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.