Stephen Charles Edds passed away peacefully before dawn on March 29, 2022, at his home in Ridgeland, Mississippi. Steve was a devoted and loving husband to Lesly, devoted father to Ben and Rachel, bon vivant, superb attorney, world traveler, lover of and generous supporter to the arts and his community, and a wonderful friend to so many. He will be deeply missed.
Steve was born on April 28, 1949, the first child of Reverend William Harold Edds and Ann Fisher Edds, in Lexington, Kentucky. Being the son of a First Christian minister, Steve and his family moved frequently, and as a result he attended many schools before arriving at Murrah High School in Jackson, Mississippi in 1963. At Murrah High School Steve was the Co-Editor of the school newspaper the "Hoofbeat" during his senior year, elected "Most Versatile" by his senior class, selected as a Rotarian of the Month, and was a member of the Theater Guild and the Quill and Scroll. After graduation from Murrah High School in 1967, Steve attended Tulane University in New Orleans for his first semester, but quickly realized that Mississippi had become his true home and transferred to the University of Mississippi. At Ole Miss, Steve was a member of Sigma Chi, the Order of Omega, the Editor of the Ole Miss Annual during his senior year, when he also held the College Cabinet position of Director of School Spirit. He was a member of the national leadership society Omicron Delta Kappa, the academic honor society Phi Alpha Theta, named to Who's Who in American Colleges and Universities, and was a 1971 Inductee into the Ole Miss Hall of Fame. Steve graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1971 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Political Science, and promptly enrolled in the University of Mississippi Law School, where he was a member of the legal honor society Phi Delta Phi and went year-round to graduate and earn his Juris Doctorate degree in August of 1973.
Following law school Steve began a remarkable legal career initially in Columbus, Mississippi, working with early mentors he spoke of fondly throughout his life and where he became active in The Mississippi Bar and the American Bar Association. Steve moved to Jackson in 1986 and soon began specializing in public finance, project finance, economic development and government relations. Steve was recognized for many years by Mid-South Super Lawyers®, Chambers USA and Best Lawyers in America® in all of his practice areas, including as a Lawyer of the Year in Project Finance Law in 2021.
During his long and active legal career, Steve was the Chair of the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Silver Gavel Awards, the Editor-in-Chief of American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division Barrister Magazine, member of the American Bar Foundation and the Fellows of the American Bar Association; the Secretary, Vice President and then President of The Mississippi Bar Young Lawyers Division, the Vice President of The Mississippi Bar, a member of The Mississippi Bar Board of Bar Commissioners, Chair of The Mississippi Bar Ethics Committee, and a member of The Mississippi Bar Foundation; President of the Golden Triangle Young Lawyers; long time member of the National Association of Bond Lawyers; and Director of the American Judicature Society. Steve was appointed as the State Bond Attorney by Governor Ray Mabus and was appointed Chair of the Mississippi Tort Claims Board by Governor Phil Bryant and by Governor Tate Reeves.
Steve and Lesly first meet professionally as public finance lawyers by phone on a transaction in the early 1990's, and after meeting in person in September of 1996 at a National Association of Bond Lawyers conference in Chicago soon became a couple. They were married on Flag Day June 14, 1997, and began their journey as devoted spouses, partners and best friends, including their journey as devoted father and stepmother to Ben and Rachel, whom Steve loved dearly and for whom he worked hard to be a good parent.
Steve has been a generous supporter of the arts over many years. Steve was first appointed to the Mississippi Arts Commission by Governor William Winter in 1983 and first served as Chair from 1985 to 1988. Steve was reappointed to the Mississippi Arts Commission in 2014 by Governor Phil Bryant and was working tirelessly as its devoted Chair for the third time at the time of his death. Steve previously served on the Boards of Directors of the Southern Arts Federation and of the Arts Alliance of Jackson and Hinds County, and was Secretary of the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters. Steve has been a long-time supporter of the Mississippi Museum of Art, where he served on the Board of Trustees from 2004 until his death. He chaired the Building for the Future Task Force and the effort to transform a nondescript building into the Museum's current home. He chaired the Art Garden planning team and worked to convert a parking lot in front of the Museum into a beautiful garden and public space. He was a long time member of the Museum Board's Executive Committee, served a two year term as Vice Chair of the Board, then Chairman of the Board and was serving as the Immediate Past Chair at the time of his death.
