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Guests pay their respects to former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards as he lies in honor at the State Capitol, Saturday, July 17, 2021, in Baton Rouge, La.

Like so many in Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards recalled Sunday growing up during the era when Edwin W. Edwards was the center of politics in the state.

“A son of Louisiana, the state’s only four-term governor, a man who seemed larger than life. As he once said, he was both a realist and a dreamer who often dreamed of a better world — and worked to make it so,” the current governor said in giving the eulogy for the former governor, with whom he shares a last name but is no relation.

John Bel Edwards spoke at an invitation-only sectarian service for the former governor held in the Old State Capitol. The public and media were not allowed to witness the service.

Edwards died at the age of 93 on Monday. After lying in repose Saturday for the public to view in the State Capitol’s Memorial Hall, his flag-draped casket was moved by a horse-drawn carriage Sunday through the streets of Baton Rouge to the Old State Capitol.

Though near 90 years old when John Bel Edwards first ran for governor, he recalls how helpful and supportive Edwin Edwards was to his campaign and as governor.

“He once said: 'From the janitor to the chairman of the board, I try to recognize everyone for their individual worth. Being able to see other people in their shoes, understanding where they come from, I have a capacity to relate to everybody,'” John Bel Edwards said. “He was both a risk taker and a straight shooter.”

The son of an Avoyelles Parish sharecropper, Edwin Edwards served in the U.S. Navy at the end of World War II, then graduated LSU Law School.

In 1949, Edwards hung his shingle in Crowley because he could speak French and so few lawyers did in a parish with a lot of French-speaking residents.

He was elected to the Crowley City Council in 1954, then as state senator in 1964. He joined the U.S. House in October 1965. John Bel Edwards was born Sept. 16, 1966.

Edwin Edwards became governor in 1972 and was governor through the rest of the decade before having to step down because of a law that only allows governors to serve only two consecutive terms. He was elected to another in 1983 and another in 1991.

Heralded for leading the push for a new state constitution and bringing Black people into state government in the 1970s, Edwin Edwards also was often touched by scandal. He spent about eight years in federal prison after his conviction in 2000 on charges that he took payoffs to help steer riverboat casino licenses to friends during and after his final term.

On Saturday, some members of the Edwards family abruptly changed their mind and excluded television cameras and reporters from the sectarian funeral service.

Baton Rouge news stations that normally compete — WAFB-TV and WBRZ-TV — had worked together over the past three days to organize coverage inside the Old State Capitol, which included setting up networks and satellites to distribute images and sound of the eulogies across the state.

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House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, the Gonzales Republican who organized much of the funeral, had the legislative communications office late Saturday inform the news directors at the two stations: “NO cameras/crews will be allowed into the Old State Capitol. Additionally, there will be NO pool photographer allowed.”

“I know this is a swift turn of events, primarily since the two of you have worked so hard to make this happen in a short amount of time,” Cory Stewart, House communications director, wrote to Robb Hays, of WAFB, and Trey Schmaltz, of WBRZ.

Edwin Edwards' eldest son, Stephen, of Denham Springs, said he and his two sisters were not told of what apparently was Trina Edwards' decision to ban the media until they arrived at the Capitol on Sunday morning.

“We all thought it was fitting — because the venue was so small" — for the service to be televised so that more people could watch, Stephen Edwards said. “The decision to cancel access was not ours, but we apologize for the time and money that was spent.”

After the public viewing Saturday, Edwards’ casket moved to the Old State Capitol in muggy 90-degree heat on Sunday afternoon.

The State Capitol stairs were empty as the public and media were kept at a distance when Edwards' casket was moved by a State Police honor guard while dirges were played on bagpipes. Walking behind were Edwards' adult children and family led by his wife, Trina, who held the hand of 7-year-old Eli, the governor’s youngest child. He had 12 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren.

In a black horse-drawn carriage, Edwards' remains rode slowly past the grave of Huey P. Long, then down Fourth Street for the nearly 1-mile walk toward the Old State Capitol.

Only a handful of people stood along the street as the cortege passed. Many of the observers filmed the event with their phones, and some chose to walk alongside.

Honorary pallbearers were B.I. Moody, Cary Goss, James Davison, Darren Labat, Francs Thompson, Andrew Martin, Bay Ingram, Clay Schexnayder, John Alario, Kyle M. France, Buddy Leach, Robert Harvey, Bob d’Hemecourt, Byrne Edwards, Christopher Edwards, Nolan Edwards, Edwin Edwards, Stephen Edwards, Jr., Henry Reed, Logan Scott, and Trevor Scott.

Southern University’s Marching Band trailed the procession.

The horse-drawn hearse was driven down the North Boulevard hill in order to bring the former governor’s coffin through the Old Capitol’s front entrance facing the Mississippi River and accessible up a long and steep stairwell.

State Police kept the handful of bystanders from accessing the grounds of the Old State Capitol.

John Bel Edwards ended his eulogy by saying, “Maybe now when someone refers to me as Gov. Edwards, I won’t immediately look around for Edwin — but I doubt it.”

Email Mark Ballard at