John S. Edwards, born October 6, 1943, in Roanoke, Virginia, is the son of the late Judge Richard T. Edwards and Augusta Saul Edwards Farrier. He is married to Cathye Dabney Edwards and they have three children, Jack, Dabney and Catherine, and seven grandchildren. They are members of Christ Lutheran Church in Roanoke.
Edwards attended Roanoke City public schools graduating in 1962 from Patrick Henry High School, where he was the first president of the student government. He was a record setting pole vaulter and state high-school champion and voted by his classmates as “most likely to succeed”. In 1992 he was inducted in the high school’s Sports Hall of Fame.
Edwards graduated from Princeton University in 1966 cum laude. He majored in history doing independent work on Woodrow Wilson, the Cold War, and Soviet-American relations. He wrote his Senior Thesis on “The Making of the Marshall Plan”.
Edwards lettered on the varsity track team as a pole vaulter. He was class representative to the Faculty-Student Committee on Student Life his sophomore and junior years and chaired his senior Class Memorial Fund committee. He was a member of the Chapel Deacons, Orange Key Society, Student Christian Association and the Tiger Inn club.
Upon graduation, he attended Union Theological Seminary in New York City for a year a Rockefeller Brothers Theological Fellowship.
He graduated in 1970 from the University of Virginia Law School where he was a member of the Virginia Law Review. He was elected to the University Judiciary Committee and inducted into The Raven Society and Omicron Delta Kappa honor societies. He was a summer associate for White & Case in New York. He was writing instructor assistant to Professor Antonin Scalia, later Supreme Court Justice. Edwards has also been an adjunct professor in trial advocacy at UVA Law School.
Edwards served on active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps as a Captain from 1971 through 1973. He served as a JAG Officer with the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing in Iwakuni, Japan, and Futema, Okinawa, and with the 2d Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Edwards practiced law with Sidley & Austin in Washington, D.C., in 1970 and 1974-76. He also did volunteer work for the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. He was chief trial attorney in the first successful Civil Rights class action law suit for federal employees, representing several thousand minority employees at NASA.
Edwards returned to Roanoke in 1976, practicing law with Gentry, Locke, Rakes & Moore until appointed United States Attorney for the Western District of Virginia in 1980 by President Carter. Afterwards, he joined the law firm of Martin, Hopkins, Lemon & Carter, later Martin, Hopkins, Lemon & Edwards. He is currently practicing in the Edwards Law Firm.
He has been active in bar related activities, including serving on the Board of the Roanoke Bar Association, Chair of the Virginia Bar Association’s Criminal Law Committee/Section, and on the Board of Governors of the Virginia Bar Association.
He was named a “Leader in the Law” in 2012 by Virginia Lawyers Weekly for sponsoring legislation authorizing the Virginia Supreme Court to adopt Rules of Evidence.
In 1980 President Jimmy Carter appointed him United States Attorney for the Western District of Virginia. During his term, his office achieved several milestones. Among other things, he prosecuted the largest bank robbery in Virginia history, had the best record in the country at the time in enforcing criminal provisions of the Mine Safety and Health Act, prosecuted public corruption in the Mine Safety and Health Administration, prosecuted the first Criminal Civil Rights case in Virginia, prosecuted organized crime, and increased debt collections substantially from prior years. The Roanoke Times & World News> reported that he had one of the “perhaps most successful tenures of any federal prosecutor in recent years”.
He is the author of “Professional Responsibilities of the Federal Prosecutor”, 17 University of Richmond Law Review> 511 (1983).
Edwards has long been active in community, professional and political affairs. He chaired the Roanoke Valley Young Democrats, the Roanoke City Democratic Committee, and the Sixth Congressional District Democratic Committee. He was a delegate at National Democratic Conventions in 1978 and 1984. He also chaired the board of Virginia Lutheran Homes, Inc., which built and operates Brandon Oaks life care retirement community in Roanoke and other retirement facilities in Virginia. Among other community activities, he served on the board of United Way and chaired the Roanoke Civic Center Commission. For many years, he regularly taught adult education classes at his church.
In November 1993, Edwards was appointed to fill a vacancy on Roanoke City Council and was elected to a four year term and as Vice-Mayor in May 1994.
In November of 1995, Edwards unseated a Republican incumbent to win a seat in the Senate of Virginia, representing the 21st District. He was re-elected in 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019.
In the Senate, he has served as Chair of the Rules Committee, Chair of the Civil Law Subcommittee, and Chair of the Higher Education Subcommittee. He has served on the Commerce and Labor, Education and Health, and Finance Committees, and currently serves on Courts of Justice, Transportation, and Privileges and Elections Committees.
Edwards currently is Chair of the Virginia Code Commission, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Roanoke Higher Education Authority, and Chair of the Virginia War Memorial Board. He is also a member of Joint Commission on Administrative Rules, Joint Commission on Health Care, Virginia Recreation Authority Board, Southern States Energy Board, Western Virginia Education Consortium, and Virginia Capital Representation Resource Center Board. He is a former member of Virginia Veterans Care Center Board, Virginia Veterans Services Board, Virginia Commission for At-Risk Youth & Children, and Virginia Birth-Related Neurologically Injured Compensation Board.
