The Honorable former Gov. Edwin Edwards
Inducted on August 04, 2012
Edwin Washington Edwards, born August 7, 1927, served as the Governor of Louisiana for four terms (1972–1980, 1984–1988 and 1992–1996), twice as many terms as any other Louisiana chief executive. Edwards was also Louisiana's first Roman Catholic governor in the 20th century.
The young Edwards had originally planned on a career as a preacher. He served in the U.S. Navy Air Corps near the end of World War II. After his return from the military, he graduated at the age of 21 from Louisiana State University Law Center and began practicing law in Crowley. He relocated to Crowley in 1949 after his sister Audrey (who had moved there with her husband) told him there were few French-speaking attorneys in the southwestern Louisiana community. Edwards' career was thus helped by his being articulate in both English and Cajun French.
In 1949, Edwards married Elaine Schwartzenburg. While Governor, he appointed Elaine to the Senate to fill out the unfinished term of Allen Ellender, who died while in office. Edwin and Elaine had four children: Anna Edwards, Victoria Edwards, Stephen Edwards and David Edwards.
In 1954, Edwards entered politics through his election to the Crowley City Council. Edwards remained on the Crowley council until his election to the Louisiana State Senate in 1964; in that race he defeated 20-year incumbent Bill Cleveland in a major political upset.
After serving in the state senate as a floor leader for Governor John McKeithen, Edwards was elected to the United States House of Representatives, where he served from 1965 to 1972.
Edwards was one of the few Southern congressmen to support the extension of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In the election of 1971–1972, Edwards won the state governorship after finishing first in a field of seventeen candidates in the Democratic primary. His greatest support came from southern Louisiana, particularly among its large numbers of Cajun, Creole, and African-American voters. The victory showed that south Louisiana was eclipsing the north in both population and hence the future political domination of the state.
Both in his liberal political rhetoric and in his flamboyant public persona, Edwards cast himself as a Louisiana populist. One of his first acts was to call for a constitutional convention to overhaul Louisiana's bulky charter. For the first time, Louisiana operated with a "cabinet style" executive department in lieu of the hundreds of boards and commissions that had existed for decades, each being its own fiefdom.
During his first two terms in office, Edwards developed a reputation for being one of the most colorful politicians in the history of a state known for its unorthodox political figures. Charismatic, well-dressed, and quick with clever one-liners and retorts, Edwards maintained wide popularity.
On July 29, 2011, Edwards married Trina Grimes Scott at the Monteleone Hotel in New Orleans. When the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame opened in Winnfield in 1993, Edwards was among the first inductees. On February 19, 2012, Edwards served as the King of the Spanish Town Mardi Gras parade in Baton Rouge.