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George C. Edwards, Jr. Papers

Identifier: UP000010

Scope and Content

Important subjects covered in the collection are: American Judiciary Child Welfare League of America Criminal Justice System Detroit and Michigan Politics Detroit Common Council Detroit Mayoral Campaign, 1949 Detroit Police Department Housing Juvenile Delinquency League for Industrial Democracy Race Relations in Detroit Social Welfare Programs United Auto Workers Yale and Towne Strike, 1937 Youth Organizations

Among the important correspondents are: George Addes Victor Reuther Justice Eugene Black Walter Reuther Justice Leland Carr Sol Rubin Jerome Cavanagh Justice Edward Sharp Justice John Dethmers Justice Talbot Smith John Dingell Justice Theodore Souris Felix Frankfurter John Swainson Hubert Humphrey R. J. Thomas Edward Jeffries Justice John Voelker Justice Thomas Kavanagh G. Mennen Williams Justice Harry Kelly Frank Winn Homer Martin
Series Description: Part I: Series I, 1937-1956, Boxes 1-38: Subseries A: Newspaper Clippings, 1941-1956, Boxes 1-12 Subseries B:Personal Papers, 1937-1956, Boxes 13-38 Series II, Personal Papers, 1957-1961, Boxes 39-63 Series III, Personal Papers, 1961-1963, Boxes 64-84
Part II: Series IV, Correspondence, 1922-1945, Boxes 85-89: Correspondence to George Edwards, Sr. between 1922 and 1945 and correspondence to Frank Winn during the spring of 1936.

Series V, School Materials, Boxes 90-91: Class notes, publications, exams, clippings, short stories and poetry, memorabilia, and a journal from George Edwards' years at Dallas High School, Southern Methodist University and Harvard.

Series VI, Activities, 1930s, Boxes 92-94: Material from the American Student Union, American Youth Congress, Committee on Militarism in Education, League for Industrial Democracy, and the Second Annual UAWA Convention. Also included in this series are the research materials, notes, and drafts for the pamphlet "White Collar Workers," and miscellaneous notes.

Series VII, Judicial Campaigns, 1956 and 1959, Boxes 95-96: Correspondence, clippings, expense accounts, bank statements, schedules, social security and income tax statements, and speeches from George Edwards' 1956 and 1959 judicial campaigns.

Series VIII, Miscellaneous, 1930-1950s, Box 96: Three folders of materials from 1930 through the 1950s.
Part III: Series IX, Personal Papers, 1931-1970, Boxes 97-102: Personal correspondence with friends and family, school records, manuscript fragments, and materials from UAW-WPA, the Detroit Housing Commission, and various campaigns.

Series X, Newspapers and Articles, 1931-1970, Box 103: Articles from college newspapers and the Detroit dailies about union strikes, the Reuther shootings, Detroit politics, Detroit riots, and George C. Edwards, Jr.

Series XI, George and Peg Edwards' Wartime Correspondence, 1944-1945, Boxes 104-106
Part IV: Material in part IV covers a wide range of years, from George Edwards, Jr.’s service in the military in the mid 1940’s until his death, in 1995, with some post 1995 items. Included are manuscript material and reviews of Pioneer at law, written by Edwards and published in 1974, and documents and correspondence relating to publications about him after his death. Correspondence ranges from early personal letters, from his time in the military, with friends, service personnel, his wife, and family members to correspondence throughout his career, especially pertaining to his service as Police Commissioner of Detroit, 1962 to 1963, and his nomination to the Sixth Judicial Circuit of the United States in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy. Edwards’ papers also contain correspondence and writings, speeches, and presentations before professional organizations, particularly the Anglo-American Justice Team, the National News Council, the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, and the South African Project. Issues of special interest to him included organized crime, free press and free trial, and in particular, the trial of Sam Sheppard. When Edwards died from complications of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease at the age of 80, his family received many letters of condolence and memorial tributes from friends and prominent political figures from all over the country. These comprise the post 1995 material. Oversize materials include sketches, scrapbooks, certificates, a map, and military apparel.

Important Subjects: Capital Punishment Community Relations and Police Crime Fair Trial, Free Press Juvenile Delinquency Law Enforcement Malpractice Organized Crime Pre-Arraignment Procedure Pre-sentencing Probation Race Relations Sheppard, Sam

Important Names: Brennan, Justice William J.; Cavanaugh, Mayor Jerome; Dingell, John D.; Edwards, George Clifton; Jeffrey, Mildred; Johnson, President Lyndon B.; King, Martin Luther (photocopy); Kennedy, Robert F.; Murrah, Alfred P.; Reuther, Victor G.; Reuther, Walter; Romney, Governor George

Series Description: Series XII: Personal, 1930s-2001 Correspondence: to and from his wife, Peg, beginning during his military service and throughout the rest of his life; to military personnel and business associates regarding his ideas for an improved infantry tank; with his father, George Clifton Edwards; and with and about his children. Military and educational records, letters of condolence upon his death in 1995, various obituaries and ensuing memorials. His sketches of proposed infantry tank designs that he sent to Walter Reuther and military personnel, and various military apparel and artifacts, are included in Series XVII.

