EDWARDS, GEORGE CLIFTON
EDWARDS, GEORGE CLIFTON (1876–1961). George Clifton Edwards, attorney, one of five sons of William Mecklin and Elva (Gray) Edwards, was born in Dallas in 1876. He attended the Dallas public schools, the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, and Harvard University, where he received a master's degree in English in 1899. In 1905 he married Octavia Nichols; the couple eventually had one son and three daughters, although two of the daughters died in infancy. Edwards returned to Dallas in 1901 and began teaching algebra and Latin at Oak Cliff High School. He became interested in socialism after being exposed to the plight of mill workers who lived in the slums of south Dallas. In 1902 he launched the Dallas Public Night School to educate illiterate adults. He soon became editor and publisher of the Laborer, the first official newspaper of the Texas State Federation of Labor and the Dallas Trades Assembly. In his editorials for the Laborer Edwards advocated equal rights for blacks, the abolition of child labor, compulsory education, the rights of workers to organize, a graduated income tax, public housing for low-income families, workmen's compensation, an eight-hour day, social security, and the abolition of capital punishment. In 1906 he was the Socialist candidate for governor of Texas. In 1907 he was elected to the Dallas City Charter Commission. In 1908, because of his politics, he was fired from his teaching job.
In 1910 Edwards was admitted to the bar, and he used his position as a lawyer to defend the causes he believed in. As an advocate of the poor and underprivileged he took cases involving landlord-tenant disputes, foreclosures, labor problems, and criminal charges against blacks and members of other minorities. In 1920 he became a charter member of the American Civil Liberties Union. He was an early activist in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In 1939 Edwards left the Socialist party because he thought its position of neutrality in World War II in the face of Hitler's aggression was untenable. He later became a Democrat after seeing President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal put into practice many of the reforms he had long advocated. Edwards's last major case was tried in 1956, when he successfully defended the NAACP's right to operate in Texas. He died on January 30, 1961, in East Lansing, Michigan.
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