NAACP Leader Was A Giant Among Men

Willis Edwards was a major power player in the NAACP, especially being instrumental in the NAACP’s Image Awards. Photo: Dennis J. Freeman

Heroes sometimes relinquish their immortal status and become human. Once they become human they become mortal like the rest of us and end up succumbing to fleshly beginnings and endings.

But in between, those men and women who validate their existence here on earth by saving lives and dedicate themselves to helping others, fill a void that is irreplacable. Willis Edwards was one of those heroes.

Edwards didn’t leap over buildings in a single bound. He didn’t fly around the country looking for a damsel in distress to rescue. He certainly didn’t produce any type of superhuman powers that could save the world with one swift act of justice.

Edwards was not a fantasy superhero out of the comic books that people could pick up and read. No, Edwards was a different kind of justice-seeker. He fought for equality. He stood up for people to have the right to vote. Looking for justice was a common thread in Edwards’ DNA.

He lived it. He breathed it every day until his last breath finally gave way to the eternal world. There are a lot of fakes portraying to be social-changers. Edwards was not one of those people. Edwards was the real deal when it came to being a power broker in the game of social change and fighting for equal treatment for people of color.

Edwards walked the walk when it comes to helping others. A longtime member of the NAACP, including leading the civil rights organization’s Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP branch’s thriving entertainment push of producing its annual NAAC Image Awards. Edwards was a true work-behind-the-scenes difference maker when it came down to negotiating with politicians, law enforcement officials and national dignitaries with the aplomb of a master technician.

Edwards was an advocate in the fight for more funding in creating awareness about the HIV/AIDS disease, particularly in the African American community. Since he nearly died of the AIDS virus years ago, Edwards wasn’t shy about trumpeting his advocacy for more awareness in the black community, the group with the highest number of people afflicted with the deadly disease.

Edwards touched a lot of people.  He made a lot of things happen for folks of color when there weren’t any doors opened or to go through with opportunity. If there was a way to be made, Edwards saw to it that it happened.  I can personally vouch to this account myself.

As a beat reporter covering the black community for several years, I would see Edwards when I was out and about reporting on local community events that focused on issues affecting African Americans.  Whenever I would greet Edwards, he would reply back with that big welcoming smile of his and retorted, “Hey, doc. Are you okay?”

Edwards had a way of making a stranger or those who didn’t know him well feel like were among family when talking with him. He had that kind of impact on people. He did on me. I’ve interviewed Edwards several times in the last decade. Each time I met with Edwards, he was always polite, always carried himself in a dignified and professional manner.

Yet, he always did so in a personable way. I can remember of a couple times I had difficulty as a media member getting access. On those occasions, I placed a call to Edwards. Usually, those conversations would last a couple of minutes. Within hours those situations were solved. Now that’s power. I was never part of Edwards’ inner circle of people who knew him real well.

I didn’t have to be to know what kind of person Edwards was. His dedication to uplift others says it all about the life he lived.




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