Edwin W. Edwards, the only four-term governor in Louisiana’s history, a swashbuckling rogue who charmed voters with his escapades and survived a score of grand jury investigations and two corruption trials before going to prison in 2002 for racketeering, has died. He was 93.
The death was confirmed by Daniel Small, Mr. Edwards’s former lawyer. Mr. Small did not specify the cause.
In January 2011, Mr. Edwards was released from a federal prison in Oakdale, La., after serving more than eight years of a 10-year sentence for bribery and extortion by rigging Louisiana’s riverboat casino licensing process during his last term in office.
Six months later he married. And in the fall, he rode in an open convertible through cheering crowds waving Edwards-for-governor signs at an election-day barbecue. “As you know, they sent me to prison for life,” he told them. “But I came back with a wife.”
Before Mr. Edwards, no one had ever been elected to more than two terms as governor of Louisiana. Indeed, the state constitution prohibits more than two consecutive terms. But from 1972 to 1996, with a couple of four-year furloughs to stoke up his improbable comebacks, Mr. Edwards was the undisputed king of Baton Rouge, a Scripture-quoting, nonsmoking teetotaler who once considered life as a preacher.
In a state where it has always been good politics to wink at a little wickedness, Mr. Edwards, the silver-haired, bilingual son of French Creole sharecroppers and a relentless electoral and legislative infighter, was perhaps the most dominant political force since Huey Long, the radical populist known as the Kingfish, who was assassinated at the State Capitol in 1935.
Courting votes in a bayou drawl with Cajun-inflected pledges to “laissez les bons temps rouler” (“let the good times roll”), Mr. Edwards — who avoided the prototypical political sins of self righteousness and talked the way plain folks did over gumbo and crawfish pie — rose from a local council to the State Senate to a seat in Congress and the governor’s mansion in 17 years.
A complete obituary will be published shortly.