Gov. Edwards comes home
By: Howell Dennis
CROWLEY - For the first time since his release from federal prison, former La. Governor Edwin Edwards and his glamorous wife Trina made a public appearance in the town where he began his political career at the Rice Festival Queen’s Ball Saturday night at the International Rice Festival Building. While he obviously hasn’t lost his ability to deliver a stirring speech, Edwards displayed a touch of emotion that left many audience members in tears.
“I remember many of people during the time I spent in Crowley...coming here as a young lawyer in 1949, however, most of you here are the children of the people I remember,” said Edwards drawing laughter.
“I was driving Trina (his recent bride) around town to show her the town that I loved so much and as she looked around she said ‘you never should have left here,” he said. “I had to leave...my job took me to Washington and Baton Rouge but I never lost my interest in the rice industry.”
“Those of you who are old enough to remember know that in 1969 there was a movement to change the rules and regulations in place that would have devastated the rice industry,” Edwards continued. “As a congressman, I approached President Lyndon Johnson, who was a friend of mine, and urged him not to sign this legislation which he didn’t. There was never a time when the rice industry was far from my heart.”
“I can recall a time when a farmer using a thresher would produce 20 barrels a day was a good farmer. Now with new methods, technology, herbicides and insecticides 45 barrels is a good day,” he said. “Rice is the most single important cereal in the world and is very important to the economy of this area.”
“I was President of the Rice Festival in 1959 when Senator John F. Kennedy drew over 100,000 people here,” Edwards recalled. “In 1968 I was named an honoree due to my contributions to the industry and I never regretted any of it.”
“As most of you know I recently spent some time away involuntarily,” he quipped drawing another round of laughter. “While I was in prison I got over 35,000 pieces of mail and they all touched my heart.”
Edwards then paused for a moment as he got emotional and his voice slightly cracked.
“But none did like the one that said that the people of my hometown wanted me to be the Rice Festival Grand Marshal,” he said. “A lot of people raised their eyebrows and said what in the world are those folks thinking. They don’t know that your generous, kind, and compassionate. But most of all I like to think that you remember how hard I worked for you when I was in office.”
“I hope you all know what this means to me,” he concluded. “I’ll never forget you as you’ve apparently never forgotten me.”
The delighted crowd responded with a standing ovation.
The 2011 International Grand Marshal’s Parade will run Saturday, October 22 at 3 p.m. Governor Edward’s presence will probably make it the most well-attended in recent memory.