Vocalist, Educator, Social Activist James Edwards Passes

James Christopher Edwards, Jr.

By Barney Blakeney

Charleston crooner, musician, educator and administrator James Christopher Edwards, Jr., husband of Mrs. Gloria LaPrince Edwards, entered into eternal rest at his residence March 30. He was 85.

Edwards, a retired administrator for Charleston County School District, is remembered among Charleston’s most prominent vocalists. The 1952 Burke High School graduate who earned a B.S. Degree from Allen University in 1956 was the son of Annabelle Middleton Edwards Gerideau and James C. Edwards, Sr. He grew up on the peninsula’s Westside on President Street and later Jasper Street in the community he made his lifelong home. A Korean War veteran, he later obtained a Master Degree from South Carolina State College and a Master Plus from The Citadel.

Married more than 60 years to Gloria LaPrince Edwards, the love of his life and mother of their three sons, Edwards’ mistress was music. A member and Trustee at Morris Brown AME Church in Charleston, Edwards was Minister of Music 19 years. An extremely gifted vocalist, Edwards shared his baritone gift liberally. While a member of the teaching faculty at Mary Ford Elementary School in North Charleston he led its boy’s choir. Ultimately becoming a school Edwards retired after 35 years with the district as principal of Sanders Clyde elementary School in Charleston. During those years he capably shared his musical talents.

Performing at  events locally, nationally and internationally over more than half a century, Edwards was founder of the famed Choraliers Music Club of Charleston. In 1970 he was choral director and cast member of the Charleston production of Porgy and Bess, the famed opera by George and Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward.

Simultaneously Edwards was prominent among social activists. The Porgy and Bess production was demonstrative of his use of his talent to make social statements. The production was among the first full scale integrated performances in the city. He used that platform as a member of many civic and fraternal organizations.

Friend and admirer Bud Ferillo said in a statement after Edwards’ passing, “He contributed his considerable talents to the first production of Porgy and Bess in Charleston in 1970. The great American folk opera was collaboration between Charleston native Dubose Heyward and New Yorkers George and Ira Gershwin. That production had never been performed in Charleston up to that time because the terms of the Gershwin estate prohibited it from being staged before segregated audiences.

“Leading Charlestonians, Bo Morrison and James Edwards and countless others made that happen with an integrated cast before multiple integrated audiences in the relatively new Gaillard Auditorium to standing room only capacity. That act of racial unity, among several others in 1970, led the way for many more performances in succeeding years, all possible because of the huge cast assembled by James Edwards from among many talented singers in the African American community in Charleston. Together they broke the color barrier in Charleston and we owe much gratitude to James and his allies who made operatic history in our community. May he never be forgotten.”

Edwards is survived by his children: James Christopher Edwards, III of Charleston, SC (Tomette Carr, fiancé;), Reverend Brent LaPrince Edwards – Pastor of St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church, Asheville, N.C. and Mr. Robbins Ulysses Edwards (Christa Eaves Edwards) of Bowie, MD; grandchildren: Claire Elizabeth Edwards, Henry James Edwards, Khyla Porter, Robbins Ulysses Edwards, Jr. and Aaron Christopher Edwards; and a host of loving relatives and friends.

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