisiana's only four-term governor.
Edwards will lie in state at the State Capitol in Baton Rouge from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. this Saturday (July 17). The viewing is open to the public. In respect to the former governor, the family has asked that there be no photos taken or videos made.
On Sunday, July 18, there will be a private funeral service at the Old State Capitol in Baton Rouge. Edwards' body will be transported from the State Capitol to the Old State Capitol in a processional that begins at noon, followed by the private funeral service.
While the actual funeral service is private, everyone is welcome to view the solemn funeral processional. Edwards will be taken to the Old State Capitol in a horse-drawn carriage, escorted by a law enforcement motorcade and the Southern University Marching Band.
With the death of Edwin Edwards, Bobby Jindal is now the only living former Louisiana governor, following the recent deaths of Buddy Roemer, Mike Foster, and Kathleen Babineaux Blanco.