Longtime Local NAACP President Willis Edwards Dies at 66

Former Beverly Hills/Hollywood branch NAACP president and civil rights activist Willis Edwards died on Friday at the age of 66.

From the Los Angeles Sentinel:

“He fought the good fight. He finished the course. He kept the faith. At 4:40p.m. on Friday, the 13th of July 2012, my “bestest friend in the whole wide world,” Willis Franklin Earl Edwards succumbed to cancer and departed this existence for his heavenly residence.

He left on the wings of angels and arrived at the Pearly Gates in God’s own time.

Final arrangements are pending and will be announced over the next few days. Thank you for the outpouring of love shown to Willis while he was here with us.”

Thanks to the help of his friend and now L.A. County District Attorney Steve Cooley, Edwards was the first black student body president at Cal State Los Angeles. He worked on the Robert F. Kennedy presidential campaign and served as an intern following a stint in Vietnam for Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally.

Edwards was a key figure in the launch of the NAACP Image Awards, which was created by the Beverly Hills/Hollywood branch. Known as “Mr. NAACP,” Edwards spent 12 years on the national board.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s office released a statement:

The quest for civil rights in the United States has been championed by extraordinary men and women. It has been our honor in the City of Los Angeles that extraordinary Civil Rights Leader, Willis Edwards, lived here, worked here and called Los Angeles home. Willis Edwards was a national leader for the NAACP and a partner with the City of Los Angeles in the struggle for equality and justice for all people. I was proud to call him a personal friend for over 20 years in the struggle for civil liberties.The legacy of Willis Edwards is that he made the impossible, possible; he fought the unjust for justice; he spoke boldly in the places of silence; and he stood tall and fearless as a leader when others cowered. We are a better city, nation and world because of the excellence of Willis Edwards.

My thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time.