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George C. Edwards, Sr. Papers

Identifier: UP000238

Scope and Content

Part 1 Series 1: Early Family Correspondence and Papers, 1863-1920 Papers and letters involving the families of George C. Edwards and his wife, Octavia Nichols Edwards; and papers concerning the college education of Edwards and the couple's early teaching careers.

Series 2: Correspondence and Papers, 1928-1960 Incoming and outgoing correspondence and papers of George C. Edwards, primarily concerning labor and politics in Dallas and Detroit, and his son George C. Edwards, Jr.

Series 3: Notes, Speeches and Articles, 1923-1959 Notes, family historical and autobiographical materials, speeches, legal research notes, articles, and letters to the editor.

Series 4: Human Rights Concerns, 1930-1959 Correspondence, clippings and brochures concerning various human rights issues, especially civil rights and capital punishment.

Series 5: Clippings and Publications, 1916-1959 Clippings and publications concerning labor, politics, socialism, health, religion and civil rights in Dallas andDetroit. Clippings are mainly from Detroit papers.

Series 6: Diaries, 1925-1960 Desk diaries, appointment books, memo books, and address books.

Series 7: Account Books and Journals, 1899-1958 Account books, journals and ledgers containing financial information about Edwards' law practice and his rental properties.

Oversize Box Newspapers, large clippings; certificate and diplomas
Part 2 covers the years between 1944 and 1956. Materials include: correspondence addressing his opinions and involvement in L.C. Akins vs. the State of Texas (1944-1945), one letter to his family about his stance in a case regarding discrimination (1956), and responses from readers of his many liberal letters to the editors of the Dallas News; Edward’s appointment to the Civil Liberties Committee of the Bar Association of Dallas, and his notes and speech “Negro Progress White Justice;” Writings include book reviews, his autobiography, letters to the editor of The Dallas News, and letters from readers in response to his viewpoints. Small publications and clippings, from 1944 and 1956, are also included that relate mainly to segregation.


  • 1863 - 1960


The 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.


Part 1 George Clifton Edwards was born to William Mecklin Edwards and Elva Gray Edwards on 23 December 1877 in Dallas, Texas. He received his B.A. from the University of the South of Sewanee, Tennessee in 1898. The following year he received his M.A. from Harvard University.

Edwards returned to Dallas to teach school about 1900, and in 1901 was instrumental in founding the first free night school in the city. His teaching career continued for about eight years. In 1904 he married fellow teacher Octavia Nichols, daughter of Henry and Lily Purnell Nichols, and a graduate of the University of Texas.

In about 1908 Edwards began reading law with his father, and in 1909 they became partners in a law firm. By the 1920s he had gained a reputation as a pro-labor, pro-ACLU, pro-NAACP lawyer. Politically he was an active Socialist, and he was anti-Ku-Klux-Klan and pro-prohibition. Throughout his career as a lawyer, Edwards continued as a champion of the downtrodden, specializing in cases involving discrimination or usury. Outside of the law practice, he took a great personal interest in issues concerning humanrights.

Edwards and his wife had two daughters who died in infancy, both named Purnell. Their two surviving children were Octavia Nichols Edwards, Jr. (Nicky) and George Clifton Edwards, Jr. After a stroke in 1958 George Clifton went to E. Lansing, Michigan to live near his son, then a judge in the Michigan Supreme Court. He died in 1960.

Judge Edwards' book about his father, Pioneer-at-Law: A Legacy in the Pursuit of Justice, is a source of further biographical information.
Part 2 George Clifton Edwards (1877-1961) was a schoolteacher who established the first night school in Dallas, after which he returned to law school and served in that profession for 40 years. As a member of the Socialist Party for over 50 years, he fought against segregation and child labor, and was a great supporter of women’s suffrage. He wrote many letters in support of his liberal views to the editors of the Dallas News. His son, Judge George C. Edwards, Jr. served on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals at the behest of President John F. Kennedy.


18.5 Linear Feet (2 SB, 37 MB, 6 OS)

Language of Materials



George Edwards, Sr. began his professional career as an educator before he turned to law where he gained a reputation as a pro-labor, pro-ACLU, pro-NAACP lawyer. Politically an active Socialist for over 50 years, he continued throughout his career to champion the downtrodden, specializing in cases involving discrimination or usury. Outside of law practice, he took great personal interest in human rights, fighting segregation and child labor, and supporting women’s suffrage. His papers cover both his personal and professional life.


Part 1 Arranged into seven series and one oversized box - Series 1 (Boxes 1-7), Series 2 (Boxes 8-20), Series 3 (Boxes 21-23), Series 4 (Boxes 24-25), Series 5 (Boxes 26-30), Series 6 (Boxes 31-33), Series 7 (Boxes 34-37), and oversize box. Material arranged chronologically within each series or group.
Part 2 Arranged into one manuscript box (Box 38).


Part 1: The papers of George Clifton Edwards were deposited in the Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs in May 1968 by Judge George Edwards, Jr., and opened for research in May of 1992.
Part 2 was deposited on December 14, 1993, with a subsequent deposit on January 12, 1994.


Part 1: Approximately 20 photographs, most of which are family portraits and snapshots, have been placed in the Audiovisual Collections of the Archives. Also placed there are political buttons and badges.
NOTE ON ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: A duplicate copy of the manuscript found in Box 21, Folders 11-13, with changes, additions, and some renumbering, is unprocessed in one-half manuscript box with the processed collection. It was received after processing.

Processing History

Processed and finidng aid writting by Walter P. Library in May, 1992.
George C. Edwards, Sr. Papers
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