by Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Author’s program note. To get you in the right mood for this honky-tonk tale of adolescent passion and its sordid conclusion, search for Elvis Presley’s version of “Frankie and Johnny, or You’ll Miss Me In the Days to Come.” Written by the Leighton Bros. and Ren Shields (1912); it was the title song in the 1966 film starring Elvis. It exactly conveys the right mood for this article.
Cute, cute, so temptingly, dangerously cute.
This is the story of a cute Southern boy named Johnny Reid Edwards to whom the gods gave everything… except the self-control he needed to keep all his treasures together. You find such boys everywhere south of the Mason-Dixon line. Dressed in polo shirts and shorts, they’re quick with a quip and that dazzling smile, the smile whose power they soon understand and use with devastating effect.That smile is the royal road to everything… including the women who love them, not wisely (as they all come to discover), but too well.
This is the story of one such boy, Johnny Reid Edwards, the boy with enough wattage in that smile to take him to the top. Or so he reckoned. For now he stands indicted. The man who might have had the White House… now faces the possibility of the Big House.
Born June 10, 1953 in Seneca, South Carolina, a good place to get out of.
Johnny Reid Edwards’ parents were Wallace Reid Edwards and Catharine Juanita “Bobbie” Edwards (nee Wade). The family moved frequently during Edwards’ childhood, eventually settling in Robbins, North Carolina. There his father worked as a textile mill floor worker, eventually promoted to supervisor; his mother had a roadside antique finishing business, featuring the kind of dusty bric-a-brac without value where a smart passerby hopes to make a discovery for “Antiques Roadshow”… but never does. She later became a postal letter carrier. It at least paid regular.
Johnny Reid Edwards, a boy who looked up.
Johnny Edwards was a high school football star. That, and always remember that mega- watt smile, gave him what he wanted… what he always wanted… attention. And lots of it, as any American knows who has ever watched (and envied) the staged swagger of these adolescent lords of the gridiron as they enter their kingdoms each day. He learned what he had to do to move out… and move up.
Edwards was the first person in his family to attend college. He attended Clemson University and transferred to North Carolina State University. Edwards graduated with high honors earning a degree in textile technology in 1974 and later earned his Juris Doctor from the University of North Carolina School of Law (UNC) with honors.
The girl of his dreams?
A man has dreams of the person he wants to marry, but only he knows whether the girl he marries is that dream. Did he get what he wanted… or did he just settle for less? His wife assumes she is his beloved… only to discover, sooner or later, she was merely a facsimile, and therein are the seeds of dissension.
While at UNC met Elizabeth Anania. They married in 1977; they were both cute as bugs in a rug… but Edwards was clearly cuter, and of course he was always festooned with the mega-watt Southern boy smile that just wouldn’t quit.
The couple had 4 children (Wade in 1979, Cate in 1982, Emma Claire in 1998,and Jack in 2000.) Elizabeth matured into an ample matron during these years… John Edwards stayed as young and cute as ever, the very picture of Oscar Wilde’s masterpiece “The Picture of Dorian Gray” (1891) where the portrait ages, not the man. When a man comes to learn that he retains the secret of adolescence, of what mayhem and conquests may he not dream, and more than dream? For who would be sensible in the face of such a boon?
After law school, Edwards clerked for a federal judge and in 1978 became an associate of the Nashville law firm of Dearborn & Ewing, doing primarily trial work, defending a Nashville bank and other corporate clients. The Edwards family returned to North Carolina in 1981, settling in the capital of Raleigh where he joined the firm of Tharrington, Smith & Hargrove.
He was about to break through to the big money, the really big money.
In 1984, Edwards was assigned to a medical malpractice lawsuit that had been perceived as unwinnable; the firm had only accepted it as a favor to an attorney and state senator who did not want to keep it. Nevertheless, Edwards, assisted by that all-powerful smile, won a $3.7 million verdict on behalf of his client, who had suffered permanent brain and nerve damage after a doctor prescribed an overdose of the anti- alcoholism drug Antabuse during alcohol aversion therapy. It was his first big victory… but only the first of huge, multi-million dollar victories and the huge sums he made. In due course, Edwards developed a winning formula that established him as the unstoppable rainmaker… the most important lawyer in any law firm, for they were the ones who had mastered the art of getting the serious money.
Edwards soon became a legend for this money. He had an eye for which cases would deliver the big bucks… and of course he knew, a combination of instinct and experience, how turn the woes of the little people into a cascade of cash, how to squeeze the big guys and rise high.
The tragedy of his life.
And so it might have gone, with the silver-tongued orator able to take the jury to just where he wanted them to go, showing them their power… and showing them how to wield it for Truth, Justice, and the American Way. But in 1996 his first-born child Wade was killed in a freak jeep accident. It was perhaps the only true tragedy of his life, for here the gods took what he so loved… and here, for once, words failed Edwards; the reality of too-soon death too real, too distressing.
A few weeks after Wade’s death, the words were his to command again. Edwards in his 90 minute closing to the jury referenced his great personal tragedy. Mark Dayton, editor of “North Carolina Lawyers Weekly,” called it the “most impressive legal performance I have ever seen.” The jury awarded the family $25 million, the largest personal injury award in North Carolina history… And so, with great irony, his son’s death helped Edwards rise high and higher still…. senator from North Carolina (1998); vice presidential nominee (2004) and, until his implosion in 2008, candidate for president.
Through it all, he still had that Southern boy cuteness; looking like the sunny side of 30 that he wasn’t. Acting like it, too. Which is how ex-senator John Edwards,husband, father, respected statesman, found himself, June 3, 2011, in a North Carolina court charged with violating federal campaign finance laws, using contributions from wealthy benefactors to conceal his mistress and their baby while he was running for president in 2008. That boyish demeanor, handsome face, lithe body, and that smile had at last gotten him into deep trouble.
Elizabeth Edwards, the loyal wife who shielded him, divorced him, then died (2011). American voters who had believed in him now reviled. The big money had stopped. Only one thing remained: he looked absolutely terrific when he walked into the courtroom, the result of forgetting something: Lizzie and Johnny Edwards were lovers. Swore to be true to each other, true as stars above…. he was her man, and he did her wrong.
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About The Author
Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is, where small and home-based businesses learn how to profit online. Dr. Lant is also a syndicated writer and author of 18 best-selling business books. Details at http://homeprofitcoach.com/associates