Honoring Wade Edwards

Wade Edwards was a high school student at Needham B. Broughton High School in Raleigh, North Carolina, when he died on April 4, 1996. An honor student, a winner of national, state, and local writing awards, a high school athlete, an editor of the yearbook, and a cherished friend, Wade exemplified the community’s aspirations for excellence, compassion, and character.

Photo of Wade Edwards

Wade is the son of John and Elizabeth Edwards. He was born in Nashville, Tennessee, on July 18, 1979, and he died on April 4, 1996, at the age of 16. Wade has three siblings: he grew up with his younger sister, Cate, while Emma Claire and John Atticus were born after his death.

In the spring of 1996, Wade was a finalist in a national essay contest for high school students co-sponsored by the Voice of America and National Endowment for the Humanities. The theme of the contest was “What It Means To Be an American,” and Wade’s winning essay was “Fancy Clothes and Overalls.” Wade attended the awards ceremony and visited the First Lady at the White House just three weeks before his death. That same spring his short story, “Summits,” received regional Literary Arts and statewide Scholastic awards. Wade was also invited to attend the National Youth Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C., in the fall of 1995.

In addition to his academic accomplishments, Wade participated for over ten years at various levels with the Capital Area Soccer League. He attended Woodberry Forest Sports Camp, the Colorado Outward Bound School, and every home basketball game of the University of North Carolina Tar Heels. He went white water rafting in Arizona and fly-fishing in Colorado and in the summer of 1995, he and his father successfully climbed the difficult Machame and Shira route to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, at 19,343 feet the highest peak in Africa.

Wade worked after school for his father’s law firm, Edwards & Kirby. He also participated in Broughton High School’s community service program, volunteering for the Wake Education Partnership, the Daniels Middle School Parent-Teacher Association, various political campaigns, and at Broughton High School. And, he taught his family – and many of his friends – how to use the computer.

Senator Helms, whom Wade met in March 1996, gave a eulogy for Wade on the floor of the United States Senate. The local newspaper, the News and Observer, wrote a tender editorial about Wade’s death called “A Great Kid.” In Wade’s name, members of the community helped Wade’s family and friends establish the Wade Edwards Foundation for the purpose of motivating, inspiring, and rewarding young people.

There have been other tributes to Wade. His sister, Cate, who had just turned 14 when Wade died, wrote a poem in his memory. His friend, then student body president-elect, Hayes Permar, wrote a song. Another song was written and recorded by Indoor Storm. Wade’s elementary school planted a tree in his name at the school and placed a memory brick in their walk. The Junior Classical League renamed their spring gathering as Attic Night, in recognition of Wade’s Latin name, Atticus. The Latipac, Broughton’s yearbook, now gives an annual award in Wade’s name, and the 1997 yearbook was dedicated to his memory. The Capital Area Soccer League memorialized him in the program of the 1996 Shoot Out. Jim Jenkins, a columnist for the News and Observer, wrote “Wade’s Legacy of Wisdom and Love.”

The North Carolina Trial Lawyers Association renamed the state mock court competition. It is now called the Wade Edwards High School Mock Court Competition, drawing participants from all over the state competing for the privilege of representing the state at the national high school moot court competition. The 1999 winners, from Douglas Byrd High School in Fayetteville, finished fifth nationally, North Carolina’s best showing ever.

Wade is buried at the historic Oakwood Cemetery, the resting place of seven governors and numerous U.S. Senators.

Honoring Elizabeth Edwards

EVERYONE DESERVES AN ELIZABETH. Elizabeth Edwards worked tirelessly to give youth the kind of encouragement, support, and tools that they needed to reach their full potential.  In raising her four children, Elizabeth ensured they had what they needed to succeed and pushed them to become the best version of themselves.  She continued that mission for all high school students when she established the Wade Edwards Learning Lab. Elizabeth believed in the power of people to support each other within their communities, to lift each other up, and give each other opportunity.

Our highest hope is that we can honor the legacy of Elizabeth Edwards’ passion to provide the student community with opportunities for achievement, enrichment, and service.