James Drake Edens, Jr.

A portrait of Drake Edens, Jr., South Carolina Republican state party chairman, 1963-1965, and Republican National Committeeman for South Carolina, 1965-1972

Riley: Edens Sudden Death Loss for S. C.

From staff and wire reports

South Carolina today mourned the sudden death of J. Drake Edens Jr. and Gov. Dick Riley praised the former state Wildlife and Marine Resources Commission chairman as a “fine man” and “dedicated public servant.”

Edens drowned yesterday near his sister’s beach house on the Isle of Palms.

“Drake Edens was a fine man.” said Riley, who named Edens chairman of the commission in June 1979. “South Carolinians who cherish natural resources have lost a true friend and a dedicated public servant.

“I am saddened by his tragic death and on behalf of all the people of this state I extend my sympathy to his family.”

Edens, 57, a former vice chairman of the Republican National Committee and former state Chairman of the South Carolina GOP, was pronounced dead at Roper Hospital in Charleston at 1:09 p.m. yesterday after efforts at the beach and hospital to revive him proved unsuccessful.

The funeral will be held at 3 p.m. tomorrow at Trenholm Road United Methodist Church in Columbia with Burial in Green Lawn Memorial Park.

Memorials may be made to the Trenholm Road United Methodist Church Building Fund.

Eden’s death was ruled a drowning by Charleston County Coroner E. Ray Shokes. No inquest or autopsy is planned.

John Evans, a state wildlife spokesman, said Edens, who had a history of heart trouble and underwent trip bypass surgery a few years ago, was swimming with a friend, R. E. Hendrix of Columbia, about Noon when he drowned.

(See Edens 3-A)


(Continued From 1-A)

Hendrix told the coroner that he and Edens started heading toward the shore when they found themselves in water over their heads. Edens was having trouble swimming, so Hendrix told him to try floating on his back, Shokes said.

“The next time Mr. Hendrix looked around at him, he was floating face down,” Shokes said.

Edens was brought to shore by members of this family and Hendrix, who managed to get to him. “But he was in full arrest (not breathing),” Evans said. Medic tried unsuccessfully to stabilize Edens at the scene and enroute to the hospital, he said.

Edens, his wife and family were visiting his sister, who lives on the island, Shokes said.

Edens was named to the commission in 1976. His term expired in July, but Riley failed to name a replacement in time for confirmation by the senate before the legislature adjourned for the year.

Born May 13, 1925, in the Blaney community of Richland County, Edens was a lifelong resident of Columbia area except for his serivce as a Marine in World War II.

He graduated from the University of South Carolina in 1949 and first worked in a family business – Edens Food Stores – until it merged with Winn-Dixie supermarket chain in 1955.

Between 1956 and 1964 Edens was founder and president of Edens-Turbeville Agency, one of the largest insurance brokers in the state. He sold his interest in 1964 and was self-employed from 1965 until the present, handling investments and securities and also was involved in real estate and farming.

Edens served as chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party 1963-65 and was vice chairman of the Republican National Committee 1965-72. He also was a South Carolina delegate to 1964, 1968 and 1976 GOP national conventions.

He serverded on several education and business group boards and was a member of the National Wildlife Federation, the National Rifle Association and the South Carolina and Greater Columbia chambers of commerce. He also was a former member of the board of trustee of Columbia College.

Surviving are his wife, Ferrell McCracken Edens, and two sons.

Outdoorsman, GOP Leader Edens Drowns

Governmental Affairs Editor

J. Drake Edens, Jr. of Columbia, described by many as “Mr. Republican” in South Carolina, died Friday in an accidental drowning at the Isle of Palms in Charleston County.

Edens, 57, an avid outdoorsman, also was a chairman of the S. C. Wildlife and Marine Resources Commission. He was appointed to that panel in 1976 by former Gov. James B. Edwards and named chairman by Gov. Dick Riley in 1973.

Charleston County Coroner Ray Shokes said Edens, who was vice chairman of the Republican National Committee from 1965-72, was pronounced dead by drowning at 1:09 p.m. Friday at Roper Hospital.

Shokes said Charleston County Medical Examiner Dr. Joel Sexton ruled the death accidental. No inquest is expected.

Shokes said Edens and R. E. Hendrix of 3510 Beverly Drive in Columbia were swimming or wading in the surf at Isle of Palms beach when they apparently encounted deep water and a rough surf.

According to Shokes, Edens told Hendrix he was “having trouble getting back to shallow water,” and Hendrix told him to float on his back.

When Hendrix next turned to check on Edens, Shokes said, Edens was floating face down.

Officials said several people, including Eden’s son Bob, assisted in getting him on a rescue float and

(See EDENS, 7-A, Col. 1)

Eden’s Death Ruled Accidental

(Continued from 1-A)

bringing him asshore.

Efforts by them to revive him failed. An emergency medical service team also was called.

There was no indication that Edens suffered a heart attack or other seizure while swimming, Shokes said. He said Edens, who had been in declining health in recent years, had been vacationing on the island with his sister.

Eden’s friends and associates described him as the man who put together and held together the fledgling state Republican party from about 1960 through 1975.

He first became active in the party druing the 1960 presidental campaign and was chairman of the 1961 campaign of Charles E Boineau Jr., the first Republican elected to the state General Assembly this century.

