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Willis Edwards

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Information about Willis Edwards

Profile image of Willis Edwards

Profession

Category:
CivicMakers
Occupation(s):
Association Chief Executive

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Greens (Mustard)
Favorite Time of Year:
Birthday
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Hawaii
Favorite Quote:
Do What You Can From Where You Are.

Birthplace

Born:
1/1/1946
Birth Location:
Houston, Texas

Profession

Category:
CivicMakers
Occupation(s):
Association Chief Executive

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Greens (Mustard)
Favorite Time of Year:
Birthday
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Hawaii
Favorite Quote:
Do What You Can From Where You Are.

Birthplace

Born:
1/1/1946
Birth Location:
Houston
See how Willis Edwards is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Association chief executive Willis Franklin Earl Edwards was born in Carthage, Texas, outside of Houston, on January 1, 1946. Edwards was raised by his mother Anita Hudson Edwards and his stepfather Frank Edwards, in section fourteen of the Cahuilla Indian Reservation in Palm Springs, California . Edwards attended Nell Ann Kaufmann Junior High School and Palm Springs High School, where he graduated with a diploma in 1963. Edwards later attended California State University, Los Angeles where he became active in politics.

Edwards was a part of the campaign team for Senator Robert F. Kennedy. He was by Kennedy’s side when he was assassinated in 1968. Edwards was drafted into the Vietnam War, where he was awarded a bronze star. In 1970, after returning from Vietnam, Edwards became the head of the California branch of the National Student Lobby. Thomas Bradley, the mayor of Los Angeles, California, appointed Edwards to the city’s Social Service Commission in 1973. Edwards attended the Democratic National Convention, where he served on the delegate credentials committee and led the Pledge of Allegiance. Despite being endorsed by Thomas Bradley and Rev. Jesse L. Jackson., Edwards unsuccessfully ran for the California General Assembly. In 1982, Edwards was elected president of the Beverly Hills/Hollywood Branch of the NAACP. As a producer, Edwards persuaded NBC president Brandon Tartikoff to nationally televise the NAACP Image Awards show. Edwards also coordinated Nelson Mandela’s visit to Los Angeles in 1992.

After being diagnosed with AIDS, Edwards briefly retreated to private life; he came out of seclusion to help civil rights legend Rosa Parks gain public recognition by attending the 1998 Oscars, sitting next to Hillary Clinton at Bill Clinton’s 1999 State of the Union address and meeting with Pope John Paul II. After these events, Rosa Parks received the Congressional Gold Medal. In 2000, Edwards also used his influence to raise over $1 million for Parks. He later collaborated with U.S. Congresswoman Diane Watson to raise money for her successful congressional campaign. Edwards also served as the California representative to the National Board of the NAACP and was a member of the NAACP’s HIV/AIDS subcommittee.

Willis Edwards was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 28, 2005.

Willis Edwards passed away on July 13, 2012.

See how Willis Edwards is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Willis Edwards's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Willis Edwards lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Willis Edwards describes his mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Willis Edwards describes his father and his stepfather
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Willis Edwards talks about his mother's personality and her battle with illness
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Willis Edwards talks about the African American community in Palm Springs, California during his childhood
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Willis Edwards describes his earliest childhood memory
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Willis Edwards describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Willis Edwards talks about experiencing racial discrimination during his childhood in Palm Springs, California
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Willis Edwards describes his educational experiences in Palm Springs, California
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Willis Edwards describes his childhood churches and community organizations in Palm Springs, California
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Willis Edwards remembers meeting African American celebrities during his youth in Palm Springs, California
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Willis Edwards describes his family environment while growing up in Palm Springs, California
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Willis Edwards describes his experiences at Palm Springs High School in Palm Springs, California
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Willis Edwards recalls his aspirations and hopes during his time at Palm Springs High School in Palm Springs, California
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Willis Edwards remembers his plans after graduating from high school in 1963
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Willis Edwards talks about working for the 1968 presidential campaign of Senator Robert F. Kennedy
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Willis Edwards recalls serving in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Willis Edwards describes heading the California branch of the National Student Lobby in the early 1970s
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Willis Edwards reflects on working for Senator Robert F. Kennedy and Mayor Tom Bradley
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Willis Edwards talks about his experience serving on the credentials committee at the Democratic National Convention
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Willis Edwards describes his term as president of the Beverly Hills Hollywood branch of the NAACP during the 1970s
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Willis Edwards talks about the struggle to increase African American representation on movie casts and crews
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Willis Edwards recalls his efforts to televise the NAACP Image Awards
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Willis Edwards talks about stars who have won NAACP Image Awards
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Willis Edwards talks about the NAACP Image Awards being given to controversial performers
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Willis Edwards talks about his advocacy as a leader within the NAACP
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Willis Edwards talks about African Americans who have created opportunities for black people in the entertainment industry
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Willis Edwards reflects on the careers that have been started by the NAACP Image Awards
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Willis Edwards reflects on the story of Rosa Parks and how it has been misconstrued
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Willis Edwards talks about his personal relationship with Rosa Parks
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Willis Edwards talks about his work with the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Willis Edwards describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Willis Edwards reflects upon his life
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Willis Edwards reflects upon his legacy
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Willis Edwards remembers meeting and working on behalf of Nelson Mandela in 1995
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Willis Edwards outlines his future plans
  • Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Willis Edwards describes how he would like to be remembered