Louisiana bids farewell to former Governor Edwin Edwards

Greg Hilburn
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

Louisiana said goodbye to its only four-term governor, Edwin Edwards, over the weekend as he was eulogized Sunday at the Old State Capitol during a private funeral service.

Edwards died Monday from respiratory complications. He was 93.

His legacy was tarnished by corruption convictions related to the issuing of casino licenses for which he served more than eight years in federal prison.

Funeral procession for former Gov. Edwin W. Edwards in Baton Rouge, La., Sunday, July 18, 2021.

The charismatic Cajun rogue was the state’s last populist Democratic governor in the tradition of Huey Long and Earl Long, serving consecutive terms from 1972 to 1980 and single terms from 1984 to 1988 and 1992 to 1996.

Before that he served as a state senator from Crowley and then represented Acadiana in Congress from 1965 to 1972.

“I’ve had a great life,” Edwards said in an interview with USA Today Network on his 90th birthday in 2017. “I've been around the world six times and in every state and there's not a better place in America and the world than Louisiana.”

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At noon Sunday an honor guard of the Louisiana State Police brought Edwards' body down the Capitol steps, where he had lain in honor on Saturday for public visitation, and placed the casket on a horse-drawn open carriage.

Edwards' wife, Trina, the couple's 7-year-old son, Eli, and the former governor's adult children, Stephen, Victoria, Anna and David, followed the casket from the Capitol.

Funeral procession for former Gov. Edwin W. Edwards in Baton Rouge, La., Sunday, July 18, 2021.

The funeral procession traveled south on Fourth Street and turned right on North Boulevard to the Old State Capitol.

An honor guard removed the casket from the carriage at the west entrance of Louisiana’s 170-year-old Old State Capitol and escorted the body up to the second-floor former Louisiana House Chamber.

No cameras or reporters were admitted inside, but the program was provided by the family.

The Rev. Anthony Mangun, senior pastor of The Pentecostals of Alexandria and long-time Edwards family friend, began the service with a prayer. His wife, Mickey Mangun, sang “The Long & Winding Road.”

Among the speakers were Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser and Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Funeral procession for former Gov. Edwin W. Edwards' in Baton Rouge, LA. Sunday, July 18, 2021.

"As we lay Gov. Edwin Edwards to rest today, may we celebrate his dedication and love for Louisiana which led to great change for its people," Edwards tweeted before the funeral. "His impact is still felt to this very day and it will continue to be felt for years to come."

In Gov. Edwards' remarks at the funeral provided by his office, he said: "You know like I know that Edwin was smart, witty, charming, never at a loss for words. With him a sharp retort or a funny joke was always on the way. When he was in the room you knew it. He was both a risk taker and a straight shooter."

"Relationships deeply mattered to him," Edwards said. "He put people over politics, something else we share and could certainly use more of today."

The Mt. Zion First Baptist Church Mass Choir closed the service singing “Total Praise” by Richard Smallwood.

A private burial was to be conducted for the family at Rest Haven Memorial Gardens in southern Baton Rouge following the service.

Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.