Democratic politician Edwin Edwards was born in Avoyelles Parish, near Marksville, Louisiana, on August 7, 1927. He attended Louisiana State University and LSU Law School, graduating with his law degree in 1949. In 1954, Edwards was elected to the Crowley City Council (Louisiana), and in 1964, he won election to the Louisiana State Senate. The following year, he took over T. Ashton Thompson's seat in the U.S. House of Representatives to represent Louisiana's 7th District. He served in the House until 1972, when he was inaugurated to the Louisiana governorship. Edwards served four terms as governor (1972-80; 1984-96), during which time he stood trial for, but wasn't convicted of, charges stemming from a lucrative scandal involving hospital licenses. In 1998, Edwards was convicted on several charges stemming from a casino license scheme, and subseqeuntly served a two-year sentence. In 2013, he and his wife, Trina Scott Edwards, became the focus of an A&E Network television series, The Governor's Wife.
Early Life and Career
Edwin Washington Edwards was born in Avoyelles Parish, near Marksville, Louisiana, on August 7, 1927, and was raised Roman Catholic by French-speaking sharecroppers, Clarence W. Edwards and Agnès (Brouillette) Edwards. After briefly attending Louisiana State University, Edwin Edwards enlisted in the U.S. Navy, where he was trained as an aviation cadet during the final months of World War II. He later returned to his alma mater to attend LSU Law School, where he graduated with a law degree in 1949.
Edwards went on to practice law in Crowley, Louisiana, where he was elected to the Crowley City Council in 1954. Around this same time, he began serving as an ad hoc judge of the Crowley City Court. He was re-elected to the Crowley City Council in 1958.
In 1964, Edwards was elected to the Louisiana State Senate, serving until 1965, when he won election to the U.S. House of Representatives; he succeeded T. Ashton Thompson (who died in a car accident in 1965) to represent Louisiana's 7th District, and served in that position until 1972.
In 1971, Edwards was elected to the Louisiana governorship—his victory was largely bolstered by a combination of "Cajun" and black votes—and went on to serve two consecutive terms, from 1972 to 1980. Edwards garnered public acclaim for several accomplishments as governor, including revising Louisiana's severance tax on crude oil, which increased revenues for the state, and spearheading an effort to replace the antiquated Louisiana Constitution of 1921. A constitutional convention redrew the constitution and sent the new draft to voters in 1973; voters passed the new constitution in 1974, and it went into effect the following year.
Edwards was elected to a third term as governor in 1983, and won a fourth and final term in 1991. His third term was marked by decreases in oil prices and state revenues, as well as federal indictments for mail fraud, obstruction of justice and public bribery brought by U.S. Attorney John Volz; Edwards was accused of a scandal involving the sale of hospital licenses that produced nearly $2 million. He stood trial for the charges in 1985 and again in 1986, but was never convicted.
Edwards's state reign ended in 1996. During his tenure as governor, he was the only American political leader to have served at all three levels of government (local, state and national) and in all three branches of government (executive, legislative and judicial).
During the end of his final term, a new investigation of Edwards's financial transactions began. In 1998, a federal grand jury indicted the former govenor, as well as his son, Stephen Edwards, and four colleagues, on counts of racketeering, extortion, money laundering, mail fraud and wire fraud stemming from a scheme that involved the illegal production riverboat casino licenses in exchange for millions of dollars. Edwards was convicted on 17 of 26 charges; his son, Stephen, was found guilty of 18 charges. Edwards subseqeuntly served a two-year sentence, 2002 to 2004, at the Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas.
In 2013, the 85-year-old Edwards and his wife, 34-year-old Trina Scott Edwards, became the focus of a new television series produced by A&E Networks, The Governor's Wife. The series, which is slated to premiere in the summer of 2013, will follow the couple as they redefine a "new normal" in the new South.
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