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Edwards served youth, city

A longtime community activist, retired teacher and Economic Development Authority member died this week.

Johnnie Edwards Jr. died Tuesday after an illness. The Suffolk native attended John F. Kennedy High School and then St. Paul’s College, where he received a bachelor’s degree in business administration. It was also at St. Paul’s where he met B.J. Willie, now a Suffolk businessman.

“Even through our college days, he loved youth,” Willie said Friday. “He wanted to make sure that all of them achieved. He encouraged them to look beyond where you are and move forward and go teach the world.”

Though Willie also is a Suffolk native, the two never met until college. Willie went to high school at John Yeates.

“I saw how he was so involved,” Willie said. “I’m a big fan of the youth, and Johnnie was big on that, too. He was always coming around making sure he had enough donations.”

The donations were for the Suffolk Inner City Athletic Association, which has helped hundreds of children get involved in sports and find inspiration.

“That was Johnnie,” Willie said. “There’s not going to be many Johnnie Edwards.”

In his last two years, Edwards served on the city’s Economic Development Authority. Chairman J. Harold Faulk said Edwards brought a unique perspective to the board.

“I think he did an outstanding job,” Faulk said. “His career certainly gave him a broad perspective on what the city of Suffolk needed as far as economic development.”

Edwards was a teacher and assistant principal in Suffolk and Franklin, Faulk said. He served most of his career in Suffolk, but retired from Franklin Public Schools.

“His efforts as far as his athletic programs … certainly gave him a unique connection with the young people,” Faulk said. “He affected a lot of kids in the inner city, providing good, sound, wholesome recreation for the young people.”

In the economic development boardroom, Edwards was secretary and treasurer of the authority, and had already been nominated to continue in that post for the second half of his term. It would have expired in 2012.

“He brought good solid questions to the table,” Faulk said. “It’s important to have people who have good questions.”

Edwards also attended Old Dominion University, where he received a master’s degree in administration. He also was a member of Metropolitan Baptist Church, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, East Suffolk Federated Civic League and the Suffolk Substance Abuse and Youth Council.

He is survived by three children and three siblings, as well as nephews, nieces and friends. A graveside service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Meadowbrook Memorial Gardens. Crocker Funeral Home is handling the arrangements.