Too few remain

Published 12:22 am Saturday, August 27, 2011

Dr. Zeno L. Edwards Jr. was emblematic of what Tom Brokaw dubbed “the Greatest Generation.”

The retired dentist and former lawmaker died Saturday at Pitt County Memorial Hospital in Greenville.

Edwards, nearly 85 years old, was part of a long line of Beaufort County’s tough, independent-minded political figures —people who knew how to get things done.

He was a New South pragmatist who pushed for progress on health care and education issues.

He advocated for public-private investments in economic development.

Edwards wasn’t reluctant to express his opinions, and, when he spoke out, he did so with conviction, despite the opposition his words might inspire.

Politically, Edwards’ style was hardball but tempered by folksy humor.

Many successful, local politicians of his age were deft raconteurs who knew that a hard message could be softened — and occasionally made more palatable — with a joke.

During the last round of legislative redistricting, approximately 10 years ago, Edwards wasn’t afraid to criticize members of his own party for fostering new district lines he found unfair or punitive to rural communities.

This year, he spoke out again when redistricting threatened to cleave Beaufort County in two or more pieces.

Our county has lost too many leaders of Edwards’ caliber and generation. Sometimes, we wonder who will emerge to succeed them.