Elaine Edwards, age 89, native of Marksville and former U.S. Senator, dies
Elaine Edwards, the former First Lady of and U.S. Senator for Louisiana, has died. She was 89.
Marksville native Elaine Edwards was former Gov. Edwin Edwards' first wife and she served briefly in the U.S. Senate. She was married to Edwards during three of his four terms as governor.
Shortly after Edwin Edwards' first term began in 1972, he appointed Elaine 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, May 14, 2018 at the home of daughter Victoria Edwards in Denham Springs.
She is survived by four children: Anna, Victoria, Stephen and David; and brother, and her brother, Ralph Swartzenberg of Marksville.
Her son, Stephen, issued the following statement on behalf of the family:
“It is the saddest regret that we announce the passing of our mother, Elaine Swartzenberg Edwards. She has gone to join her Loved ones in the kingdom of heaven. My mom left this life after a protracted illness. Her four children were at her side at the end of her life. It goes without saying that we are honored to be her children. Our Mother was a dedicated servant to the state she loved so dearly. She will be remembered as a true Matriarch of our family, a philanthropist and the embodiment of class. In the recent days before her passing, she asked that I thank the people of the State of Louisiana for such a wonderful life."
Gov. John Bel Edwards and First Lady Donna Edwards issued the following statements on the passing of former First Lady Elaine Edwards:
"Donna and I send our prayers and condolences to the family of former First Lady Elaine Edwards,” said Gov. Edwards. “She served this state as the first lady and the country as a U.S. Senator with class, compassion and a true commitment to the people of Louisiana. As the matriarch of her family, she imparted great wisdom and leaves behind a remarkable legacy of giving back to others and a dedication to public service. Her love for this state and its citizens will be long remembered."
"Elaine has left an indelible mark as the longest serving first lady of Louisiana," said First Lady Donna Edwards. “She certainly set the stage for those who have been blessed to serve in the same capacity. We were fortunate to interview her and learn more about the history of the Governor’s Mansion and the story behind the beautiful magnolias she needlepointed for several chairs here. In fact, they became the inspiration for our upcoming book Memories in the Mansion. She was a true inspiration, and we look forward to sharing more of her contributions to our great state soon."
Former Governor Edwin Edwards issued this statement: “Given how much she suffered in the last few months because of her illness, it is not surprising and death is inevitable.On behalf of our children, I hope that we all recognize she is probably better off.”
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. She later split her time between New York and Los Angeles, where she helped Victoria Edwards raise her son Christopher.