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A True Texas Judge – Fred Edwards, 1950-2014

Family, friends, and colleagues gathered Friday to celebrate the life of former 9th District Judge Fred Edwards who passed away Monday in his South Montgomery County home, following a lengthy illness.

Judge Edwards was remembered not only for his public service and advocacy of worthwhile programs and causes, but also as a loving father, a devoted friend, and a man who was traditional in many ways, but far ahead of his time in others. Everyone who spoke mentioned his love of Texas.

Judge K. Michael Mayes eulogized Edwards, beginning his remarks with, “Fred Edwards, 9th Judicial District Court, 20 years.”

“The true essence of a judge is reflected in the spirit of their day to day rulings and how they apply their most sacred beliefs and the decisions they make dispensing justice for those that trust them with their lives,” Mayes said. “He was a judge whose spirit was reflected in the maturity of his decisions.”

Mayes spoke of the “common sense and compassion” of Judge Edwards’s ruling, saying he “lived to be a judge” and “loved the law,” calling him a “great judge” who truly found his calling.

“He put himself in the shoes of those before him,” Mayes said.

He also described Judge Edwards as a visionary who had innovative ideas, many of which were later implemented in Montgomery County long before they were widely used or mandated by the Texas Legislature.

“(Judge Edwards) supported CASA from the get-go, in the early years, so that kids could be heard and not lose families simply because they didn’t have money,” Mayes said.

He also described Edwards as a judge who represented “fair and equal justice,” and did what the law required and what he believed was right, without regard to how it would affect him politically.

Mayes called Edwards a judge, mentor and friend.

He concluded his remarks as they began, “Fred Edwards, judge 9th Judicial Court, 20 years – Let that sink in.

Judge Douglas Warne spoke next, remembering Judge Edwards as someone who loved Texas so much, he insisted on the Texas pledge in his courtroom and was well-known for it. In fact, Judge Edwards became known nationally for his insistence of the Texas pledge after a mention in the Wall Street Journal, Warne said. That occurred because of a case that drew national attention and produced a courtroom full of people from all over the United States, many of whom had no idea what to do when the pledge began, he said.

Warne had humorous stories and fond memories but said in some ways, the eulogy was the “hardest presentation” he ever had to make.

He said Judge Edwards frequently made movie references no matter the discussion and would have smiled at “the idea of leaving the same day as a famous Hollywood personality,” but he wasn’t sure how excited Edwards would have been that it was Shirley Temple.

He said Judge Edwards was an accomplished storyteller, with vast knowledge of Texas and Civil War history, who almost always wore a hat and kept them and vehicles much longer than would most people.

Warne said Edwards’s friends would always have an empty spot in their hearts.

Judge Edwards’s daughter Kathryn was the first of his children to speak, remembering her father’s “matter of fact” and humorous way of speaking.

“I don’t think ever left a funeral without getting in his car, slamming the door, and saying, ‘Oh my God, that was depressing.”

She said her dad was “a part and product of the courthouse community,” and that he loved a big crowd, indicating that he would have been pleased with the turnout at his service.

“I had a really funny dad,” Kathryn said. “It was really fun to go to the Edwards house because Fred Edwards was a character.”

She recalled how her friends enjoyed her father as she grew up.

“If you came to play with the Edwards children, you played Trivial Pursuit with Fred,” she said.

She also told a story as an example of the funny, sarcastic way she and her father interacted. Kathryn said she returned from a European trip to find a letter from a young Englishman, which her father insisted she read in his presence.

He wanted to know what it was and she reluctantly told him it was probably a love letter. Her dad said, “What? Was he blind in one eye?”

She responded, “Actually, Dad, he was deaf in one ear.”

Not to be outdone, Edwards cackled then told her if the young man had been both, he’d have married her.”

Elizabeth Edwards spoke next, saying how her father loved his state, loved Texas trivia, Texas music, the Astros, who “broke his heart over and over,” and Austin City Limits.

She said Judge Edwards was so proud of his state that despite his children moving all over the country, he insisted they have a Texas flag, to be displayed in their apartments. That included her apartment in Brooklyn. Judge Edwards delivered that flag himself.

She recalled going to forts and battle sites as a child, and how her father loved to correct tour guides.

Elizabeth spoke of playing soccer in high school, and how she was obsessed with it, but he father did not understand, since he grew up in Conroe. He told her when he grew up, “only foreigners” played soccer.

Elizabeth recalled her senior year, when Judge Edwards had pneumonia and was not supposed to be outside during her soccer season, when games were played at night when it was very cold.

“He’d put on sweater, long coat, hat, and scarf, warm up the car, and drive to game and sit in the car the whole time, just to watch me play,” she said.

Judge Edwards’s only son Joseph, who introduced himself as the “favorite son,” was the last of his children to speak.

Joseph said his favorite memories of his father happened in the car, mostly “father and son” time.

He said he was expected to take the sports page and while Judge Edwards was driving, he would update his father on the latest scores and stats. He also recalled really getting to know his dad when Edwards was campaigning and they went all over the counting putting up signs and talking.

Joseph said he once got an internship at Universal Pictures and when it ended, he picked up his father at the Burbank airport. Judge Edwards flew there so that his son would not have to drive back to Texas alone. They had a great adventure traveling home, father and son.

Joseph encouraged those in attendance not to wait any longer if they had things they wanted to do with their loved ones.

Judge Fred Edwards left this world at 63, and left a legacy in Montgomery County and beyond that will continue for generations.

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