1915 January 6

Don Edwards, “Rights Champion” in Congress, is Born


Don Edwards, who served in the House of Representatives for thirty years (1963-1993), and distinguished himself as a “rights champion” (according to his New York Times obituary in 2015),  was born on this day.

Edwards was a leading supporter of civil liberties and civil rights, especially the 1965 Voting Rights Act. He later said that the most important bill he handled was the successful extension of the law in 1982, overcoming the opposition of President Ronald Reagan.

In the summer of 1964 he visited Sunflower County Mississippi, where his son was a volunteer in the famous Freedom Summer effort to register African-American voters.

Edwards was an FBI agent for about three years (1939-1942) before entering the Navy in World War II. As a member of Congress, however, he became a sharp critic of the Bureau and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. Because of his criticisms, the FBI opened a file on him. When Edwards later obtained a copy of his file, he found in it a hand-written comment of “good riddance” by Hoover when he, Edwards, announced his plan not to run for re-election. Edwards proudly hung the document on his office wall.

Originally a Republican, Edwards became a Democrat, representing the San Jose area in California. The Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge near San Francisco is named in his honor. He died on October 1, 2015, at age 100.

Read the official Congressional biography of Edwards: http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=E000064


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