Steve joined the Board of Trustees of Tougaloo College in Ridgeland, Mississippi in 2016, and he quickly became actively and passionately devoted to the College and its mission, serving on the Executive Committee, the Institutional Advancement Committee, the Art and Historical Assets Sub-Committee as Chair and Vice Chair, the Investments Committee as Chair and Vice Chair, and the Governance Committee as Chair and Vice Chair. Steve also served as a member of the Board of the Tougaloo College Economic Development Corporation and was very involved in the widening of West County Line Road, a major 10-year development that became reality in October of 2021. Joining forces on shared support for the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra as well as Tougaloo College, for several years Steve and Lesly have sponsored the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra's Chamber Concert held annually in the historic Woodworth Chapel on the Tougaloo College campus.
Steve and Lesly loved to travel and made over two dozen trips to Europe, with the most to Italy, where his love of food, wine and history thrived, many of such trips with dear friends. Steve was eagerly planning their next trip as the pandemic restrictions were lifting this spring. Coming from a small family, Steve became close to Lesly's family, including her siblings and many of her cousins, and became quite fond of summer family gatherings in the small town of Pentwater on Lake Michigan with Lesly's cousins. Steve also was an avid reader and lover of books, with books stacked everywhere in his home. He often shipped books he had enjoyed to friends whom he knew also would enjoy reading them.
Steve loved entertaining his friends, good food and great wine. He thoroughly enjoyed many trips with good friends to the California wine country, where he also made many friends. For a week in early March of this year, Steve was on the 25th WAFL California wine trip with his beloved WAFL wine buddies and dear friends enjoying himself immensely.
Steve was generous with his time and his treasure to his community and loved sharing his joy of life, food, wine and travel with his many friends. His truly was a life well lived.
Steve was preceded in death by his parents Reverend William Harold Edds and Ann Fisher Edds; his sister Mary Ann Edds McManus, her husband John Francis McManus, Jr. and his brother Thomas Allan Edds. He is survived by his wife Lesly Gaynor Murray, his son Benjamin Wood Edds, his daughter-in-law Amy Leanne Edds, his grandchildren Christopher Wyatt Tucker and Shelby Lynn Tucker, and his daughter Rachel Abigail Edds; and his sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law and their children and grandchildren Lynn Murray Evans, Dr. Owen Beverly Evans, Jr., William H. Murray, Jr., Sharon Murray, Dr. Roy Allen Murray, Stephanie Syphers, Dr. Kathryn Boone Evans Schneider, James Corey Schneider, Owen William Evans, James Aiden Schneider, Elise Kathryn (Ella Kate) Schneider, and Aelric Sweyn Kofoid.
Steve's funeral will be held on Thursday, April 28, 2022, at 3:00 PM at Saint Andrew's Episcopal Cathedral, 305 E. Capitol Street, Jackson, MS. Officiating at the service will be The Reverend Buddy Stallings and The Reverend Caroline Carothers Vogel. Following the funeral, friends are invited to Celebrate Steve's Life at the Mississippi Museum of Art, 380 S. Lamar Street, Jackson, MS, beginning at 4:00 PM.
In lieu of flowers, please donate to the Stephen C. Edds Memorial Scholarship Fund at Tougaloo College; the direct link to donate to the Stephen C. Edds Memorial Scholarship Fund is https://igfn.us/form/yKi91g; checks made out to Stephen C. Edds Memorial Scholarship Fund at Tougaloo College may be mailed to The Division of Institutional Advancement, Tougaloo College, 500 West County Line Road, Tougaloo, MS 39174; or please donate to the Mississippi Arts Commission Endowment Fund at the Community Foundation of Greater Jackson, the Mississippi Museum of Art, the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, the Friends of Children's Hospital supporting the Blair Batson Children's Hospital in Jackson, MS, or to the charitable organization of your choice.