Charles Garland Edwards
1926 - 2018
Charles Edwards, who served as a pastor, educator, evangelist, conference youth director and public relations director, and health education specialist in eight states, was also as an amateur musician throughout his life. In addition to singing, he also conducted and played piano and tuba.
Charles was born in Muncie, Indiana, on September 25, 1926, one of two sons of Lowell A. and Josephine Cunnington Edwards. His father was a Seventh-day Adventist Bible teacher, principal, and pastor and his mother a teacher who became a noted storyteller in the church. She wrote over two dozen books and numerous articles for both children and adults.
Although both Charles and his brother, Robert, took piano lessons from an early age, the family's musical gift was singing. Their father, grandfather, and great-grandfather were all singers, the great-grandfather, a song leader in Indiana camp meetings in the pioneering days of the Adventist church having enjoyed a reputation as "the sweet singer of the Wabash."
By the time Charles was twelve he had lived in five different places in Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan, while his father and mother attended Broadview College, now Academy, and then Emmanuel Missionary College, now Andrews University. Midway through their four-year stay at EMC, the mother accepted church school teaching positions while the father completed his studies, the boys staying with her during the school year.
In 1938 the family moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where Lowell served as principal of Minneapolis Junior Academy, located in the old Stevens Avenue SDA church, and taught grades nine and ten for two years, while Josephine taught grades five through eight. When the school was relocated and named Twin Cities Academy, Lowell was recognized as its founder and served as its first principal. It later reverted to its original name of Minneapolis Junior Academy, a name it still retains. Charles completed seventh and eighth grade under his mother and ninth grade under his father before transferring to Maplewood Academy, a boarding school in nearby Hutchinson, for his sophomore and junior years.
At the academy, both he and his brother, Robert, were avid music students who were inspired by their ensemble music experiences under Adrian Lauritzen and their lessons from him and his wife, Evelyn, in piano and voice respectively. Charles played sousaphone in the band and was chosen to sing in a special choir that toured throughout the state.
In 1943, at the end of his junior year at MWA, he transferred to EMC, where he completed the two credits he needed for graduation that summer and was given a diploma from the EMC Academy. That fall he enrolled at EMC and three years later, in 1946, graduated with a B.A. at age nineteen. He completed a Master of Science in Public Health at Loma Linda University in 1975 and a Ph.D. in human behavior at Newport University in California in 1981.
Throughout the years, music has continued to be a significant part of his life. While at EMC, Charles took piano lessons from Verne Kelsey and played in recitals, as he had at MWA. He also played in the college band under John J. Hafner, who would become a lifelong friend. Additionally, he sang in the college choirs and, using conducting skills he had developed under Lauritzen, led pep bands. He also took several music classes, nearly completing a minor.
He married June Day, a singer and pianist whose father had been a professional musician, the year he graduated from college. They both used their musical talents as Charles served as a pastor in SDA churches. He conducted the band at Memphis Junior Academy and Greater Boston Academy while serving as a pastor in Memphis, Tennessee, and in Boston. He also conducted choirs at MJA and Wenatchee Junior Academy in Washington state.
Upholding the family tradition of three generations, Charles and his brother continued to sing, with Robert singing first tenor for 24 years in the Voice of Prophecy's King's Heralds Quartet. Charles has sung in several presentations of the Messiah, including singing some of the tenor solos in a performance at Stoneham, Massachusetts, in Christmas 1963. He also sang in the Queen Esther Cantata when it was presented in the Nashville, Tennessee, area and later directed and sang in the same cantata while he was pastor in Memphis, Tennessee, in the 1950s. He played in the band at a world youth congress held in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1969.
Charles was living in Walla Walla, Washington, at the time of his death on September 7, 2018. He was surived by his wife, June; his sons, James and Robert; sister, Alice Princess Msumba Siwundhla; and several grandchildren and neices and nephews.
Sources: Information provided by Charles Edwards, November 2010; Adrian R. M. Lauritzen, Saints of the Northern Star, Minnesota Conference, 2003, 80-81. Charles Garland Edwards, Walla Walla Union Bulletin, September 16, 2018.
A Treasured Family Memory
Charles G. Edwards
Our great grandfather, who was called "the sweet singer of the Wabash," used to lead music for Indiana Camp Meetings. He treasured an experience he had when he was leading music for one Indiana Camp Meeting when James and Ellen White were there to speak.
Elder James White was to speak at the evening meeting, and Grandpa Edwards was to lead the music. He went to the Whites' tent and asked Elder White what his subject was so he could plan music to fit the subject. Elder White was busy and did not want to be bothered at the moment and brusquely brushed off this youthful music leader with, "Run along, we'll take care of that."
Grandpa was crestfallen and walked away. Just a moment later, however, he heard Sister White call from the back of the tent, "James, that boy was right and you were wrong. He should plan music to fit the subject." Immediately, James White leaped to his feet, ran down the tent row to Grandpa Edwards, and said, "Come on back, son; we'll fix it up." Soon they had planned a fine meeting.