Dr. James B. Edwards ’50, former governor of South Carolina, oral surgeon, president of MUSC and CofC alumnus, credits his parents for his many accomplishments. In 2011, the O.M. & Bertie H. Edwards Scholarship was established as a bequest to honor their combined 100 years of teaching. The endowed scholarship is intended to award students pursuing a career in education. The first recipient, Dakaisha White ’19, was awarded in 2019, followed by Jay Scott ’23 in 2020.
Dr. Edward’s father, O.M., was born in 1888 and raised by relatives in rural Kentucky. After the early death of his father in a logging accident, at two-years old, O.M lost his mother when a tornado devastated the town. She saved her children by directing them to hide in a “potato hole.” Out of that potato hole came two governors and a university president, evidence that anything is possible.
From those harsh beginnings, O.M. emerged strong willed and determined to make something of himself. Deprived of a high school education, O.M. read and studied diligently and after achieving a perfect score on the entrance exam, he became the first person in his county to attend college. Education was his way out, so he left home and walked to the University of Kentucky (a distance of 120 miles) with three dollars in his pocket. As an undergrad, he took advantage of every opportunity available including founding the debate society and becoming president of his class. O.M.’s athletic achievements rivaled his academic success and though he was slim, he was named the welter weight, light weight and heavy weight champion at the UK.
Education was also the reason he met his wife, Bertie Ray, who taught fifth grade. The couple settled in Florida and worked at the same school where Bertie taught and O.M. was the principal, as well as the town’s mayor. The couple stayed in Florida until the Depression forced them to move to South Carolina, where teachers still received a salary. The Edwards and their young children moved to the lowcountry and over the years, taught at schools in St. Paul’s, Adams Run, Ladson, North Charleston, Chicora and Sullivan’s Island. Bertie was a beloved teacher who is remembered to this day.
The Edwards dedicated their lives to teaching, and with O.M. & Bertie Edwards Scholarship recipients like Jay Scott, they continue making a positive difference for future educators and their students.
“The O.M. & Bertie H. Edwards scholarship has allowed me to comfortably excel and achieve my goals without having to constantly worry about funding for my education,” says Scott. “It has created a positive web of connections for me as a middle grades education major through the School of Education, Health, and Human Performance, the Call Me MiSTER program and Teaching Fellows.”
Scott was inspired to become an educator by his mother, a fifth-grade teacher in Columbia, S.C. “I’m really looking forward to getting into the actual classroom to see my impact as a black male in the school.”
“Jay Scott is an incredible young man with a huge heart and great promise as an educator,” says Anthony James ’12, director of Call Me MiSTER and Minority Education & Outreach. “The late-great Rita Pierson once said, ‘Every child deserves a champion—an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.’ Jay is that champion. He will inspire many children during his career. I’m proud to have him as a member of the Call Me MiSTER program. He is deserving of this scholarship.”
Students like Scott would make O.M. and Bertie Edwards proud. They were firm believers in the value of education and together served as perfect examples that anything is possible with an education.