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The Bradsher Beat
Friday, April 13, 2007

By Bethany Bradsher

Edwards leaves sweeping legacy

By Bethany Bradsher
All rights reserved.

Jack Edwards
Born: June 11, 1924
Died: April 8, 2007

Jeff Charles knew Jack Edwards first as a friend, then as the self-proclaimed president of the Jeff Charles Fan Club. And when necessary, Edwards stepped in as the grammar coach for the Voice of the Pirates.

A college journalism major and a stickler for proper English, Edwards wouldn’t hesitate to call Charles and gently correct him when he heard a mispronunciation or other snafu on one of Charles’s broadcasts.

It was one of the small but numerous ways that Edwards showed his decades-long commitment to East Carolina and all things connected to the Pirates.

When Edwards died on Sunday, ECU lost one of its most steadfast friends and one of the pillars that tied the athletic program’s optimistic past with its emerging future. As ECU has grown larger and many of its older leaders have either retired or moved on, Edwards and his peers represent a rich Pirate heritage that is fading, Charles said.

“It’s just the nature of the business these days,” said Charles, who came to ECU 19 years ago and met Edwards two days later. “We’ve just had so much turnover that there’s not that link there. You almost have to go outside the building to find people who remember what it’s about, what an incredible struggle it’s been and how far it has come. I’m just fearful that we’re losing a sense of that now, because we don’t have the people to draw on.”

From founding the store that became University Book Exchange to helping lead the Pirate Club and serving as a fixture as various sporting events, Edwards made a lifetime out of giving himself away, within the Pirate Nation and through outlets like his church and the Rotary Club.

At his memorial service on Thursday, Charles noticed a striking difference from some other funerals he has attended. None of the speakers outlined a list of Edwards’ accolades, although they were notable. More than a businessman, more than an outstanding citizen, Edwards was a good man who loved his family and friends well.

“Nobody ever said one thing about the accomplishments in his life,” Charles said. “All they ever talked about was the kind of person he was and how kind he was to everybody. He was one of the most kind, humble people I’ve ever met.”

Assistant athletic director Lee Workman has been at ECU since 1984, a little longer than Charles. And like Charles, Workman will always remember that one of the first people he met in Greenville was Jack Edwards.

“He will be missed, and not just as a supporter of the Pirate Club,” Workman said. “He will be missed as a person. What a great legacy of life.”

In all of Edwards’ endeavors, he considered what was best for the university, or the athletic department, or the community, Workman said. His own interests always seemed to take a back seat.

“He brought his energy and his enthusiasm,” Workman said. “He’s one of those individuals that built the foundation that allowed us to continue to grow.”

The next time you hear Charles broadcast from U.B.E. on the morning of a home football game, remember Edwards. He was the man who invited Charles at his store, the store he started in 1963 when, as a then-East Carolina College business professor, he recognized the need for a unique bookstore close to campus.

Now operated by Edwards’ son Don, U.B.E. is a Pirate institution, but Charles will always remember the days when Jack was his chauffeur, making trips across town to the Hilton to pick up the visiting team’s broadcasters to ferry them to U.B.E. for an appearance on the morning radio show. It was a task that Edwards loved, Charles said, because he enjoyed people and he was fascinated by the business of broadcasting.

And that favorite Edwards line about filling the role as president of the Jeff Charles Fan Club? He altered it a bit in later years, with his trademark sense of humor.

“This was just pure Jack,” Charles said. “Maybe 10 years ago, he started to say, ‘I just resigned as the president of the Jeff Charles Fan Club. The fan club got so big, so out of hand, that I couldn’t handle it anymore.”

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04/13/2007 04:50:20 AM

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