Ed Anderson, a political reporter who was a fixture at the State Capitol and covered six governors, died Thursday in Baton Rouge. He was 67.
Anderson, a New Orleans native, joined The Times-Picayune in 1969 and began covering state government in 1980 — taking up a post he would hold for a generation.
He won the admiration of Democrats and Republicans and served as a tireless chronicler of state government, authoring hundreds of stories a year and far outpacing his colleagues in productivity — even though his capacity for typing was limited to two fingers.
“You couldn’t replace Ed Anderson with three or four people,” former Gov. Buddy Roemer said.
During Thursday morning’s session, both the Louisiana House and Senate observed a moment of silence for Anderson.
Anderson had been in the hospital about eight weeks fighting blood clots and a cancerous tumor that led to the amputation of his foot. He was visited there by several state leaders, including Senate President John Alario and former Gov. Kathleen Blanco.
Blanco said Anderson’s press spot on the House floor was close to where she sat when she served in that body when first elected in 1983. “We would just kind of chat,” Blanco said, adding that she got to know him better and better as lieutenant governor and governor.
“He’d provoke me with tough questions,” she said. “He was a really professional writer. He wrote factually, what was going on, who said it. He tried to cover the waterfront and give a fair depiction of what anyone was trying to do.”
Former U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu met Anderson in 1979 when she was first elected to the Louisiana House. “Only two people I don’t remember anyone saying a bad word about: Lindy Boggs and Ed Anderson. He was very kind and affable,” she said.
Gov. Bobby Jindal and Anderson both attended St. Aloysius Catholic Church in Southdowns and St. Joseph Cathedral in downtown Baton Rouge.
The governor caused chuckles recalling Anderson’s well-known aversion to driving and his preference for walking or taking a cab. “I offered to drive him several times, when it was raining or hot outside. He never once took a ride,” Jindal said.
In addition to Blanco, Jindal and Roemer, Anderson covered the administrations of Govs. Dave Treen, Edwin Edwards and Mike Foster.
Edmund James Anderson Jr. graduated from De La Salle High School in New Orleans and Loyola University before joining The Times-Picayune.
He covered the Constitutional Convention of 1973 and the New Orleans Police Department strike in 1979. Covering elections led to work at the Legislature in 1980, Anderson once said.
He mentored dozens of young journalists coming through the State Capitol — offering advice and guiding the new arrivals through the arcane procedures of Louisiana government, all with grace and good humor.
Jeff Adelson, a reporter at The Advocate who was the last tutored by Anderson, said it was during Hurricane Isaac in 2012 when Anderson first felt the effects of the blood clot. Though he had been working up to 16 hours a day, Anderson refused to leave his post, prompting State Police Col. Mike Edmonson to send a paramedic to check on him.
“There was nothing that would get between him and his duty,” Adelson said. “It wasn’t so much that it was his job; he felt it was important for the public to know all these things.”
Jan Moller, now executive director of the Louisiana Budget Project, also worked with Anderson as a reporter at the State Capitol.
“I could not have made it through my first year covering the Capitol without Ed sitting a few feet away, showing me the tricks of the trade and saving me from dumb mistakes on a daily basis,” Moller wrote on his Facebook page. “Ed was a classic old-school reporter — grumpy and profane and skeptical of politicians and their motives, yet always fair and thorough.”
Anderson was an avid fan of LSU baseball and the Saints. He remembered — and would recall in detail — learning for the first time in November 1966 that New Orleans had been awarded an NFL franchise. He was walking out of school and saw the headlines on the salmon-colored front page of the afternoon States-Item.
He attended the Saints’ first game ever and the team’s first game in the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina.
He was laid off in 2012 when The Times-Picayune trimmed nearly half its newsroom. He then went to work for the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office in January 2013.
“What Ed did for me was invaluable,” Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera said.
Anderson edited the office’s investigative audits, interpreting the complex and technical accounting lingo into everyday English.
“We’re all about transparency. Ed helped us make our reports understandable,” Purpera said.
Anderson is survived by Karen Rowley, his partner for more than 20 years; a brother, Craig Anderson; and a sister-in-law, Gayle Anderson.
Funeral arrangements were incomplete Thursday. A Mass and visitation are being arranged by Rabenhorst Funeral Home on Government Street in Baton Rouge. Interment will be in the family mausoleum at Lake Lawn Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans.
Tyler Bridges, of The Advocate Capitol news bureau, contributed to this report.