Series XIII: Career, 1940s-1990s General business correspondence that follows his career chronologically, documentation of his election to and service on the Detroit Common Council, and official ceremonies as Judge of the Michigan Supreme Court. Many notes and statements, particularly related to organized crime, records of incidents, and questionnaires surveying public opinion of the Detroit Police Department. Includes correspondence with Robert F. Kennedy in regard to his nomination to the Sixth Judicial Circuit and also in regard to his fear of demise by organized crime figures. Many letters of congratulation and thank you’s regarding nomination to the Sixth Judicial Circuit of the United States and subsequent Senate hearings, his Ten Year celebration, trip to the Philippines in 1968, and retirement. Scrapbooks of clippings documenting his service as Detroit Police Commissioner are included in Series XVII.

Series XIV: Professional Activities, 1962-1985 Correspondence, writings, position statements, memorandums, and agendas of meetings or conferences in regard to professional organizations. These organizations include Anglo- American Justice Team, National Council on Crime and Delinquency, and the Southern Africa Project. Speeches and presentations given by George Edwards, Jr. specific to these organizations are included.

Series XV: Writings, 1950s-2000 Articles, eulogies, commencement speeches, a photocopy of the manuscript for Pioneer at law, and many other speeches and presentations written by George Edwards, Jr. and given before a variety of organizations other than those in Series XIV. Many titles are included in the Index of Speeches. Correspondence and notes related to these speeches and presentations are included. Only annotated reference materials have been kept with the speeches and presentations. Notes, favorite quotes, and jokes are also included.

Series XVI: Clippings, 1930s-2001 Clippings about George Edwards, Jr. Photocopies of some photographs.

Series XVII: Oversize, 1940s-1990 A variety of materials and formats such as scrapbooks filled with clippings from Edwards’ service as Detroit Police Commissioner, military attire, date books, children’s notes to Peg, wartime sketches by Edwards of his proposed infantry tank designs, certificates of honor, and campaign materials.

Series XVIII: Publications, 1950s-1990s Pamphlets, articles, reports, newsletters, commentaries, small government and professional publications, and reviews either about George Edwards, Jr. or by him. Histories of Hickman County, Tennessee.


  • 1921 - 2001
  • Majority of material found within 1938 - 1996

Language of Materials

Material entirely in English.


Collection is open for research.


Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials. Restrictions: Researchers may encounter records of a sensitive nature – personnel files, case records and those involving investigations, legal and other private matters. Privacy laws and restrictions imposed by the Library prohibit the use of names and other personal information which might identify an individual, except with written permission from the Director and/or the donor.


George Clifton Edwards, Jr. was born in Dallas, Texas in 1914 to George Clifton Edwards, a Dallas attorney and socialist, and Octavia Nichols Edwards, an educator.

He received his B.A. from Southern Methodist University in 1933 and then attended Harvard, where he received his master's degree the following year. During his time at Harvard, Edwards became involved with the Student League for Industrial Democracy headed by Norman Thomas, and worked for the organization for two years.

In 1936 Edwards came to Detroit, where he went to work in production at Kelsey-Hayes Wheel Company. It was there that he became involved with union organizing, participating in the strike at Kelsey-Hayes that year. In 1937 he became a UAW-CIO representative and directed their WPA-Welfare Department for the next two years.

In April of 1939 Edwards married Margaret McConnell. Their first son, George Clifton Edwards III, was born in 1940. Appointed director of the Detroit Housing Commission by Mayor Edward Jeffries that same year, Edwards played a large role in the construction of the Herman Gardens Housing Project. In 1941 he ran successfully for a seat on the Detroit Common Council. He served four terms on the Council, two as its president. Part of that time was served in absentia, as Edwards enlisted in the United States Army in 1943 and served until 1946. In 1944, while still in the military service, Edwards received his law degree from the Detroit College of Law and celebrated the birth of his son James.

Upon his discharge from the army, Edwards went into private practice in Detroit with attorney Theodore Bohn. Bohn played a major role in Edwards' unsuccessful 1949 mayoral campaign. In 1950 the firm became Rothe, Marston, Edwards, and Bohn, but Edwards left it in 1951 when he became probate judge in Wayne County Juvenile Court. In 1954 he became a judge in Wayne County Circuit Court, and from 1956 to 1962 served as a justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. In 1962 he returned to Detroit to serve as police commissioner and a year later was appointed to the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals from which he retired as an active judge.

