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Gov. Edwards on Kathleen Blanco: 'She stands among the giants'

"I hope history will remember Governor Blanco as a tireless advocate for Louisiana, who fought fiercely for our state to rebuild," Edwards said.

NEW ORLEANS — Governor John Bel Edwards called Louisiana's first female governor Kathleen Blanco "a shining example of what can be accomplished by hard work and determination" after she passed away Sunday.

Blanco, who had been in hospice care during her battle against ocular melanoma, passed away surrounded by her family in Lafayette at the age of 76. She was Louisiana’s first female chief executive, whose one term in office was dominated by criticism of her response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Edwards, who came into the governor's office eight years after Blanco, held a brief press conference in Baton Rouge Sunday, in which he spoke about the life and legacy of his predecessor.

"She led Louisiana through one of our darkest hours, when hurricanes and the failure of the federal levee system devastated much of our state. I hope history will remember Governor Blanco as a tireless advocate for Louisiana, who fought fiercely for our state to rebuild following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita," Edwards said in a statement. 

RELATED: Former Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco dies at 76

Can't see the tweet? Click here 

Edwards also announced flags would be flown at half-mast Sunday and until Blanco's funeral on Saturday, Aug. 24.

Eighteen months after her inauguration, Hurricane Katrina and the federal levee failures would devastate much of the New Orleans area and consume the remainder of Blanco’s first term.

Katrina, the largest natural disaster ever to hit the United States, sent Blanco and her administration into full crisis mode. Hurricane Rita would bring major flooding, storm surge and wind damage to south Louisiana only a month later.

Though Blanco’s administration oversaw the successful evacuation of 93 percent of residents in the Katrina flood zone during non-stop rescues in the initial days after Katrina, she was widely criticized for her handling of the disaster response. She cried on national television, which some critics interpreted as a sign of weakness.

Edwards called Blanco a trailblazer who "was a shining example of what can be accomplished by hard work and determination."

"Serving as this state’s first female governor, Kathleen was a trailblazer and broke many barriers, leading the way for others to follow.  She stands among the giants who have helped shaped Louisiana’s history. Kathleen loved this state and our people and was a shining example of what can be accomplished by hard work and determination," Edwards said in a statement.      

The Louisiana Democrats also released a statement following Blanco's passing, saying "We lost a true champion for Louisiana today, but her legacy and work lives on." 

Can't see the tweet? Click here

See Edwards full statement below: 

Former Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, Louisiana’s first female Governor, has died at the age of 76, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced today. Governor Blanco will lie in state at Louisiana’s State Capitol in the coming days. The Governor’s office will release details soon.

Gov. Edwards issued the following statement:

“It is with a heavy heart that I announce that Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco has passed, after courageously battling cancer.

Serving as this state’s first female governor, Kathleen was a trailblazer and broke many barriers, leading the way for others to follow.  She stands among the giants who have helped shaped Louisiana’s history. Kathleen loved this state and our people and was a shining example of what can be accomplished by hard work and determination.        

She led Louisiana through one of our darkest hours, when hurricanes and the failure of the federal levee system devastated much of our state. I hope history will remember Governor Blanco as a tireless advocate for Louisiana, who fought fiercely for our state to rebuild following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Louisianans owe a debt of gratitude to Governor Blanco, who always put the people of our state first, fighting to improve the quality of life for our families and children, championing better educational opportunities for all students at every level and building a stronger Louisiana.  In 2004, she said: “I feel that call to lift up the less fortunate, the call to improve our communities and our state. It drives me to serve Louisiana as governor.”