POSTED: Wednesday, July 6, 2011 - 7:01am
UPDATED: Wednesday, July 6, 2011 - 1:05pm
BATON ROUGE, LA (NBC33) - — Former Governor Edwin Edwards is a free man Wednesday, after serving eight years in federal prison and six months on house arrest.
He made the release official early Wednesday morning, with a phone call to the press, camped out in front of a Baton Rouge halfway house.
"It’s 7:45. I'm calling to tell you everything has been cleared,” says Edwards. “My halfway tour is over with... talk to you later. Goodbye"
Edwards was convicted of trading riverboat casino licenses for bribes, back in 2000. But some say Edwards’ legacy was written long before all that, when he took on big oil back in the ‘70s. Edwards raised taxes on oil companies in the state back in 1974, turning a $30 million deficit into an $88 million surplus for the state in just six months - a time remembered now as the ‘Embarrassment of Riches’.
“I think he's a legend in his own right,” says Baton Rouge resident Jeffery Mulvihill.
Mulvihill says he wouldn't vote for Edwards if he could run for governor today, but now that his sentence has been served, he says Edwards should be remembered for progress, not prison.
"I think people are going to remember all the good things that he did for the state," says Mulvihill.
Charlie Picou agrees.
“I think people will remember his as a governor not so much for then prison sentence,” says Picou. “I think he has a personality most Louisiana people will appreciate and I think people will remember him for that."
Edwards’ biographer, Leo Honeycutt, knows mending fences isn't always that easy.
"People tend not to forget about the bad things; it takes a long time," says Honeycutt.
But it's the first thing Edwards plans to do. He sets off on a book tour with Honeycutt July 16th.
“He's going to enjoy it most of all because it's not a campaign, where he's got to fundraiser or make promises or respond to questions. So he's just looking forward to it, just to be with everybody.”
A reality show and wedding are also being planned, although dates and details for both are still in the works.