By Rob Landry | LSU Student
Former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards made his first public appearance at the State Capitol this past weekend since his release from federal prison.
Edwards spoke in the Louisiana Senate Chamber while attending the Louisiana Book Festival where he sold and signed copies of his biography that was released earlier this year while he was in federal prison at Oakdale, La.
The Senate Chamber was full, with an overflow crowd standing along the side rails and against the back walls.
The sharp wit and endearing personality that got him elected years ago still rung true with many who heard him Saturday.
"When I turned 18, Edwin Edwards was the first person I voted for," said festival goer Anne Credeur. "He tried to do good for this state and he's an amazing personality."
Edwards displayed that side of himself while making a quick note of his history of federal jobs.
"When I was nine years old, I got my first federal job right outside of Alexandria as a water boy making 15 cents an hour … As fate would have it, 66 years later I got another federal job not far from Alexandria. I was the chief librarian at the prison, making 20 cents an hour. So you see, I was doing better."
Edwards was convicted in 2002 on 17 counts of racketeering, extortion, money laundering, mail and wire fraud. He was released from prison on Jan 13 of this year.
Fellow festival attendee Arleen Orgeron, a Baton Rouge area librarian, said Edwards chose the perfect venue to make his return to Louisiana's political hub. "It's appropriate that he is here for the book festival. I'm glad he chose the book festival for this occasion."
"Everybody wanted to see the governor," said Louisiana House of Representative Sergeant-at-Arms Darryll Augustine, who escorted Edwards. "There were at least 25 or 30 people surrounding him upon his arrival who just wanted to say ‘hello' to the governor."
But Edwards' return had a different impact on Augustine.
"It was a weird feeling. It was weird to (see him) back in the State Capitol. I have not seen him since his release. It was weird for him, too. He came in the front doors today where as he normally just came in the back door and would run up the steps."
For Orgeron, seeing Edwards was as much about listening to him talk about his book as it was seeing him step on the floor of the political arena he once frequented.
"I am in the process of reading his biography to my parents. He is an inspirational individual. He did a lot of good for the state. He's a very interesting personality, and I wanted to get the book autographed by him."