William Jackson Edwards III (born September 20, 1928 in Birmingham; died September 27, 2019 in Fairhope, Baldwin County) was an attorney and Representative for the 1st Congressional District of Alabama in the U.S. House of Representatives for 10 terms, from 1965 to 1985.
Edwards, the great-great grandson of coal baron and former U.S. Representative William F. Aldrich, was born in Birmingham and attended Shades Cahaba School in Homewood. After graduating in 1946 he enrolled in the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, Rhode Island. Edwards served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Korean War. He earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Alabama in 1952, and served as president of the Student Government Association. He completed his Juris Doctorate at the University of Alabama School of Law in 1954. He established his law practice, specializing in business law, in Point Clear, Baldwin County.
Edwards was appointed to the Mobile City Planning Commission's Transportation Advisory Committee in 1960. He was one of five Republican candidates swept into Congress on Barry Goldwater's coat-tails in the 1964 general election. He defeated Democrat John Tyson for the seat left vacant when redistricting left incumbent Frank Boykin outside the district.
While serving in Congress, Edwards became known as a leader in national defense issues, serving as vice-chair of the Republican House Leadership during Ronald Reagan's first term and as a ranking member of the Defense Appropriations subcommittee. He also served on the Transportation Appropriations subcommittee and the the House Banking Committee.
While in Congress, Edwards was part of the bipartisan Alabama delegation that unanimously voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1968. He helped secure funding to rebuild the Dauphin Island Bridge after Hurricane Frederic in 1979. He also led efforts to establish the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge and the Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. Edwards joined with Trent Lott of Mississippi and Bob Sikes and Earl Hutto of Florida to produce a televised "Congressional Report" which aired across the Gulf Coast region.
Edwards chose not to run for re-election in 1984, endorsing former Democrat Sonny Callahan in the open race and chairing Reagan's Alabama campaign. He resumed practicing law with the firm of Hand Arendall and served on numerous corporate and civic boards. He was chair of the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Mobile Economic Development Council, and of the Mayor's Waterfront Advisory Committee. In 1988 he was appointed to the University of Alabama Board of Trustees, serving until 1999. He also served on the board of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and a co-chair of the 1988 Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC).
Edwards was inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor in 1985 and was named Alabama's Volunteer Industrial Developer of the Year and Mobilian of the Year in 1987. The Jack Edwards National Airport in Gulf Shores is named in his honor. Edwards and his wife, the former Jolane Vander Sys, had two children: Lane and Richard.
Edwards died of pancreatic cancer at his home in Fairhope, Baldwin County a week after his 91st birthday. Governor Kay Ivey said that Edwards, "served his state and nation with the highest degree of integrity," and ordered flags at the Alabama State Capitol to fly at half-staff in his honor.
|Representative, 1st Congressional District of Alabama
- Cason, Mike and John Sharp (September 27, 2019) "Longtime Alabama Congressman Jack Edwards dies." The Birmingham News
- "William Edwards III" obituary (September 29, 2019) Mobile Press-Register
- "Jack Edwards (American politician) (October 1, 2019) Wikipedia - accessed October 1, 2019