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|Honeycutt's book remains a must-read|
(Editor's Note: This column was first published the week of Dec. 14, 2009. It was slightly edited. The column is timely in light of Gov. Edwin Edwards' scheduled release from federal prison next week.)
The much-anticipated book on the most colorful governor in the history of Louisiana has finally arrived.
Edwin Edwards: Governor of Louisiana went on sale at bookstores and the like throughout the state earlier this week. Written by veteran newsman Leo Honeycutt, the authorized biography of Louisiana's only four-term governor is available for purchase at www.edwinedwards.net. I bought a few copies from the Web site over the weekend.
In reading Honeycutt's book, I quickly discovered he did an excellent job in vividly describing Edwards' humble upbringing in a segregated Avoyelles Parish and how those early years in Avoyelles inspired the future governor to obtain a formal education as a means to live a better life some day.
After a brief stint in the Navy, Edwards earned his undergraduate and law degrees at LSU. He had a photographic memory even then.
With degrees in hand, Edwards, a newlywed, struck out for Crowley where he established his law practice and met a man who remains one of his dearest friends to this day, B.I. Moody. An accountant by trade, Moody, a conservative, was one of Edwards' first supporters politically. Their friendship transcended ideology.
Yet, a day spent with then-Sen. John Kennedy of Massachusetts at the Rice Festival in Crowley in 1959 convinced Edwards, then a Crowley city councilman, that anything was possible in politics in America. After all, Kennedy was a Catholic and on the rise in a Protestant world. Though Edwards was raised a Nazarene, he was married in a Catholic Church (first marriage) and would forever be identified as a Catholic in a state that heretofore was as much divided along religious lines as it was along racial ones.
In a few short years following his encounter with Kennedy, Edwards was serving in the state Senate, making plans to run for governor himself. As it has been said many times before, the rest is history.
Honeycutt captured that and much more in Edwin Edwards: Governor of Louisiana. The 600-plus page book was entertaining and educational, including an in-depth look at the chain of events that led to Edwards receiving a 10-year prison sentence stemming from a riverboat gaming licensing scandal.
I suspect most Louisianians know who Edwards is. Many of them probably are well aware of his political career. People tend to love him or hate him. But there is another generation of Louisianians among us who know little of Edwards, except for what they've been told by their elders, good or bad.
That's why anyone who possesses even a passing interest in the history of Louisiana politics should read Honeycutt's book. After all, not since Huey Long ruled Louisiana with an iron fist has a man had as much impact on the state as Edwin Washington Edwards.
Who knows? Maybe a future leader of our state who takes the time to read Honeycutt's offering may learn from one of Edwards' mistakes. Remember, we're prone to repeat the errors of our past.
On a personal note, I've been fascinated with Edwards for as long as I can remember. Though I do not recall much from his first two terms as governor in the 1970s, I heard Daddy say on more than one occasion that Edwards literally reshaped the state overnight in more ways than one.
I vividly recall, though, that 1983 gubernatorial campaign when Edwards unseated Dave Treen in a landslide. Ironically, 10 years later, during his fourth term, Edwards gave me my first job after I graduated from LSU.
It was an experience I will never forget.