BATON ROUGE, La. Former Gov. Edwin Edwards was the center of attention as he attended his first public event since completing his confinement for a federal corruption conviction.
Edwards, 83, spoke briefly at Tuesday night's Foundation for Historical Louisiana awards dinner in Baton Rouge, where the four-time former governor's biographer, Leo Honeycutt, and several other recipients were being honored for their work in historic preservation.
Edwards posed for pictures, told off-color jokes and greeted a stream of well-wishers. After a decade away from the scene, he still remembered details about people and their families. If there were hard feelings left from the racketeering conviction that sent him to prison, they were nowhere to be seen as he received two standing ovations.
"I really feel like I came out of prison more popular than I went in," Edwards said. "I think in some part because people realize that an injustice occurred and that I handled it like a man. I took it. I survived. I said that I would walk out, and I did."
At Edwards' side was Trina Grimes Scott, the 32-year-old Alexandria woman who befriended him in prison and is now his soon-to-be wife. Nearby was Shaun Sanghani, the Louisiana-born TV producer who is in discussions with Edwards about starting a new reality show.
The former governor was convicted on bribery and extortion charges related to the award of state casino gambling licenses. He served eight years in prison and then six months in home confinement, which he finished earlier this month.
Although Edwards had said he wouldn't talk to the press until a July 30 press conference in New Orleans, the governor couldn't resist the lure of cameras and notebooks Tuesday night.
On whether he plans to get involved in the fall election campaigns, he said, "If I have a particular enemy running for something, I might endorse him just to destroy his chances."
On whether the 83-year-old retiree can keep up with his new fiancDe, who is 51 years his junior, Edwards said, "A man is only as old as the woman he feels."
On the proposed reality show, he said, "I've never seen a reality show, but I hear about them and I want to assure everyone that if we have one there will be nothing in it that's embarrassing to my state or to me or my family."