Edwin Edwards credited with major contributions to Southwest Louisiana

Published: Jul. 12, 2021 at 8:53 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - Just about everyone who knew him has a favorite Edwin Edwards story, usually stemming from his quick wit and sense of humor.

Attorney Michael Dees first met Edwards when Dees was a student at McNeese State University back in 1971. Dees was only 19 and believed Edwards would make state government more efficient. He even organized students for EWE (Edwin Washington Edwards).

Dees says in the campaigns he met the late Bob McHale and Louis Bufkin, also deceased, who would one day be his law partners. Dees says so much of what his life became stemmed from having met Edwards.

Dees says Edwards was a fiscal conservative who did so much for Southwest Louisiana.

Dees campaigned for Edwards throughout his runs for elective office over the years and has known him for 50 years.

“I was very excited along with some other friends about a younger, progressive governor that wanted to totally rewrite the constitution and reorganize government in Louisiana,” Dees said.

He considered Edwards an energetic, inspiring candidate and elected official.

And, Dees says Edwards likely accomplished more for Southwest Louisiana than any other governor, partly because he served four terms.

“McNeese, the Port, highways, Chennault. He was the leader when Chennault was created and got the legislature to appropriate $50 million - 50! And that was at a time, $50 million was real money back then,” Dees said.

Dees says it was Edwards’ idea to convert state oil and gas royalties from units to dollar value which was tremendously profitable for the state. He says Edwards was also responsible for the Sabine Diversion Canal which allowed local industry access to water to provide cooling of their process equipment without depleting groundwater.

Dees says he last saw Edwards several years ago at a Cameron LNG dedication.

Dees was one of the people who traveled with Edwards to Paris in 1984 to raise funds to pay off Edwards’ campaign debt. He says it was the trip of a lifetime.

“It was a very unique trip that I don’t think has ever been repeated as a political fundraiser,” Dees said.

He said more than 600 people attended in exchange for forgiving some campaign loans they made to Edwards.

Dees attributes some of Edwards’ success as a politician in part because he was always a man of his word:

“The way he dealt with people. Even the people that opposed him would tell you this: that he always told them straight, told them the truth. If he gave you his word that he would do something, he did it,” said Dees.

Dees admits Edwards raised eyebrows:

“He liked to gamble. I don’t do that, but if that’s what people want to do, that’s okay with me. And he liked women,” Dees said.

And, concerning Edwards’ convictions and time spent in prison, Dees says, no one is perfect.

“He had faults, but he had many, many other good attributes.”

Dees predicts Edwards will be most remembered in Southwest Louisiana for the good he did.

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