Book honors Franklin Co. man, highlights protest and perseverance

Published: Apr. 21, 2023 at 7:47 PM EDT
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FERRUM, Va. (WDBJ) - Charles Edwards made an impression on Barack Obama when he met the Presidential candidate in 2008.

And the lessons the Franklin county man taught his children continue to guide their lives today.

Now, a book written by one of his daughters captures many of the stories from a long and consequential life.

In June 2008, Barack Obama had just clinched the Democratic nomination for President when he held a campaign rally in Bristol.

The highlight came when 95-year-old Charles Edwards gave the candidate a hand-carved walking stick.

“It’s beautiful. I’m telling you,” Obama said. “And if members of Congress don’t pass my health care bill, I’m ready,” he said showing the walking stick to the crowd.

“How long have you been waiting for a moment like this,” we asked Edwards after his meeting with Sen. Obama. “I reckon all of my life,” he laughed. “I was glad to see it.”

Meeting Obama was a thrill for Edwards and his family, but it’s a small part of what defined Charles Edwards’ life.

And his daughter Penny Edwards Blue set out to capture and ultimately publish the stories he told his family.

“You actually have to be taught to be a second-class citizen, and we were never taught how to be second-class citizens,” Blue told WDBJ7. “And so that’s the thread of these stories. Every day incidents that would occur, if it wasn’t right my dad protested.”

The book is titled ‘A Time to Protest: Leadership Lessons From My Father Who Survived the Segregated South for 99 Years.’

We spoke with the author and her sister Ruby Edwards Penn during a book signing this week at the Blue Ridge Institute of Ferrum College.

“And every time that I see an injustice or are part of an injustice I make it a point to stand up for the right thing. And I attribute that to the parents I had,” Penn told us.

Charles Edwards died at the age of 99 in October 2012, but his daughters say he would be pleased his words have been preserved in print.

“What do you think he would think of this book,” we asked Blue. “I think he would really like it.”

“He would be so proud of the fact that Penny had gathered all of this information,” Penn added, “because all of those stories were so important rearing us to become the people that we are.”

The book is available in the Blue Ridge Institute gift shop. And a book signing is scheduled on Saturday May 6 at the Gainsboro library in Roanoke.