Edens was also chairman of the 1962 U. S. Senate campaign of William D. Workman Jr., who is now running for fovernor. Workman, in a surprise showing got 43 percent of the vote against the established Democrat the late Olin D. Johntson.

He was state Republican chairman from 1963 to 1965, when he was elected South Carolina’s Republican national committeeman. He was chosen vice chairman of the national committee later in 1965.

Edens also served on the 26-member executive committee of Republican National Committee and on the 29-member National Republican Coordinating Committee.

“He was probably the father of the Republican Party in South Carolina,” State GOP Chairman George Graham said Friday.

Gov. Dick Riley, emphasizing Edens’ contributions to the outdoors, said, “South Carolinians who cherished their natural resources have lost a true friend and dedicated public servant.”

Edens, born in Balney, was a self-employed businessman involved in the management of personal investments in securites and real estate, farming, timber managmentnt and other business interest.

Surviving Edens are a son, Robert Manning Edens of Columbia; a daughter, Mrs. Wiliam (Jenny) Padgett of Columbia; a brother, William Y Edens Sr. of Columbia; and a sister, Mrs. Martha Edens Helms of Columbia.

Services will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday at Trenholm Road United Methodist Church, conducted by the Rev. William R. Bouknight III and the Rev. Dr. W. Paul Carlson. Burial will be in the Greenlawn Memorial Park.

Dunbar Funeral Home is in charge.

Edens Praised For Service To State

Governmental Affairs Editor

The first thing most people said Friday when asked to reflect on J. Drake Edens’ career was to describe him as the father of the modern Republican Party in South Carolina.

Edens, who accidentally drowned while swimming at Isle of Palms beach, also was praised fro his service to the state’s wildlife programs and for his involvement in other civic and church activities.

One of the apparent special talents of Edens, despite his deep involvement in politics, was his ability to get along with nearly everybody, including those in both major parties.

“Of all the people I’ve dealt with in politics, he was the least abrasive and the most pleasant,” said John Courson, who succeeded Edens as South Carolina’s Republican national committeeman. “I’ve never heard anybody say anything negative about Drake Edens, and it’s hard to say that about somebody active in politics as he was.”

The respect for Edens along bipartisan lines apparently stood out as he was elevated by Democratic Gov. Dick Riley in 1979 to be chairman of the S. C. Wildlife and Marine Resources Commission, a coveted position among political and outdoors types.

“A lot of people rise above partisan politics,” George T. Graham, state Republican chairman, said. “Obviously Drake Edens had that kind of respect.”

C. Kenneth Powell, a former GOP state chairman, said of Edens, “He’s probably the most highly respected man in the state Republican Party, and that respect crosses party lines,” referring to Riley’s apointing Edens as wildlife chairman.

Graham said, “Drake was an architect of the Republican effort in this state. Starting as a grassroots volunteer, and with the help of his wife, he rose through almost every office including state chairman and finally to national committeeman.

“Drake was never a candidate for public office. However, he was personally credited with the election of many public officials.”

A man who goes way back with Edens is William D. Workman Jr., the Republican candidate for governor who ran for the U. S. Senate 20 years ago. Edens was his campaign chairman then.

The two also lived within a block of each other in Columbia and attended the same church.

“He was a man who will be missed by friends of his church and community as much as anyone I know,” Workman said Friday.

Edens had health problems for

(See RESPECT, 7-A, Col. 1)

Respect for Edens Crossed Party Lines

(Continued From 1-A)

some time, bothered by a worsening arthritic condition and also by heart problems.

Nevertheless, Workman said, he continued his active political, chruch and public service work.

“He faced a lot and he fought a lot,” Powell said.

Gov. Dick Riley said, “He was a fine man. I am saddened by his tragic death.”

And referring to Eden’s public service with the state widlife agency, the governor said, “South Carolinians who cherish their natural resources have lost a true friend and a dedicated public servant.”

Powell said of Edens early political activities, “As much as anybody, he put the South Carolina Republican Party on the map. More than anybody else I know, he started the part in this state.”

Noting Eden’s desire to stay involved in a variety of activities, Powell said, “We tried several times to get him to run for governor, but he just wouldn’t.”

James A Timmerman Jr., executive director of the state wildlife department, said Edens as chairman of the agency’s governing board “Possessed all the qualities of a good leader. He was in every way a man of courage and resolution.

“The wildlife department, the wildlife community and I personally have lost a dedicated leader and a friend who was always willing to go that extra mile of service.”

Timmerman said that during Edens six years on the wildlife commission, he only missed two regular monthly meeting and only then when he had just undergone major surgery.

Obituary Information:

July 31, 1982  Columbia Record (published as THE COLUMBIA RECORD)  
Columbia, South Carolina
Page 1
July 31, 1982  Columbia Record (published as THE COLUMBIA RECORD)  
Columbia, South Carolina
Page 3
July 31, 1982  State (published as The State)  
Columbia, South Carolina
Page 1
July 31, 1982  State (published as The State)  
Columbia, South Carolina
Page 7

Tombstone Information:

Located in Greenlawn Memorial Park
Columbia, Richland County, South Carolina, USA
Photo added by Sam
Located in Greenlawn Memorial Park
Columbia, Richland County, South Carolina, USA
Photo added by Sam

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