Harry Edwards

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Harry Edwards 1942

Sociologist, sports psychologist

At a Glance

Athletic Excellence No Match for Racism

Groundbreaking San Jose State Protests

Olympics Black Power Salute

Denied Tenure at Berkeley

Helped Integrate the Business of Baseball

A Unique Role Model

Selected writings


Twenty-five years ago Harry Edwards was a radical spokesman for the rights of black people, especially in the world of organized athletics. Today Edwards carries on his legacy by serving as a sports psychologist and teaching seminars on sports in society at the University of California, Berkeley. At six-foot-eight and 245 pounds, Edwards is himself a former athlete who was courted by several professional sports teams. He chose to remain in academics instead, and has become one of the first nationally known university professors to demonstrate that a nations sporting community can serve as a model for the professional world at large.

As a young instructor at San Jose State College in 1968, Edwards used Black Panther rhetoric to urge his brothers and sisters to boycott organized athleticsespecially the Olympic Games. For years we have participated in the Olympic Games, carrying the United States on our backs with our victories, and race relations are now worse than ever, he told the New York Times Magazine in 1968. Were not trying to lose the Olympics for the Americans. What happens to them is immaterial. But its time for the black people to stand up as men and women and refuse to be utilized as performing animals for a little extra dog food.

Edwards has mellowed in the decades since, but he is still a strong advocate of black participation in the management of professional sports. He serves as a staff consultant to the San Francisco 49ers football team and to the Golden State Warriors basketball team. He is also actively involved in recruiting black talent for front-office positions in major league baseball. All these efforts are sidelines, however; Edwards is a tenured professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, where he lectures on sports in society and on race relations in professional athletics. The establishment has changed to the extent that they decided to invite me in, he later told the New York Times Magazine. But Im like the Statue of Liberty. Ive been in the same position since Day One.

That position is one of defiance toward white power, a result of Edwardss own bitter experiences as a child, a college athlete, and an academic. The second of eight children, Edwards was born in 1942 in poverty-stricken East St. Louis, Missouri. I grew up very hard, it took me

At a Glance

Born November 22, 1942, in East St. Louis, MO; son of a laborer; married Sandra Boze (an educator), 1970; children: three. Education: San Jose State College, B.A., 1964; Cornell University, M.A., 1966, Ph.D., 1967.

San Jose State College, instructor in sociology, 1967-69; University of California, Berkeley, assistant professor, 1970-78, professor of sociology, 1978. Also serves as sports psychology consultant to San Francisco 49ers football team and Golden State Warriors basketball team. Assistant to the commissioner of Major League Baseball, with emphasis on minority hiring in management and front-office positions.

Addresses: Office Department of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720.

a long time to build on layers of civility, he told the New York Times Magazine. Edwardss father was an ex-convict who struggled to support his family on a salary of $65 a week. His mother left the family when Edwards was eight. His family boiled drainage-ditch water to drink and once watched as neighbors burned to death in poorly constructed housing. I pulled my own rotten teeth with my fingers, he remembered.

Edwards has said that he stayed in high school because it was the only way he could get a hot shower. He was an indifferent student but an excellent athlete, playing football, basketball, and taking part in track events like shot put. His father encouraged him to develop his athletic skills, since sports seemed one of the few tickets out of the ghetto for blacks at the time. Indeed, Edwards got his chance to leave East St. Louis when a black attorney there loaned him $700 for tuition at Fresno (California) City College.

Edwards quickly earned an athletic scholarship, excelling in track and field, football, and basketball. His exploits brought him to the attention of San Jose State College, where he moved for his junior and senior years. At San Jose State he became a nationally ranked track star, setting a campus record of more than 180 feet in the discus throw. He played center for the San Jose State basketball team andthanks to his size and strengthreceived offers to play professional football with the Minnesota Vikings and San Francisco 49ers.

Athletic Excellence No Match for Racism

For all his skill, however, Edwards still fell victim to racial prejudice at every turn; he could not get into a fraternity at his college, could not find decent off-campus housing, and even had trouble getting meals in local restaurants. One of his coaches referred to him in his presence as a terrific animal. Such attitudes infuriated Edwards, who had by that time become a serious student with excellent grades. He gravitated to the fields of psychology and sociology and began a continuing examination of the threats to black dignity on and off the playing field.

Edwards won a Woodrow Wilson fellowship to Cornell University in 1966. He moved to Cornell site Ithaca, New York, and began work on his masters and doctorate degrees. On weekends he took the bus to New York City to hear lectures by Malcolm X and other leaders of the black rights movement. Edwardss doctoral dissertation was on the Black Muslim religion and its potential for raising minority pride.

