CHARLESTON, SC (WIS) - Former South Carolina Gov. James Edwards has died at age 87.
Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten confirmed that Edwards died Friday morning at his home.
Edwards began his career as a dentist in Mount Pleasant in the 1950s before switching gears and going into politics. He went to work winning leadership positions within the Republican Party.
"There were hardly any Republicans across the state of South Carolina," S.C. Republican Party chairman Matt Moore said. "With his leadership, the Republican party has grown into what it is now."
Born James Burrows Edwards on June 24, 1927 in Hawthorne, Fla., he served as governor of South Carolina from 1975 to 1979.
While in office, Edwards helped pass the Education Finance Act which has been considered for public education funding in South Carolina to this day.
"He came from an era that we so desperately need today," Mike Campbell, son of former S.C. Gov. Carroll Campbell, said.
During Edwards' term, a governor could not run for re-election, but Edwards was appointed Secretary of Energy by Ronald Reagan in 1981.
He resigned from that post in 1982 to become president of MUSC, a position he held until 1997.
"Take a look at the accomplishments he did as governor, particularly economic development and job creation, and going after industry recruitment" Campbell said. "That was so important for him later on when he became the President of MUSC because he was so involved with the development of the school."
The James B. Edwards College of Dental Medicine and James B. Edwards Elementary School in Mount Pleasant were named for the former governor.
Gov. Nikki Haley issued a statement after learning of Edwards' passing praising him for his support and service to the Palmetto State.
"As someone who appreciated the opportunities and challenges of this office, Governor Edwards always offered kind words of support and encouragement - and we are forever grateful for his friendship. Michael and I are deeply saddened by the passing of Governor Edwards, whose love for South Carolina inspired him to serve until his last day, and we are praying for the Edwards family during this difficult time," she said.
Former South Carolina first lady Iris Campbell, whose late husband, Carroll, served as governor from 1987 until 1995, also issued a statement on Edwards' passing:
"We were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our dear friend Jim Edwards," Campbell said. "South Carolina has lost a statesman and the Republican Party has lost a true pioneer. Both Ann and Jim served our state with grace and distinction. During Jim's race for Governor in 1974, Carroll was honored to have run for Lt. Governor alongside him and enjoyed later serving in Jim's administration. Carroll and Jim worked on many issues together during both Jim's tenure as U.S. Secretary of Energy and Carroll's time in Congress. As Governor, Carroll always appreciated Jim's insight and counsel. Our deepest sympathy goes out to Ann and the entire Edwards family, and we humbly thank them for sharing Jim with our state."
U.S. Senator Tim Scott issued a statement sending thoughts and prayers to the family of the South Carolina's first Republican Governor since Reconstruction.
"My thoughts and prayers go out to Anne and Governor Edwards' entire family. Jim was an early mentor of mine as I entered public service, and I am forever thankful for his advice and encouragement. From the dedication of Patriot's Point during his time as Governor to his efforts expanding MUSC while serving as President, Governor Edwards has left an important legacy in our state. No matter if he was serving as a Cabinet member for President Reagan or on a board for President George H.W. Bush, we always knew that Jim's heart was here at home with the people of South Carolina."