If you’d seen him on the street, your mind would see just another Chicago street guy. Wrinkled suit from Good Will, scarred face, do-it-yourself marcelled hair. Stonewall Edwards was not an important man in the accepted sense. I didn’t know him personally, but as a staffer for the city’s human relations commission, I saw him at many marches in the sixties. If you’d just happened on him, you would not have said there goes a brave man, but he was brave. I think a brave man is one who steps up when he doesn’t have to, when the danger in stepping up far outweighs the benefit to him. That was Stonewall; that’show he got his name, Stonewall. Stonewall Edwards stepped up. If someone needed help, he was there. If there were rights to protect, he was there.
People joined and persevered in the marches, perhaps because Stonewall was always there in the front ranks, with his butt on the line. No one recruited him; maybe nobody wanted him with his scars and worn shoes. He was a peacemaker. His face stopped a punch more than once as he broke up fight after fight. He brought peace at a price to himself.
Stonewall had nothing. He did some janitoring at a South Side church for a place to sleep in the basement. I had long tired of the struggles of the sixties and moved on by 1971, when I heard Stonewall was dead. Killed for playing the role of peacemaker. The notice in Jet Magazine read, “Stonewall Edwards, 36, well-known as a civil rights marcher . . . was killed trying to patch up a lovers’ quarrel at the time of the shooting.” Stonewall had been asked by the killer’s girlfriend to accompany her and her mother to the man’s apartment to help settle things. A quarrel developed and Edwards was shot five times.
Stonewall died a pauper. The Alderman, a funeral director, footed the bill for the funeral, a cemetery donated a gravesite and a local business brought his sister in from the East Coast for the funeral.
Stonewall Edwards was a true soul, a soul of the community. He stepped up. and in the end the community stepped up for him.