James B. Edwards

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James Burrows Edwards, Sr.

In office
January 23, 1981 – November 5, 1982
President Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Charles Duncan, Jr.

In office
January 21, 1975 – January 10, 1979
Preceded by John C. West
Succeeded by Richard Wilson Riley

Born June 24, 1927
Hawthorne, Alachua County.
Died December 26, 2014 (aged 87)
Mount Pleasant, South Carolina
Resting place Christ Church Cemetery in Mount Pleasant
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Ann Darlington Edwards
(married 1951 to 2014, his death)
Children James Edwards, Jr.

Catharine Darlington Edwards
Ordie Morton and Bertie Rae Hieronymus Edwards

Alma mater College of Charleston (Bachelor of Science)

University of Louisville
(Doctor of Dental Medicine)

Military Service
Service/branch United States Navy
Unit United States Maritime Service
Battles/wars World War II

James Burrows Edwards, Sr. (June 24, 1927 – December 26, 2014), was the first Republican Governor of his adopted state of South Carolina since Reconstruction Governor Daniel Henry Chamberlain (1835-1907). Edwards served a single term from 1975 to 1979, preceded and succeeded by Democratic governors. Two years after his governorship ended, U.S. President Ronald W. Reagan named him as the United States Secretary of Energy, a post which he filled for almost two years.


Edwards was born in the small city of Hawthorne in Alachua County in north central Florida, the son of Ordie Morton Edwards (1888-1978) and the former Bertie Rae Hieronymusmus (1893-1981). During World War II, he was an officer in the United States Maritime Service. After the war, he served in the United States Navy Reserve. In 1959, he received his bachelor's degree from the College of Charleston. In 1955, he received a Doctor of Dental Medicine from the University of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky. He did post graduate work at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. He established his first dental practice in 1960, with specialty in oral surgery.[1]

In 1951, he married the former Ann Darlington, who was the assistant chief nurse at the Louisville Regional Blood Center. The couple had two children, James, Jr., and Catharine Darlington Edwards. As First Lady, Mrs. Edwards worked to acquire historic property, including the Caldwell-Boylston House, a part of the Governor's Mansion complex. In response to the lack of information about the State's governors, first families, and Governor's Mansion, Mrs. Edwards co-authored The Governor's Mansion of the Palmetto State, published in 1978. The Medical University of South Carolina established the Ann Darlington Edwards Endowed Chair of Nursing in her honor in 1999.[2]

Political career

In 1970, Edwards was named the chairman of the Republican Party in South Carolina's Charleston-based 1st congressional district. As a supporter of conservative Republican gubernatorial nominee U.S. Representative Albert William Watson (1922-1994) of the state's 2nd congressional district, Edwards claimed that Watson's Democratic opponent, Lieutenant Governor John Carl West, Sr., had worked covertly in 1969 against the nomination of South Carolina's Clement Furman Haynsworth (1912-1989) to the United States Supreme Court. The Nixon nominee failed in the U.S. Senate, 55 to 45, on grounds of alleged bias against organized labor and a lack of support for civil rights. Edwards predicted that as governor West would install "an ultra-liberal, minority-dominated state government," citing West's political ties to Hubert H. Humphrey and longtime NAACP executive director Roy Wilkins.[3][4]

Edwards first ran for office in 1971 in a special election called to fill the vacancy in the 1st congressional district created by the death of veteran Democrat Lucius Mendel Rivers (1905-1970). Edwards narrowly lost to one of Rivers's staffers, Mendel Jackson Davis (1942-2007),[5] but gained enough name recognition from his congressional showing that he was elected as a state senator for Charleston County.

In 1974, he upset General William Childs Westmoreland (1914-2005), known for his leadership over the Vietnam War, for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. He then defeated the Democrat U.S. Representative William Jennings Bryan Dorn (1916-2005) of the state's 3rd congressional district in the general election. Dorn had become the Democratic nominee after the winner of the runoff election, Charles D. "Pug" Ravenel (1938-2017), was disqualified on residency grounds.

Otherwise, 1974 was a dismal year for Republicans nationally because of the Watergate scandal and lingering opposition to the Vietnam War, both of which likely contributed to the primary defeat of Westmoreland, commander of U.S. forces during the late 1960s.

Edward as governor reinstated the death penalty. Two of his aides were Carroll Ashmore Campbell, Jr. (1940-2005), who was elected in 1986 as the second Republican governor in 20th-century South Carolina, and Bill Workman, son of Republican pioneer W. D. Workman, Jr. (1914-1990), and later the mayor of Greenville. As Edwards' alternate to the Appalachian Regional Commission, Workman became a specialist in planning and economic development issues.[6]

In 1978, Edwards could not seek reelection because the state constitution then forbade governors to serve two consecutive terms. In 1981, President Reagan appointed Edwards as the Secretary of Energy, but he resigned at the end of 1982 to become the president of the Medical University of South Carolina, a post he filled for seventeen years. In 1997, Edwards was inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame. In 2008, he endorsed former Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, now a U.S. Senator from Utah, for the party's presidential nomination. Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, were defeated by the Democrats Barack Hussein Obama and Joe Biden of Delaware, who followed Donald Trump as U.S. President.[7]

As governor and thereafter, Edwards developed a warm friendship with his Democratic predecessor, John C. West, whom he had earlier accused of undermining the Haynsworth nomination.[4]


In 1994, the state legislature renamed a portion of the Mark Clark Expressway that crosses the Wando River as the James B. Edwards Bridge. In 2010, the new MUSC dental building and the dental school were renamed the James B. Edwards College of Dental Medicine.[2][8]

Coincidentally, as Edwards became governor of South Carolina, another southern dentist, Winfield Dunn of Memphis, vacated the governorship of Tennessee.


  1. James Burrows “Jim” Edwards (1927-2014) - Find A Grave Memorial, accessed September 22, 2021.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2015-2016 Bill 1072: Ann Darlington Edwards - South Carolina Legislature Online (scstatehouse.gov), accessed September 22, 2021.
  3. Charleston News & Courie, September 25, 1970.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Billy Hathorn, "The Changing Politics of Race: Congressman Albert William Watson and the South Carolina Republican Party, 1965–1970", South Carolina Historical Magazine, Vol. 89 (October 1988), p. 237.
  5. 1971 special election results from South Carolina's 1st District
  6. William D. Workman, III, Receives John D. Whisman Vision Award. msa.maryland.gov (March 15, 2004). Retrieved on May 14, 2014.
  7. South Carolina endorsements of Mitt Romney. Retrieved on May 19, 2019.
  8. Carolyn Click (December 26, 2014). Former Gov. James Edwards dies. The Charleston State. Retrieved on December 26, 2014.