Cover photo for William Russell Edwards, Jr.'s Obituary
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1925 William 2023

William Russell Edwards, Jr.

November 4, 1925 — June 9, 2023

Athens, GA

William Russell Edwards, Jr, of Athens, Georgia, died peacefully on Friday, June 9, 2023, after an extended illness.  Born on November 4, 1925 in Fort Valley, Georgia, Russell was the son of William Russell Edwards, Sr, a local businessman, and Willie Green Pound Edwards, daughter of esteemed educator, Dr. Jere M. Pound. He attended Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky where he majored in Psychology and where he met Kathleen Crenshaw, a Kentucky native. They were married June 2, 1951 and remained devoted to each other throughout the 62 years of their life together.

Russell left Asbury in 1943 to serve as an Airborne Radio and Radar Technician in the 12th Air Force during World War II. In 1946 he returned to Asbury to finish his degree and felt the call to preach. He was ordained by the South Georgia Conference in Savannah, Georgia in 1951. He attended the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, received his Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1953, and began graduate work in Theology until 1954 when he received his appointment to become the pastor of Palmyra Road Methodist Church in Albany, Georgia. He served that church until 1958, when he received commendation for his work in Albany from the Bishop of the South Georgia Conference and the appointment to Athens, Georgia to serve as the Director of the Wesley Foundation on the campus of the University of Georgia. He served in that capacity for 8 years, where he provided direction and support for students as they made career and life decisions. Several students from that era made the decision to go into the ministry as a result of his impact.

In 1966 Russell retired from the South Georgia Conference to pursue graduate work in Counseling through the NDEA Fellowship program. Upon completion of his PhD degree in 1970 he was hired as a Counseling Psychologist at UGA’s University Health Services, where for 22 years he continued to provide support and guidance for students. He served the larger mental health community in the state through his work with the Georgia Mental Health Association and eventually served as President of that organization. In that capacity he worked closely with Rosalynn Carter, then First Lady of Georgia, in her ardent efforts on behalf of mental health. Russell retired from UGA in 1992, though he remained an active member of the academic community through participation in UGA alumni activities, the Torch Club and as an avid Bulldog fan and supporter.

In retirement Russell became a master woodworker, a clarinet player and an active participant in the lives of his family and grandchildren. Upon the death of his beloved wife, Kathleen, he moved into the retirement community at Highland Hills, where he became actively involved in community life, occasionally assisting Chaplain Craig Topple with Vespers services on Sunday afternoons. He summed up his life’s journey as having received a genuine and heartfelt call to be of service and that he had tried to leave every situation better than he had found it. He is survived by his sister, Ada Edwards Sweat of Brunswick, GA, daughters Marianne Edwards and Patricia Crenshaw Edwards Jordan, sons-in-law James M. Jordan and E. Glenn Newsome, and grandchildren Kelsey Kathleen Jordan, James Russell Jordan (Heather Pyle Jordan), and Megan Elizabeth Gillis.

A service to honor his memory will be held at 2:00 on Sunday, June 25, 2023, in the Chapel of Athens First United Methodist Church, with the Reverends Elizabeth Butler and Craig Topple officiating. Gifts in his memory can be made to the church or philanthropy of the giver’s choice.

Lord and Stephens Funeral Home, WEST, Watkinsville, GA is in charge of arrangements. www.lordandstephens.com

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of William Russell Edwards, Jr., please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Memorial Service

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Starts at 2:00 pm (Eastern time)

Athens First United Methodist Church Chapel

327 North Lumpkin Street, Athens, GA 30601

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