Edwards has successfully sponsored numerous legislation. These include, among others: 1) establishing the Roanoke Higher Education Authority; 2) requiring Character Education in public schools; 3) establishing the Health Practitioners Intervention Program (now Virginia Monitoring program); 4) requiring coverage for pre-existing health conditions for persons changing individual health insurance carriers; 5) authorizing Medicaid-long term care insurance partnership in Virginia, 6) establishing the Virginia Department of Veterans Services; 7) establishing Crisis Intervention Teams, 8) establishing Threat Assessments Teams at colleges and universities, 9) authorizing Rules of Evidence in Virginia courts, 10) authorizing equity “crowd funding” financing in Virginia, and 12) expanding solar energy.
He has long been a leader in advancing public education, including sponsoring the first universal preschool bill in 2005.
He has also been a leader in promoting greater access and affordability in higher education. In addition to establishing the Roanoke Higher Education Center, he has advocated for the community college system and promoted ways to make college more affordable. Among other things, he successfully sponsored a joint resolution in 1997 for the Commonwealth to return to the former policy of paying 70 % of the costs of in-state tuition.
He has been a leader in mental health reform, co-chairing the Senate subcommittee on mental health reform in 2008. Among other reforms, he sponsored legislation to deny gun purchases to persons adjudicated a danger to themselves or others. To protect colleges and universities, he sponsored legislation for Threat Assessment Teams. He has also sponsored legislation to expand Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT) throughout Virginia and has sponsored bills to establish mental health courts.
He has been a leader in improving transportation, including the rail service in Virginia. He has spearheaded bringing Amtrak service to western Virginia. His budget amendment established the Connector bus from Roanoke to Lynchburg’s Amtrak station in 2011, which lead to Amtrak coming to Roanoke in 2017 with the goal to bring Amtrak to Christiansburg by 2020.
He has strongly supported environmental protection, conservation and preservation legislation, and has promoted renewable energy. In particular, he has also been a leader in solar energy legislation. He successfully sponsored Virginia’s first power purchase agreement (PPA) legislation in 2013 and legislation to facilitate localities in obtaining solar energy services from third parties in 2017.
Edwards has been honored for his legislative leadership by a number of organizations, including the following:
- Virginia Association of Nonprofit Homes for the Aging (VANHA) (1997)
- Roanoke Mental Health Community (1997), Virginia Legal Services Programs (1998)
- Roanoke Firefighters Association (1998)
- Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy (1999)
- Coalition of Labor Union Women
- Western Virginia Chapter (1999)
- Alliance for the Mentally Ill of Roanoke Valley (1999)
- Virginia Section of the American Radio League and the Amateur Radio Emergency Services of Virginia (1999)
- Virginia Amateur Radio Operators (1999)
- Southwest Virginia Car Council (1999)
- Planned Pethood Clinic for “T-Bone Bill” to prevent cruelty to pets (2002)
- Virginia PTA/PTSA (2002)
- Virginia Association of Family and Consumer Services (2003)
- Virginia League of Conservation Voters (2003, 2011, 2015)
- Virginia Partisans Gay & Lesbian Democratic Club (2003)
- Virginia Division of Child Support Enforcement (2004)
- Equality Virginia (2005)
- Child Health Investment Partnership (CHIP) (2005)
- Virginia’s First Cities Excellence Award (2006)
- Anthony DeJuan Boatwright Faith and Courage Award for dedication to the protection of children (2006)
- Harrison Museum of African American Culture (2006)
- American Academy of Pediatrics, Virginia Chapter (2007)
- Southwest Virginia Psychiatric Society (2008)
- American Association of University Professors
- Virginia Conference
- Col. Michael S. Harris (Ph.D.) Award (2009)
- Military Officers Association of America
- Virginia Council of Chapters (MOAA) (2009)
- Madison Society
- Virginia Western Community College (2009)
- Democratic Latino Organization of Virginia (2011)
- Virginia Crisis Intervention Team Coalition (CIT) (2011)
- Virginia Professional Firefighters Association, Legislator of the Year (2012)
- Planned Parenthood (2013), Sierra Club
- Virginia Chapter (2013)
- Roanoke Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau
- Golden Star Award (2014)
- “Small Business Advocate Award” from Virginia Chamber of Commerce (2015)
- “Champion of Regulatory Reform Award” from Virginia Chamber of Commerce (2017)
- Brain Injury Association of Virginia (2018)
- Virginia Electoral Board Association
- Jenson-Hager Award (2018)
- Treasurers’ Association of Virginia, “Legislator of the Year” (2018)
- Virginia Funeral Directors Association, “Legislator of the Year” (2019)
- Coalition of Labor Union Women, Western Virginia Chapter, “Profiles in Courage” Award (2019)