NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Former Louisiana Gov. Mike Foster, who pushed major changes in education policy and lawsuit rules through an increasingly conservative state Legislature in the 1990s, has died. He was 90.

Marsanne Golsby, who was Foster's press secretary when he was governor, said that Foster died Sunday at his home in Franklin, surrounded by relatives. The bald and burly millionaire businessman was a state senator from south Louisiana when he switched from the Democratic to the Republican Party in 1995 and launched what many considered a longshot bid to succeed four-term Gov. Edwin Edwards.

Among Foster’s successes were passage of a public school accountability program, creation of a community college system and changes in lawsuit rules that he said were stacked against business.

Current Governor John Bel Edwards had this to say about former Governor Foster's passing:

"A veteran, a businessman and a sportsman, Gov. Mike Foster was a true Louisianan who served his country, his state and his community with honor throughout his life. As governor, one of his most lasting legacies is in education, especially his support for the creation of the TOPS program, which, more than 20 years later, still helps thousands of Louisiana students attend colleges and universities and achieve their goals. Gov. Foster recognized that there is no greater gift to our state than a bright future for its young people and that not everyone has to travel the same path to achieve a quality education.  That’s why he created the Louisiana Community and Technical College System.

"Gov. Foster also worked hard to protect and restore Louisiana’s coastline and moved to dedicate federal funding to this purpose, so that future Louisianans could enjoy the Sportsman’s Paradise he so loved. Donna and I are praying for Gov. Foster’s family, and especially his wife Alice, during this difficult time and hope the people of our state will join their prayers to ours. I have ordered that flags in the state be flown at half-staff in honor of his memory."

U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy gave his thoughts on the former governor's passing:

“The death of former Gov. Mike Foster could be seen as one more tragedy of 2020. But his life and service are to be celebrated. He invested heavily in higher education, greatly expanded the community college system, and worked to make Louisiana an opportunity state. He will be missed, but his achievements endure,”

Stephen Waguespack, President of the Louisiana Business and Industry Association, commented on Foster's passing:

"Throughout his entire career in public service, Mike Foster was a tireless champion for Louisiana’s working families and job creators. In an era when most business owners stayed out of politics, he brought his own unique brand of effective leadership from the private sector to the State Capitol. Louisiana is a better place to both raise a family and start a business today because of the reforms that Governor Foster passed into law. The thoughts and prayers of our entire organization and all of LABI’s members are with his wife, Alice, and their family during this time."

(Story written By KEVIN MCGILL/AP and Brandon Comeaux/KPEL)

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