Judge Edmund Reggie, a figure in state and national Democratic politics, died Tuesday morning at his Lafayette home.
Reggie was 87.
The son of Lebanese immigrant parents, Reggie became a mover and shaker in Louisiana politics in the late 1950s working for the campaign of Gov. Earl Long. He later managed the political campaigns of Louisiana Govs. John McKeithen and Edwin Edwards.
Reggie served as executive counsel for Edwards in 1983.
Also in the late 1950s, Reggie began political and personal connections with President John F. Kennedy and his family that endured for years.
The former Crowley city court judge helped swing the Louisiana delegation to Kennedy in his losing 1956 Democratic National Convention bid for the party’s vice presidential nomination.
Four years later, Reggie managed Kennedy’s Louisiana campaign for president as he did for Kennedy brothers Robert F. and Edward “Ted” after that.
Reggie’s daughter Victoria married U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Massachusetts in 1992. He is now deceased.
“My sympathies go to Doris, his children, and his grandchildren. We met in 1949 when I moved to his hometown of Crowley, and for 64 years we were close personal and political friends,” Edwards said Tuesday in a statement.
“He was a legal scholar and a great judge and I have never had a better friend. I shall miss him.”
Former U.S. Sen. John Breaux, who also hails from Crowley, said, “Judge Reggie served not only as a judge in Crowley but his advice and his counsel and friendships allowed him to have a very positive effect on the country’s entire political landscape for decades,” Breaux said.
State Senate President John Alario said he first met Reggie during Edwards’ days. “He was one of the most intelligent people I met through my life in politics. I think he was a tremendous Louisiana citizen,” said Alario, R-Westwego.
U.S. Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., said in prepared statement, “Now is a time to mourn his passing, but also to reflect on his great service to our state and country.”
Reggie’s oldest son Ed Michael Reggie said “We were blessed to have had Dad for so long, although never long enough. We are comforted by his deep faith and memories of his wonderful sense of humor, good nature, sharp mind and the love he gave all of us.”
Reggie served as a Crowley city court judge for 25 years. He was appointed to the judgeship at age 24 following the death of the sitting judge, then ran successfully for the post which he held until 1976.
Reggie ran for no other political office. But he held a variety of positions in state government, including Louisiana’s Commissioner of Public Welfare and chairman of the Louisiana Mineral Board.
He also served as chairman of the Louisiana Committee on Reorganization of the Executive Branch of State Government, which consolidated 356 state agencies into 19.
In 2004, Reggie was inducted into the Louisiana Political Hall of Fame in Winnfield with Ted Kennedy in attendance. At the time, Reggie called being in the Hall of Fame “a real honor ... I’d just like people to look at my career and say ‘He tried to help us all do a little better.”
In the later part of his life, Reggie ran into tax problems and at age 76, Reggie was convicted in 1992 of misapplying funds of now-closed Acadia Savings and Loan of Crowley, a thrift he founded in 1959.
In 1993, he pleaded no contest to misapplying $425,000 in the form of a loan by Acadia Savings. He paid a $30,000 fine. He was suspended from the practice of law for a time.
Reggie graduated from Southwestern Louisiana Institute, now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and went on to receive his law degree from Tulane University.
In additon to his wife of 62 years, Doris, he is survived by six children, 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.