Attorney Ted Edwards Shares Message of Hope During Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration

February 21, 2024

The Rev. Kent Burnett, minister at Mt. Herman AME Zion Church of Goldston, introduced the guest speaker as a “pastor, lawyer, husband, father and friend.” The occasion was the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Church Celebration, and Ted Edwards, principal of The Banks Law Firm in Durham, delivered a sterling address.

“He’s a Dookie,” Burnett added in reference to his lifelong friend, who is a graduate of Duke University and Duke University School of Law.

“The pastor and I grew up together in Chatham County,” Edwards said. “He had a car and I didn’t, so he would pick me up and ride to high school together back in the day. The car didn’t have any heat in it, but it was still better than being on the school bus!”

Edwards delivered a message of hope and promise befitting the day’s significance, and did so in a manner reminiscent of a seasoned minister:

Our struggle continues, but I’m so glad that God is still strong. I’m so glad that we don’t have to rely on men for our fate. I’m so glad that our progress isn’t dependent on other men’s charity. I’m so glad that God loves us, and I’m so glad that we serve a God that sees our struggle, a God who has a good plan for our lives, for I know the plan that I have, declares the Lord, is a plan for you to prosper. It is a plan to give you hope. I’m so glad that we serve a God that never changes, a God that was with us yesterday, that was with us today, and who will be with us forever.

“It was not my first time preaching,” Edwards said, “but it was my first time preaching at this church. I was pleased; it’s a very small church but it was full and I was encouraged. I thought my message was well-received by the people who were there, and I got to see Kent’s mother, who I hadn’t seen in probably 20 years. It was so good to see her, and she was doing well.”

Even though it was his first time speaking there, in many ways it resembled a homecoming for Edwards.

“I had family there, and several friends there, so it was a homecoming in that sense. Most of the people there I didn’t know, but it was good in the sense of whenever you’re speaking and you feel like the crowd is receptive and encouraging, that always makes it a lot easier to do.”

There is quite a contrast, Edwards agreed, between speaking in a courtroom versus speaking from the pulpit.

“It’s much different, but I have to say it is interesting how there are similarities. A lot of things are different, and you have to remember who your audience is and speak in a way that is appropriate for your audience. But the basic similarity is that you are still making an argument.

“When I speak in church, I have a goal that is to change a behavior; I’m trying to get them to adapt and help them understand where I am coming from. Whereas in court, I’m usually starting with this is what the law says and this is how it applies to our situation, and saying to the judge this is why you should rule in my client’s favor on this issue that is before you.

“But when I am in the pulpit, then I am saying this is what the Bible says and this is the issue that I think we need to look at. This is what the Bible says and this is the issue that I think we need to look at; this is why we need to change our behavior so that we can be in alignment with what the Bible says:

As we remember Dr. King’s legacy and we think about our present situation, and how we can move forward, I’m so glad that we don’t have to move forward alone. I am so glad that God is with us. I know that racism is still alive and well in 2024. I know there’s a lot of people who want to turn the clock back. They want to go back to an era where Black people were second-class citizens. They want to go back to an era when Dr. King’s ideas seemed radical, but I’m here to tell you that we aren’t going back. I am here to tell you that we are moving forward. I’m here to tell you that the same God that led Dr. King is leading us today. The same God that parted the Red Sea is still on the throne. I’m here to tell you that the same God who brought us through slavery is still with us. The same God who brought us through Jim Crow is still in control. The same God who carried us through the tough times is still with us. And if God is with us, who can stand against us?

Although he’s a natural in the pulpit, Edwards assures it is not something he has ever pursued.

“It’s funny that you put it that way, because I have never pursued it. But I would say that it has pursued me. We were regular church attendees, and several years ago I started to volunteer in our children’s ministry, and I started teaching. At our church we had a separate building where the children would go, and we had a separate service and classes that were broken up by which grade the children were in.

“There was a fourth- or fifth-grade class where I started volunteering as a teacher, and over time that evolved into the pastor asking me to become the children’s pastor and oversee the children’s ministry. I was ordained in 2013.”

Before long Edwards was preaching to the adults during the Wednesday night services and speaking on Sundays at other churches. This continued for a few years until his family moved and changed churches, leading into his current ministry as the leader of a Bible Study Fellowship class.

“Bible Study Fellowship has classes around the world,” Edwards said, “and I’m the leader of the Durham men’s class. We meet every Monday night and I give a 30-minute message. There’s probably about 90 men who are in our Durham class, so that is primarily what I am doing now.”

Asked if he was drawn to this work because his faith has deepened or because he has grown older, Edwards said that both factors were involved.

“I certainly grew up in the church, and from the time I was a child my parents were active in the church. So I have always gone to church, but it is definitely true that my faith has deepened. And as I have gotten older, I have sort of matured. Certainly over the last 20 years, my faith has gotten much stronger than when I was younger.”

Ted and Tiffany Edwards

Edwards and his wife, Tiffany, have four children who are virtually grown – the youngest is a senior in college. Their remarkable journey as parents and as a family has been punctuated by a transformative experience that occurred in 2005, not long after Edwards led the Young Lawyers Division through its 50th anniversary.

Tiffany Edwards was almost killed in a car accident.

“That was certainly a pivotal time,“ Edwards explained. “After the wreck, people that literally I had not seen or talked to since high school came up and supported me and supported us, bringing us meals and cutting the grass and cleaning the house and stuff like that. I was just so blown away by the support that we received. I just really felt God’s love in a tangible way, and that is something I won’t ever forget. I certainly hate that Tiffany got hit by a drunk driver, but there were so many blessings that came afterward, and just her being alive was a miracle.

“But even aside from that, just feeling the love and the support certainly had a big role in growing our faith and also helping us to see and helping me to see the importance of serving others and the impact of little things that folks spent a couple of hours doing, like cleaning out the freezer or mowing the grass. They probably didn’t think it was a huge deal, but you know what, it was a huge deal.”

Delivering this year’s MLK Day Church Celebration address, Edwards came across as being completely comfortable with his surroundings and the message he was delivering:

Just listen to the last speech that Dr. King gave before he was assassinated. This was the closing sentence of the closing paragraph of his speech. He said: “Well, I don’t know what will happen now; we’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life – longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. And so I’m happy tonight; I’m not worried about anything; I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” You see, Dr. King was right that we as a people will get to the Promised Land. We’re living our ancestors’ dreams right now. We didn’t get here because of who we are – we got here because of who God is.

“It’s interesting,” Edwards said, “because I do the 30-minute lecture for the Bible study every Monday night, so that probably helps me feel more comfortable. But the thing that I have really kind of noticed and the thing that I kind of rely on whether I’m speaking in the pulpit or giving the Bible study lectures is that God is always faithful about giving me what I should say. So I don’t really worry about it when I get up there.

“Obviously I have studied the passage that I intend to talk about and I sort of know – I have an idea – about what my message is. But the specifics, He kind of gives to me in the moment, if that makes sense. It’s almost like I’m not the one speaking – I just kind of start and then the Lord takes over, so I am often surprised about the things that come to my mind to say as I am saying it.

“I trust that He’s going to give me what I need to say, and that takes the pressure off. It’s different than when I’m before a judge, because when I am before a judge it is a lot more scripted, and I am a lot more worried about making sure that it’s right.

“There’s a freedom in knowing that I’m just kind of the mouthpiece.”

Russell Rawlings is director of external affairs and communications for the North Carolina Bar Association. View the article here.