by Scott Dreyer
In a highly-watched move, Democrat State Senator John Edwards announced this week he will not seek re-election after his current four-year term ends in January, ending his 40-plus-year run as a politician. Edwards, who will turn 80 in October, has been the subject of much speculation as to his intentions. Reportedly, he hosted a fundraiser just this past January and public records show he has a campaign war chest north of $100,000. Those aspects indicate his decision to retire to be somewhat mystifying.
However, with President Biden being less than one year older than Edwards, but with glaring displays of cognitive decline, and Americans increasingly on-edge regarding those gaffes and the president’s ability to function in a time of the Ukraine War, Edwards’ running for re-election as an octogenarian under increased scrutiny may have carried significant liabilities.
A native Roanoker, Edwards was born in the Star City in 1943, the son of the late Judge Richard T. Edwards. Growing up and attending school during the Jim Crow Era, Edwards graduated from the then-all-white Patrick Henry High School in 1962, because the school had not yet integrated.
According to Edwards’ campaign website, which is still up, “he was the first president of the student government [at PH]. He was a record setting pole vaulter and state high-school champion and voted by his classmates as ‘most likely to succeed’.”
Edwards graduated from Princeton University in 1966 cum laude. After graduation, he attended Union Theological Seminary in New York City for a year, and later graduated in 1970 from the University of Virginia Law School. Ironically, at UVA Edwards was a writing instructor assistant to Professor Antonin Scalia, who later became a well-known conservative Supreme Court Justice while Edwards went politically to the left.
Edwards served his country during the Vietnam War in the U.S. Marine Corps as a Captain from 1971 through 1973, as a JAG officer based first in Japan and later in North Carolina.
In 1980, President Jimmy Carter (D) appointed Edwards United States Attorney for the Western District of Virginia.
In 1993, Edwards was appointed to fill a vacancy on Roanoke City Council and was elected in 1994 to a four year term and as Vice-Mayor. In 1995, Edwards defeated a Republican incumbent to win a seat in the Senate of Virginia, representing the 21st District. He was re-elected in 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, and 2019. In a few of those races, he faced no or only token opposition.