Though it has been a few weeks since the Chattanooga community lost a community leader, civil rights icon, and simply a man of God, for me, I simply lost a friend. I’ve known of Reverend Edwards all my life; he eulogized three of my aunts and has been connected with my family through my older siblings.
Many know of his tireless work through the Mary Walker Foundation and other organizations. But that’s not how I came to know this wise, magnificent man. Long before I answered the call in ministry, I remember speaking for a black history program. And for the most part I was prepared and had all my facts together. I remember closing with an arousing applause. As the congregation proceeded to congratulate me on my message, an old gray-haired man in his eighties, realizing this was my first time speaking, approached me and said young man you did an awesome job. Words any young man wants to hear from an elder. As I began to smile with my chest stuck out he suddenly said to me, “But you said one thing that wasn’t exactly correct.” He had listened to a 45 minute speech and heard the one thing that was not historically true.
As I accepted the criticism, I recognized his way of correcting me without tearing me down. I suddenly realized that the wisdom I was about to learn from this wise man was far greater than the embarrassment of misquoting history. I can tell you after that day I made sure that every quote that came out of my mouth was historically correct. Yes study and show thyself approved. Do not be responsible for leading anyone astray.
After that day Rev and I saw each other many more times over the years. We always seemed to show up at the same venues. And I was the wiser man for it because I learned how to let him talk, and I simply listened. So many of our young people are missing that wisdom that can only be transferred from listening to one who has come through the struggle, from one who has stood on the battleground and fought for justice. I cherish my moments with Rev because with each visit I gained knowledge that can never be taken away from me.
I can recall him saying, “If my people would just pick up a book, a magazine or any publication and read it. There is so much knowledge between the lines, both good and bad. But if you can’t read it you want know the difference.”
RIP Rev! Message was received.
Retired Fire Captain