He fought for improving the city’s public school system, reducing expenditures on the Skyway and stadium.
By Susan D. Brandenburg
Special to the Daily Record
Longtime Jacksonville community activist and advocate Marvin R. Edwards, 96, died Saturday of natural causes.
He is survived by his wife of more than 62 years, Helene, and his children Jeffrey (Mary), Doug (Kristen) and Carolyn (Dan) Edwards and seven grandchildren: Lauren, David, Adam (Aaron), Nathaniel and Avalon Edwards and Christopher and Michael Oliveri.
A memorial service is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Friday at Congregation Ahavath Chesed, The Temple, at 8727 San Jose Blvd. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Community Call, People for the American Way or River Garden Foundation.
Edwards’ role as the U.S. Air Force 492nd Bomb Group navigator in a British Mosquito spy plane over enemy territory in World War II on behalf of the Office of Strategic Services earned him France’s highest tribute, a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor. The OSS was the forerunner to the CIA.
In 2017, Edwards chronicled his wartime service as a spy in his memoir, “Now It Can Be Told … Tales of the OSS.”
The book’s foreword was written by Charles T. Pinck, president of the OSS Society, who called Edwards and the OSS “a perfect match.”
Pinck noted that Edwards recounted “his heroic service in the OSS with modesty that is a common characteristic for those who served at the ‘tip of the spear,’” and ended his foreword with the statement that Edwards “did much more than witness history. He made history.”
Edwards was born June 29, 1921, in Manhattan, New York, to Albert Herman Edwards and Blanche Gans Edwards. He and his older brother, Robert, attended public schools.
Edwards said his insatiable thirst for knowledge led him to endless exploration of newspapers, historical tomes and museums.
He developed an early interest in world affairs and a deep devotion to New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, known as a strong, charismatic, corruption fighter.
A political activist at 16, Edwards wrote a prophetic article for his high school newspaper published Nov. 12, 1937, titled “Looking Towards the Future.”
The last paragraph read: “A new world war is almost unavoidable with Hitler in power. One never knows what he will do next in an attempt to get back some of the land Germany lost at the end of the World War. He cannot be put out of power without a war, so the world will just have to keep its fingers crossed and hope for the best.”
Edwards was a senior at New York University’s School of Commerce, Accounts and Finance in 1942, serving as editor of the school’s Production Magazine and as a volunteer air raid warden when he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force.
In his 2017 memoir, he wrote, “Although I knew of the atrocities happening to Jews, including relatives who remained in Germany rather than fleeing, my main motivation for volunteering was my love for my country. I resolved to become the best American soldier I could be.”
Edwards considered his “best” to include continuing to serve the OSS following the European armistice, covering the Malmedy war trials at the Dachau concentration camp (concerning German murders of American prisoners taken in the Battle of the Bulge), as well as covering the first United Nations meeting in London.
After graduating from New York University in 1947, Edwards joined his parents in Jacksonville, focusing his energy on responsible citizenship and using his journalistic skills to bring awareness to the public of continuing inequities happening in Germany and elsewhere.
Edwards married Helene in 1955 and launched his career as an investment counselor in 1958. He later founded the Financial Analysts Society of Jacksonville and in 1975 established the Economic Roundtable of Jacksonville, serving two terms as president.
During the last six decades, his civic activism led him to crusade for and against causes such as improving the public school system and reducing expenditures on the Skyway and stadium.
His efforts were chronicled by reports with headlines such as “Squaring off against City Hall,” (1993 in The Florida Times-Union) and “Beating Up on the City’s Syndicate.” (2001 in Florida Trend).
Edwards also was active in community service and brought “Today” show star chimp, J. Fred Muggs, to Jacksonville in the 1950s for a benefit on behalf of the Jacksonville Humane Society.
Muggs was well-trained, for the most part, Edwards recalled in a 2010 interview. “Sometimes he’d throw something at somebody,” he said.
Edwards had more than 3,000 books in his San Jose home that represented his research and predictions about war, politics, business, education, world affairs, economics and more.
In his memoir, Edwards summed up his life:
“It is in my nature to seek answers to questions that have plagued humanity since the beginning of time, but my research generally leads me to the reasons why certain conflicts have occurred during my lifetime … wars, genocides, tragedies, inequities in government, misspent funds … my focus has always been on how these conflicts could have been avoided and how we might learn from our mistakes and do better in the future.”
Susan D. Brandenburg was the biographer for Marvin Edwards. Together they wrote and published “Now It Can Be Told … Tales of the OSS.” The book is available at The Book Nook in Lakewood and Amazon.com.