Former Gov. James Edwards dies at 87

VIDEO: Former SC Gov. James Edwards dies at 87
Published: Dec. 26, 2014 at 3:38 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 26, 2014 at 11:18 PM EST
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Friends are remembering James Edwards, the first Republican governor elected in South Carolina since Reconstruction, who died Friday at age 87.

Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten confirmed Edwards died Friday morning at his home.

Gov. Nikki Haley issued a statement after learning of Edwards' passing in which she praised 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."

"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," U.S. Sen. Tim Scott said in a statement.

"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," Scott said.

Glenn McConnell, former lieutenant governor and president of the College of Charleston, said Edwards "embodied the high ideals of public service and was an incredible advocate for South Carolina throughout his illustrious career."

"As an alumnus of our institution, Governor Edwards represents the best traits of a College of Charleston education: leadership and a passion for lifelong learning," McConnell said in a statement. "On a personal note, Governor Edwards was a mentor and a dear friend to me. He helped launch my career in public service and inspired me, through his tireless and selfless efforts, on how to best serve the people of South Carolina. In every facet of his life, he believed in making things better for others. His legacy is one of compassion and vision. And for that, we are all indebted to this great man."

Current MUSC President Dr. David Cole said in a statement that he joined the faculty during Edwards' presidency.

"Dr. Edwards took over the reigns as president at a time when MUSC was a locally and regionally respected institution with finite resources, limited impact nationally, and a small but dedicated faculty," Cole said. "With his leadership and vision MUSC started to transform and grow in scope, scale, and quality- a legacy and momentum that even today is still evolving. As an individual he was universally liked and respected- he had a personality that filled the room - truly he never met anyone that he did not like. I had the privilege of joining the faculty as an Assistant Professor of Surgery in 1994, and from day one he made me feel respected, included, and at times like I quite possibly was his long lost younger brother. We, and the patients that we care for, owe a huge debt of respect and gratitude to Dr. Edwards for his leadership. He will be sorely missed."

Born James Burrows Edwards on June 24, 1927 in Hawthorne, Fla., he served as governor of South Carolina from 1975 to 1979.

"My four years as Governor were just a lot of fun. We had our ups and downs of course," Edwards said in a 2009 interview.

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.

The James B. Edwards College of Dental Medicine and James B. Edwards Elementary School in Mount Pleasant were named for the former governor.

Visitation is scheduled for Sunday between 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at St. Luke's Chapel on the MUSC Campus. The memorial service is scheduled there for 1 p.m. on Monday, MUSC confirmed.

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