Groundbreaking San Jose State Protests

By 1967 Edwards was back at San Jose State, this time as a part-time instructor and sports coach. Proclaiming himself at war with the [white] power structure, he first presented a list of civil rights grievances to the school administration on behalf of black students, especially the athletes. He spearheaded a group that threatened to physically interfere with the opening game of San Jose States football season if the groups demands were not addressed. As Robert Lipsyte put it in the New York Times Magazine, It was a regional watershed in radical sports activism, and the mainstream reaction was also a first; the opening game was canceled. The undercurrent of racism in American sports was out on the table for good. When then-governor Ronald Reagan heard of the game cancellation he called it appeasement of lawbreakers and declared Edwards unfit to teach. Edwards, in turn, called the governor of California a petrified pig, unfit to govern.

Edwards then turned his attention to the national level and, from his office at San Jose State, organized a drive to persuade athletes to boycott organized sporting events. The drive gained impetus in the spring of 1968, as the Olympics drew near. What value is it to a black man to win a medal if he returns to the hell of Harlem? asked Edwards in Time magazine. They are only being used to further the racist attitudes of the U.S.A. Edwardss group had its biggest success at the annual track meet of the New York Athletic Club. By coercion in some cases and persuasion in others, he and other black militants saw to it that very few black athletes participated in the meet.

Olympics Black Power Salute

National attention had finally caught up with Edwards, as did the consequences; his two dogs were hacked to death and the initials KKK scratched on his car. Still he persisted, berating the crackers in the white power elite. His Olympic boycott appeared at first to be a failure. Instead, it became an international statement when two victorious black runners, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, raised black-gloved fists in a black power salute during the traditional playing of the national anthem after their event. A photographer captured the moment and the two athletes were thrown off the team. Lipsyte wrote of Edwardss disciples: Their image was burned into history, an icon of nonviolent protest.

In 1970 Edwards moved to the University of California, Berkeley, where he quickly became a favorite among students of all races. There he continued his crusade for equitable treatment of black athletes. According to Lipsyte, Edwardss campaigns were successful by longer-term measures, as consciousness-raisers, as teach-ins. It would never be possible again to regard sports as a never-never land, a sweaty Brigadoon: There was racism in sports; blacks were exploited. Edwards is generally considered the first academic to establish the legitimacy of sport as an integral partand reflectionof society.

Denied Tenure at Berkeley

Edwards faced a crucial test in 1976: He had been an assistant professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, for six years when he was refused tenure. A university committee voted 10-8 to deny him tenurethe right to continue teaching at Berkeley because he had failed to publish significantly in professional journals. The uproar at his dismissal went far beyond the boundaries of the Berkeley campus; students, clergymen, fellow sociologists, athletes, and even California governor Jerry Brown wrote letters of protest to the university. In the end, the committees decision was reversed, and its popular professor was allowed to stay.

Inevitably, Edwards has concerned himself with the physical and psychological well-being of athletes, both professional and amateur. He has urged athletes not to use performance-enhancing drugs such as anabolic steroids, and has pressured coaches not to turn a blind eye to drug use. Edwards has also been a crusader for black participation in the coaching and management aspects of sports. He has developed a sophisticated monitoring system of collegesfollowing the hiring and promotion of black coachesand reports his findings to the high school coaches with the most promising young black athletes. The maneuver is far more subtle than his tirades of the late sixties, but is effective nonetheless; college administrators now realize that they must hire black coaches or face the prospect of losing the recruitment race for black talent.

Helped Integrate the Business of Baseball

In 1987 Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Al Campanis told a national television audience that blacks lacked the necessities to manage a major league baseball team. The Dodgers promptly fired Campanis, but Edwards found cause for hope in the remark. By bringing to light the dearth of black managers, general managers, and front-office staff, Campanis actually did blacks a favor, Edwards said. Baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth agreed, hiring Edwards to help integrate the business end of professional baseball. Edwards discussed his strategy in Time: On one end, weve worked to create a viable pool of candidates who are qualified now to take over a managerial or front-office position. On the other end, were bringing younger minorities and women who are not advanced in their careers into lower-echelon positions within a sports organization. The idea is to get them into the loop, learning the business and moving up through the system and into the comfort zone of those who do the hiring. The individuals who tend to be hired are usually those known to the people in authority.

Edwards has also become well known for his work as a consultant to the San Francisco 49ers and the Golden State Warriors, both professional teams in the San Francisco Bay area. He began his work with the clubs in 1988 as a go-between for black players and predominantly white coaching staffs. His job has expanded, however; it now includes traveling with the teams, advising management on the socio-psychological makeup of key draft prospects, and advising players on dealing with management, investments, education, drug use, and post-sports career opportunities. Assessing his impact on the powerful 49ers, for instance, Edwards told the New York Times Magazine: I dont figure I actually win games for the team. But Ive got to be worth two or three plays every game.

