Otis Bernard Edwards, Sr.
1901 - 1971
Otis B. Edwards, was a multi-talented teacher, administrator, and musician who served at Oakwood College, now University, for 44 years. He was known as a creative, witty, demanding, and loving teacher and is regarded as a critical person in the emergence of today's Oakwood University as a respected academic institution.
Otis was born in Pensacola, Florida, on July 3, 1901, the son of William H. and Lodi(e) Burch Edwards. He married Roberta Adele Claiborne, a native of Texas, on September 6, 1926, and that fall began his career as an instructor in history and dean of men at Oakwood College. He served as acting head of its music department, beginning in 1930. In 1935 he assumed direction of the male chorus and named it the Alabama Singers, a name it retained until the 1950s.
Edwards completed a master’s degree at the SDA Theological Seminary, now Andrews University Seminary in 1943 and was named head of the Oakwood College history department at that time, when the school became a senior college. He was known for his rigor in the classroom and was unrelenting in his demands for meeting deadlines and expectations for writing perfection, characteristics that had marked his earlier work in preparing music in his ensembles.
He also was known for his easy, quick wit, and hearty laugh. E. E. Rogers, a student of his and later a Bible teacher at the college, would note in a tribute he wrote in 1973 that "his tall lanky body literally shook all over like an erupting volcano whenever he gave expression to humor."
He wrote two songs which continue as part of life at OC: To Thee, Our Dear Oakwood, the school song, and Graduates' Farewell, the latter being a postlude played at graduation.
He became Dean of the College in 1947. In 1956, at the time of OC's 60th anniversary, the college yearbook, The Acorn, was dedicated to him and his wife. An OC residence hall for upperclass men was named for him in 1969, a year after he retired. He was tragically killed in a car accident in October 23, 1971, at age seventy, five months following the death of his wife.
Sources: Social Security Records; Ancestory.com (Smith-Bates and Brade public family trees); Southern Tidings obituary, Dec 1971, 27; Review and Herald, death notice, 11 November 1971, 32; E. E. Rogers, "A Man of Principle, Loyalty, and Love," Review and Herald, 6 September 1973, pgs 14,15; 1910 U.S. Census Records, Edwards Family Trees (Tammy Edwards) and (Viola Edwards), Ancestry.com; His brother’s death certificate (April 10, 1979) listed his mother as Elodia; Otis B. Edwards, “How I Became an Adventist, and Why I Came to Union,” The Educational Messenger, December 1925, pgs. 18, 19; Obituary for Otis Edwards, Southern Tidings, December 1971, pg. 27; The North American Informant, August-September 1955, pg. 2; The Journal of True Education, December 1955, pg. 26; The North American Informant, January-February 1960, pg. 8.