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Edwin and me, 1971 …

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You may want to read yesterday’s column to see where we are headed.

In 1971, then U.S. Representative Edwin Washington Edwards won the Democratic nomination for Governor of Louisiana in a very close runoff with J. Bennett Johnston, Jr. (anybody remember how close?).

As they used to say then, winning the Demo nomination was “tantamount” to winning the office. According to form, Edwards easily beat Republican nominee David C. Treen in the general election, and served from 1972 to 1980 (and two more terms later, but this story ends in 1975).

By the way, I will bet that I am one of the few who ever worked for Edwards AND Treen. The work for Treen was unofficial, and that’s another story anyway.

In the early days of the 1971 campaign, I happened to catch EWE “on the stump.” I was so taken by him that I volunteered to work in the campaign. This was the start of about 15 years of political activism on my part, which I regret to this day.

At the time, I was the Director of the Computer Research Center at the University of New Orleans, and in my late 20s. I lived in Jefferson Parish then, and at the first Edwards rally I attended I was appointed a precinct captain by Jim Donelon, the top guy in my ward. Aaron Broussard was the parish chairman for Edwards.

Precinct captain! Even though I was the only one there from my precinct, I thought I had to be one of the great political success stories. I remember my role as making a lot of phone calls, then delivering donuts to poll workers on voting days.

The first “perq” I received for my efforts was an invitation to the runoff victory party at some hotel in downtown N.O. (Monteleone?). TV accounts were saying that the race was so close that we were in for a long night.

As I was arriving with my date (Mary Ann, I think) at the hotel, pinned and pasted full of EWE paraphernalia, a stranger apparently assumed I was an Edwards insider and asked me how the race was going. I authoritatively rattled off a list of areas of the state that were about to report in Edwin’s favor, making it up as I went along, and the stranger was duly impressed.

My date was also impressed, and I began to see the appeal of being in politics…

Join us tomorrow for Edwin, Bob and me, 1973.

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About John Vinturella

Retired businessman and professor.