NEW ORLEANS – Colorful former Gov. Edwin Edwards, who turns 84 next month, on Friday married a 32-year-old woman who befriended him during his federal prison sentence for bribery and extortion.
Edwards, a Democrat who served four terms as governor in the 1970s, '80s and '90s, did most of the talking after he and bride Trina Grimes Scott emerged from an elevator at the Monteleone Hotel in the French Quarter.
"People who don't know me don't know what a wonderful, pleasant, modest fellow I am," Edwards said when asked how a man his age managed to land a much-younger wife.
He also told reporters how Grimes, who started writing him letters while he was in prison, visited him there regularly on weekends and holidays in recent years.
"The prison was in love with her — they used to watch her walk across the parking lot," Edwards said, laughing. "They made me the camp hero."
The two have not talked about what prompted her to choose him as a pen pal.
Edwards spent eight years in federal prison for his role in a bribery and extortion scheme to rig riverboat casino licenses during his fourth term in the early 1990s. In July, he completed six months of home detention and regular reporting to a Baton Rouge halfway house.
Grimes became Edwards' third wife in what the governor said was a small, private ceremony earlier Friday at the hotel, with a few friends and family in attendance.
"It's great, I'm very happy," the bride told reporters. She has posted wedding updates on her Facebook page, which does not list an occupation.
Edwards wore a blue suit, while his new wife wore a cream-colored, knee-length, strapless dress.
A reporter asked what the dress was made of and she said she didn't know. Edwards, born and raised in Louisiana's Cajun country, quipped: "It's Italian silk, with a Cajun twist."
After posing for pictures, the couple walked around the block to Galatoire's Restaurant on Bourbon Street, to smatterings of applause from tourists and workers in taxi cabs and delivery trucks.
They were followed by a small parade of reporters, photographers, and an entourage that included state Supreme Court Justice Catherine Kimball, who performed the wedding ceremony, and her husband, former state Rep. Clyde Kimball.
Edwards, who also served in Congress, brought charisma and power to state politics that rivaled that of Louisiana's other favorite populist sons, Huey and Earl Long.
Though frequently criticized in the press for his link to a Korean rice scandal early in his congressional career, his strong hand in deal-making with legislators as governor and his leadership in the push to legalize gambling in the '90s, Edwards built a reputation for being able to broker coalitions of urban and rural constituencies.
He was last elected governor in 1991, when he faced former Ku Klux Klan wizard David Duke, who ran as a Republican. Business leaders feared Duke's election would be devastating for the state's convention business because of his extremist views.
Around New Orleans, bumper stickers began popping up on vehicles, stop signs and park benches that forever immortalized Louisiana's often stormy romance with Edwards. The stickers read, "Vote for the Crook: It's Important."
Edwards won in a landslide.