Edwin Edwards for President?
July 29, 2021
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Edwards for President!
Edwin Edwards was one of several Louisiana Governors who flirted with national office. Huey Long was considered to be a serious candidate running against President Franklin Roosevelt in 1936. His plans were derailed when he was assassinated at the Louisiana State Capitol.
Gov. John McKeithen made a run for national office in 1968. He was rumored to be a front runner to join Vice President Hubert Humphry on the Democratic ticket. At the last minute, Humphry passed on McKeithen and picked Senator Edmund Muskie from Maine.
In more recent times, Gov. Buddy Roemer ran a respectable race in the 2012 Republican primary, but refused any contribution over one hundred dollars and was not able to keep up with the more well funded candidates. And who can forget Bobby Jindal’s quixotic presidential race in 2016 when he quickly crashed and burned after ignoring the home folks back in the Bayou State?
In 1978, Edwin Edwards was at the height of his popularity. He had been easily re-elected to a second term two years earlier. With the price of natural gas and oil continuing to rise, the coffers of the state treasury were filled, and Governor Edwards faced little controversy. Candidates for office in the 1978 and 1979 elections eagerly sought his endorsement. The two major challengers for the office of lieutenant governor each had the Governor cut TV spots on their behalf.
As second term was winding down, he was obviously looking for new challenges. The Governor and I made a joint appearance in north Louisiana early in 1978, then flew back to Baton Rouge together on the state plane. I was reading a book my father had given me, Marathon, The Pursuit of the Presidency 1972-1976, by Jules Witcover.
The book presented an account of the 1976 presidential election and went into great detail as to how Jimmy Carter rose from being a little-known Southern governor to getting elected President of the United States. The Governor noticed the book, and I gave him a brief description of the author’s explanation showing Carter’s effort in putting together a Georgia campaign team that was able to capture the Democratic nomination.
About a week later, I was at my home in Ferriday when the phone rang one evening just before midnight. It was the Governor. “Do you still have that book about Carter getting elected President?” Edwards asked. “Why?” I said. “Are you planning on doing the same thing and challenging him?” Edwards laughed and told me he was interested in some bedtime reading. “If Jimmy Carter could pull it off, I would think that I certainly could,” he said. Thirty minutes later, a state trooper arrived at my home to pick up the book.
I knew the President and EWE were not close. Edwards had supported the presidential candidacy of Governor Jerry Brown in 1976. Outside of Brown’s votes in California, the Louisiana delegation was the only other support he received at the Democratic Convention. The Governor’s wife, Elaine, publicly supported Carter’s opponent, Gerald Ford for President in 1976. President Carter’s popularity was at a low ebb in 1979 as Edwin Edwards considered his future plans. Possible presidential ambitions seemed to be under consideration by the Governor.
The following week, news reports circulated that the Governor’s wife Elaine had accepted a $10,000 gift from South Korean businessman Tongseng Park. The bad publicity derailed any talk of a run by Edwards for higher office.
About three weeks later, the book came back to me in the mail. It had been my intention for the Governor to keep it. There was no note attached, and he never mentioned the book or the presidency to me again.
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.