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Enter the Cajun

Enter the Cajun

In 1984, during my first term as Assessor of Lafourche Parish, I received a call from Las Vegas. Since I had attended a conference there a few years back and Dot and I had lost a total of $20 playing the nickel slots, I thought the casino wanted to thank me, so I took the call.

On the phone was a cousin of mine who was now a close confidant of Governor Edwin Edwards. He said they were in Vegas on, (ahem!), “state business”, and that “Eddie” had appointed me to the Louisiana Music Commission.

I said, “Thanks, I guess, but what will be my duties?”

“Lee,” he said, “it doesn’t take much brain work.”

That certainly didn’t swell my ego, but with such a low criteria, he had found the right guy!

He went on, “You’ll attend a few meetings a year listening to street musicians seeking grants to entertain the New Orleans tourists without having to really work for a living, and requests from groups to fund some hair brain musical event to ‘save the water lilies’ or such nonsense.”

I thought, “Our tax dollars at work, maybe I can make a difference,” so I accepted.

He said “Great! But now, Eddie and I have a few more tables to … errrr … do business at.”

I hope my cousin has a sense of humor, because that’s not what transpired, but would have been more accurate to describe the task I was about to undertake. The truth is he called, told me about the appointment, I accepted, we exchanged a few pleasantries and hung up.

The commission, I found out, had little beneficial value to the state, but had been created to appease the musically community. No one except the director and secretary, (of which I was not one), received any compensation nor expenses.

I thought that it might keep me connected to the administration to help my parish in some way. I was still politically naïve. Everything was legal and above board but not much was ever accomplished. Several groups and individuals would make a pitch for grants but the Commission had no authority to fund any request, only to approve and submit to Baton Rouge, and I was never informed if any were ever funded.

I voted “no” to so many questionable requests that I was called “Dr. No” after the James Bond villain.

A week after the Las Vegas conversation, I received a call from a reporter for the Times Picayune who asked me, “Mr. Martin, concerning your recent Governor’s appointment, we’d like the record to show how much you contributed to his campaign?”

I replied, “Nothing, not a cent, which I guess that’s why he appointed me to a position that pays exactly that.”

The next three governors re-appointed me to the position at the same salary. I stayed a few years hoping things would get better, but it didn’t, so I just stopped attending meetings and I think Governor Kathleen Blanco either replaced me or stopped funding the commission. I forgot, but it died a justifiable death.

The exploits, elections, indictment and conviction of Edward Washington Edwards is so well known that I will write my personal encounters with him like the story, like above. I liked the man, and what was not to like? A handsome, witty, intelligent French speaking Cajun, and if charisma was a marketable commodity, he could have sold 90% of his and charmed the next generation with the remaining 10%.

I whole-heartedly supported him for his first term but slowly became disillusioned because of his flamboyancy, gambling, alleged womanizing, rumors about casino licensing and the Tong Sun Park $10,000 affair.

I didn’t vote for him again until his last hurrah, but then, voting for his opponent was not an option. Like him or not, Edwin Edwards was bigger than life, and like Huey Long, he left a legacy, good and bad, that will live on.

“Vin Bruce and the Acadians” played for his first inauguration and as he danced to our music, (Jole Blon), with his wife, the legend began.

Next week, the legend continues.


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