From today's Times and News-Star
Before this past week in Choudrant, the most recent time I’d seen former Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards in person had been Monday, Oct. 21, 2002. I wrote a story about it for Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2002, that began like this:
Former governor begins 10-year federal sentence
By Teddy Allen The Times
FORT WORTH, Texas - Thirteen minutes.
For Edwin W. Edwards, that's all the time it took between the beginning of something familiar and public - a news conference - and the beginning of something foreign and private - a 10-year prison term.
Far from the Governor's Mansion or Mardi Gras or Tiger Stadium or Las Vegas - far from happier days - Edwards began a side-of-the-road news conference just outside the grounds of the prison here by thanking the authorities for allowing him to self-surrender. "I gave my word. That's why I'm here."
The former four-term governor of Louisiana woke in his Baton Rouge home Monday, walked his dog, ate breakfast, then flew with his son David to Fort Worth. He ate a hamburger and vanilla ice cream at Chili's, then rode to the Federal Medical Center, a 33-acre prison surrounded by a 12-foot-high fence.
At 12:39 p.m., Edwards, in a green Taurus driven by his son, arrived at the prison's front gate on a non-striped road of buckling gravel. More than 25 members of the media - six satellite trucks and more than a dozen cars hugged the road's shoulders - waited.
For the next 10 minutes, 30 yards from the prison's gate, Edwards answered questions with the same off-the-cuff yet polished and composed demeanor he has perfected in more than 30 years as the state's most popular politician. He wore a warm-up outfit, a cotton sports shirt and New Balance shoes. He carried with him a folder of personal items, including a Bible and his personal journal.
Nothing about either his appearance or his delivery suggested fear of being moments away from beginning a decade-long sentence for his conviction on racketeering, extortion and fraud charges.
Just before he got in the car to ride into prison, someone asked if he’d change anything.
“My friends,” he said.
Then before he closed the car door, he said, “Don’t try to follow me in.
They might not be as nice to you as I was.”
Then to the guard’s gate, then up the hill to the prison’s front door and, eventually, to other lockups, for more than eight years.
But last week at the annual Squire Creek Peach Festival, here he was again, far removed from a state-issued jumpsuit, witty and personable, 85 and still as relaxed as he’d always appeared as a four-time governor, speaking to a welcoming luncheon crowd. He talked of how he’d first worked for the state when he was nine, giving water to a road work crew, 80 men drinking from the same dipper. And how he’d worked for the state again in his 80s, as the prison librarian.
And he talked of his wife, Trina, 50 years his junior and at home pregnant with Eli Wallace Edwards, due in August. “We’re making pins – E.W.E. 2056,” said Edwards, a man who, say what you will, did his time, and with no whining or complaint.
“The Governor’s Wife,” a reality show featuring the couple, is scheduled to premiere this summer on A&E. Maybe it will be watchable, but my guess is this: Nothing taped could ever come close to matching the real thing.