BATON ROUGE -- American flags lined streets in downtown Baton Rouge as people came to pay their final respects to a “larger than life” Gov. Edwin Edwards, Louisiana’s only four-term governor who was honored in a funeral procession and service on Sunday, July 18.
Edwards passed away July 12 at the age of 93 after placing himself in hospice care due to respiratory problems that had plagued him in recent years. He died in his Gonzales home less than a month from his 94th birthday.
Edwards’ body lay in honor on Saturday, July 17, at the State Capitol, where people from all walks of life were allowed in for public viewing. On Sunday, a private service was held at the Old State Capitol for family members and friends following a procession through the downtown area.
“A son of Louisiana, the state’s only four-term governor, a man who seemed larger than life,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said of the late governor in his eulogy. “As he once said, he was both a realist and a dreamer who often dreamed of a better world – and worked to make it so.
“I believe his service to our state and nation are proof of everything he worked so hard to achieve. In his words, – ‘without fear of contradiction’- he left his mark on every part of Louisiana.”
A native of Marksville who would later serve in the U.S. Navy, Edwards was the only Louisiana governor elected to serve four terms. He served in the state’s top position from 1972 to 1980, from 1984 to 1988, and then from 1992 to 1996.
Known for his charm, quick wit, and clever one-liners, he served two terms as a Crowley City Councilman in Acadia Parish; one term in the Louisiana Senate as a floor leader; one term in Congress; and four terms as governor. He was a 1949 graduate of LSU Law School.
An honor guard carried Edwards’ casket down the steps of the State Capitol a little after noon on Sunday. The casket, draped in an American flag, was then placed in a black horse-drawn carriage that made the one-mile journey to the Old State Capitol.
A convoy of police officers and sheriff’s deputies on motorcycles led the carriage through downtown Baton Rouge, past community members who stood on both sides of the streets and a plethora of American flags. Bagpipes played in front of the carriage, while the Southern University marching band played from the rear.
During the funeral, which was closed to the public and media, Gov. John Bel Edwards talked of the late governor’s “humble beginnings” as the son of a sharecropper in Avoyelles Parish.
He commended Edwards’ “deep love for Louisiana,” which was shown in the 1973 Constitutional Convention that led to the adoption of the current state constitution, modernizing Louisiana’s economy, and actively supporting and signing legislation establishing the 8-g (education) Fund into law.
Gov. John Bel Edwards also remarked on the late governor’s belief that “quality healthcare is a right that everyone should be able to access – not the privileged few.” He noted Edwards’ support of the charity hospital system by making sure that it was adequately funded.
“His life and contributions to our great state will always be cherished,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said.