Elaine Edwards, ex-Louisiana governor’s 1st wife, dead at 89
DENHAM SPRINGS, La. (AP) — Former Gov. Edwin Edwards’ first wife, Elaine Edwards, who served briefly in the U.S. Senate, has died at the age of 89. She was married to Edwards during three of his four terms as governor.
Shortly after Edwin Edwards’ first term began in 1972, he appointed his wife to complete the three months remaining of U.S. Sen. Allen Ellender’s term after his death.
Elaine Edwards had been in failing health for the last couple of years and died of respiratory problems Monday morning at the home of daughter Victoria Edwards in Denham Springs, Edwin Edwards’ biographer, Leo Honeycutt, said.
She is survived by four children: Anna, Victoria, Stephen and David.
Elaine Schwartzenburg and Edwin Edwards grew up together in Marksville. They married in 1949. She was 20, and he was 21.
“All I wanted to do was get married and have babies and keep house,” she told The Advocate in 1984, as her husband was about to begin his third term.
She said she never imagined her husband would become the state’s dominant political figure. “But I said yes, for better or for worse.”
The couple moved to Crowley after Edwin Edwards graduated from law school at Louisiana State University. He was elected to the city council there in 1954, then to the state Senate, the U.S. Congress and the governor’s office.
She told the newspaper in 1984 about the “long, lonely days” of the legislative sessions in the 1970s, and the discomfort of coming downstairs in the morning to find 10 men breakfasting with her husband.
“I’d find myself crying on the shoulders of the maid,” she said.
After Edwards’ second term ended in 1980, she started a dress-making business. She remained in their house rather than the governor’s mansion during his third term.
They divorced in 1989, two years after that term ended with an election loss to Republican U.S. Rep. Buddy Romer.
Elaine Edwards moved to a New York City apartment down the hall from Victoria Edwards’, and both of them had limited success as actresses, The Advocate reported. She later split her time between New York and Los Angeles, where she helped Victoria Edwards raise her son Christopher.
“She will be remembered as a true Matriarch of our family, a philanthropist and the embodiment of class,” Stephen Edwards said in a statement emailed to WAFB-TV . “In the recent days before her passing, she asked that I thank the people of the State of Louisiana for such a wonderful life.”
Edwin Edwards issued a statement Monday night lauding his first wife as “a great asset to me as Governor,” and praising her charitable work.
“I know that she was very sick and suffered tremendously for the past few months and while her passing is sad, death was inevitable,” the former governor’s statement said in part. “My sympathy to my children. I have expressed and appreciate their loyalty to their mother.”