Judge Edwards co-authored The Law of Criminal Correction with Sol Rubin, Henry Weihofin and Simon Rosenzweig. He also wrote a biography of his father, Pioneer at Law.


63 Linear Feet ((106 MB, 9 SB), 6 OS)


George Edwards, Jr., son of George Clifton Edwards, attended Harvard University where he became involved with the Student League for Industrial Democracy. After coming to Detroit in 1936, he became a UAW organizer with Walter Reuther, was appointed director of the Detroit Housing Commission, and served on the Detroit Common Council. After serving in WWII, he went into private practice, followed by judgeships in the Wayne County court system. In 1956, Edwards was appointed to the Michigan State Supreme Court. In 1962 he was invited by Mayor Jerome Cavanagh to the post of Police Commissioner of Detroit where he focused his attention on organized crime and discrimination. After serving two years he was nominated to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals by President John F. Kennedy, and eventually served as a Chief Judge. He retired in 1991 and passed away in 1995.

Parts I-III of his papers reflects his early high school and college days, including correspondence with his father and material from his involvement in several student groups. Edward, Jr.'s various judicial campaigns, particularly his Michigan Supreme Court appointment, as well as his directorship of the Detroit Housing Commission are documented. Personal papers, including wartime correspondence with his wife, are included, as are newspaper clippings dealing with a variety of topics relevant to Detroit politics and events.

Part IV of Edwards, Jr.'s contains personal and career related correspondence from his service in the military through the 1980’s, with much focus on his nomination and confirmation to the Sixth Circuit Court. Included are many speeches and writings, his activities with professional organizations, a photocopy of his manuscript of the biography of his father, Pioneers at Law, and memorial tributes and letters of condolence to his family.


Part I: Arranged in 3 series – Series 1 (Boxes 1-38), Series 2 (Boxes 39-63), and Series 3 (Boxes 64-84). Folders are arranged alphabetically and chronologically.

Series 1 further divided into two subseries.
Part II: Arranged in 5 series - Series 4 (Boxes 85-89), Series 5 (Boxes 90-91), Series 6 (Boxes 92-94), Series 7 (Boxes 95-96), and Series 8 (Box 96). Folders are arranged chronologically, alphabetically, or by subject depending upon the series.
Part III: Arranged in 3 series - Series 9 (Boxes 97-102), Series 10 (Box 103), Series 11 (Boxes 104-106). Folders arranged chronologically.
Part IV: Arranged in seven series, beginning where Part III left off: Series XII (Box 107), Series XIII (Box 107-108), Series XIV (Box 109-111), Series XV (Box 111-114), Series XVI (Box 114), Series XVII (Oversize Boxes 115-119), and Series XVIII (Box 120). Folders are arranged alphabetically by subject, and then chronologically, unless otherwise noted.

Series XV is further divided by subject if the folder contains all of one subject. Series XVI and Series XVIII are arranged by decade. Series XVII is itemized.


Parts I - III: The papers of George Clifton Edwards, Jr. were placed in the Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs in 1962, 1968, and 1973 by Judge Edwards.
Part IV: Part IV, George C. Edwards, Jr., was first deposited in 1991, with a subsequent deposit in 1998.

Related Materials

Reuther Library Collections: UAW President’s Office: Walter P. Reuther Records; George C. Edwards, Sr. Papers; Stanley J. Winkelman Papers; IWW Records; Jerome Cavanaugh Papers; George Crockett Papers; John Herling Papers; Claude Williams Papers; NAACP Detroit Branch Records; American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan/Metropolitan Detroit Branch Collection; UAW Research Department Records; Harold Norris Papers; Mel Ravitz Papers; Damon J. Keith Papers; Mary Fox Herling Papers.

Library of Congress Collections: Nomination of George Clifton Edwards, Jr. Hearings before a subcommittee of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, Eighty-eighth Congress, first session, on nomination of George Clifton Edwards, Jr., of Michigan, to be United States circuit judge, sixth circuit.


Parts I - III: Approximately thirty photographs of the Edwards family or George Edwards in politics and a few items of memorabilia have been placed in the Archives Audiovisual Collection.
Part IV: Photographs were transferred to the Reuther Library's Audiovisual Department.

Processing History

Parts I - III: Processed and finding aid written by Walter P. Reuther Library in May 1992.
Part IV: Processed and finding aid written by Anne Johns on April 8, 2010.
Guide to the George C. Edwards, Jr. Papers
Processed by Walter P. Reuther Library.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit MI 48202 USA