A Unique Role Model

From the beginning, wrote Lipsyte, Edwards has seen himself as one who provokes and incites others to action, a reformer, not a revolutionary. And indeed, no other single figure in sports has done as much to make the country aware that the problems of the larger culture are recapitulated in sports, that the arena is no sanctuary from drugs, racism and corruption. Edwards also wants to serve as a role modelthe promising athlete who gave up the possibility of a career in professional sports to become a scholar instead. We must teach our children to dream with their eyes open, he told Time. The chances of your becoming a Jerry Rice or a Magic Johnson are so slim as to be negligible. Black kids must learn to distribute their energies in a way thats going to make them productive, contributing citizens in an increasingly high-technology society.

Selected writings

Revolt of the Black Athlete, Free Press, 1970.

Contributor of essays to magazines, including Sports Illustrated and Psychology Today.


Jet, June 29, 1987.

New York Times Magazine, May 12, 1968; May 22, 1988.

People, April 10, 1978.

Time, February 23, 1968; March 6, 1989.

Mark Kram

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Edwards, Harry (1893-1976)

British spiritual healer (born Henry James Edwards on May 29, 1893) who also did much to publicize the subject of spiritual healing. He treated patients directly at his Healing Sanctuary in Britain or on the platform at public meetings, and also by "absent healing" through correspondence.

Edwards was born on May 29, 1893, in Islington, London, and grew up in various sections of the metropolitan area. At the age of 14 he was apprenticed to a printer and his seven years of service were up just in time for him to join the army in 1914. He was sent to India the following year and for a time worked in a construction project in Persia (Iran). While there he had his first experiences as a healer, as he was the one in charge of handing all of the minor work-related injuries. However, even the few medicines he had available led to his gaining a local reputation as a healer of note.

He returned to England in 1921 and established himself as a printer and was actively involved in local politics. In 1936, in the wake of the untimely death of a nephew, he visited a Spiritualist meeting. Years ago he had on one occasion attended such a gathering, but it had made little impression. This time, however, he was intrigued and began to attend a development class from which he emerged as a medium.

He and his wife soon formed a home circle they called the Fellowship of Spiritual Service. Told by a medium that he was to become a healer, he followed instructions to concentrate upon the recovery of the next account of a sick person described to him. It happened to be of a person with tuberculosis who experienced a recovery after Edwards' intervention. Edwards was just becoming known as a healer when World War II began. He joined the Home Guard. His home was destroyed during the bombing of London, and Edwards relocated to Surrey, eventually giving up his printing business and purchasing a large house, Burrows Lea, which became the sight of his Spiritual Healing Sanctuary.

Edwards operated as a Spiritualist healer, and believed that the late Louis Pastuer and Lord Lister worked through him from the spirit world. He was in great demand for the rest of his life and frequently gave lectures and led healing services throughout Great Britain.

He received some two thousand letters daily, many from patients in distant countries. His records indicated close to a 80 percent recovery rate dealing with such diseases as cancer, tuberculosis, arthritis and epilepsy, although, only a minority of these cases were documented to the level required to verify the healing claimed.

Edwards worked closely with physicians. He believed that spiritual healing power passed through him with the assistance of discarnate spirit helpers, and also claimed to have traveled outside his body to visit distant patients. He authored a number of books and published a monthly magazine The Spiritual Healer from his home.

Edwards died December 7, 1976, but his healing work has been continued at his Burrows Lea sanctuary by Joan and Ray Branch, whom he designated as his successors. The Branches have stated that they feel Edwards is still with them in their work of healing. The journal The Spiritual Healer continues publication from the Healer Publishing Co., Ltd., Burrows Lea, Shere, Guildford, Surrey G5 9QG.


Branch, Ramus. Harry Edwards: The Life Story of the Great Healer. Burrows Lea, Guildford, Surrey, UK: Healer Publishing, 1982.

Edwards, Harry. The Evidence for Spirit Healing. London: Spiritualist Press, 1952.

. The Healing Intelligence. New York: Taplinger, 1971.

. The Science of Spirit Healing. London: Rider and Co., 1945.

. Spirit Healing. London: Herbert Jenkins, 1960.

. Thirty Years a Spiritual Healer. London: Herbert Jenkins, 1968.

. The Truth about Spiritual Healing. London: Spiritual-ist Press, 1956.

Miller, Paul. Born to Heal. London: Spiritualist Press, 1948.