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Remembering Junior Edge: A legendary athlete, an exceptional man

By Earl Vaughan Jr.
Any story written about the late Junior Edge typically focuses on his athletic prowess. And with good reason.
He was one of the finest athletes ever to come out of Massey Hill High School, and went on to become the Gator Bowl-winning, All-Atlantic Coast Conference quarterback for the University of North Carolina in 1963. He helped lead the Tar Heels to both their first ACC title and first bowl win.
But conversations with family and friends reveal a side to Edge that can’t be measured in statistics from a game or wins and losses for a season.
They tell a warm, human side of someone who put family first instead of trophies on a mantle, and someone who sought to spread the news of outstanding accomplishments by others, without seeking to draw attention to himself.
Edge first drew notice on the courts and playing fields of Massey Hill, even making an impression on an older classmate both there and at the University of North Carolina: former Cumberland County Sheriff Earl “Moose” Butler, an athletic star in his own right.
“He had the ability and the desire,’’ Butler said of Edge. “He proved it in high school and college. I was proud to call him my friend. And I was proud to know him as one of the boys from the Hill.’’
When he returned to his native Fayetteville after his playing days were over, Edge got involved in local politics and was a member of the old Fayetteville City Schools Board of Education, a position he held when Dr. William Harrison was named principal at Terry Sanford High School.
“His entire family were great supporters of the school and great people,’’ Harrison said. Harrison said Edge’s experiences with athletics gave him an appreciation for how athletic competition shapes the whole person.
“His being on the school board demonstrates to those who think it might be all about athletics, it’s a lot more than that,’’ Harrison said.
Junior Edge with son Trey, an outstanding athlete in his own right
Edge also demonstrated his support for things beyond the athletic arena with his years of involvement with the Kiwanis Club. Ray Quesnel, head of school at Fayetteville Academy and a member of the local club, said Edge’s involvement supporting academics through the club dates back to the old scholastic achievement awards, which preceded the popular Kiwanis Terrific Kids program.
“Junior took great pride in that,’’ Quesnel said. Each year, Edge organized a program that brought some of the winning students to speak at Kiwanis meetings about their schools and achievements.
“He really made that program his own,’’ Quesnel said.
But no one felt Edge’s love and support more than the members of his immediate family, especially children Trey Edge and Karly Edge Walker. Both were athletes at Terry Sanford, and both said their father was a constant source of support whenever they were competing.
“It was a generational thing,’’ Walker said. “Once we weren’t doing sports anymore it was passed down to the next generation.’’
Walker said when one of Edge’s children or grandchildren was playing in a game, other spectators knew where not to sit because Edge would always be present to watch.
“Our kids knew if they looked on the front row, he’d be sitting there,’’ Walker said. “If if was sports related or an academic awards assembly, he was there. You didn’t have to question that.’’
Sharing a sweet moment with granddaughter Kara
Walker said family had a lot to do with Edge’s support of the total education program beyond athletics. “He has so many sisters that are teachers,’’ Walker said. “I’m sure that influenced him in wanting to make a difference for Cumberland County. That’s one of the things that led me into teaching.’’
Son Trey recalls that no matter the size of the crowd at a game, his father’s voice was the biggest and loudest in the stands but always supportive.
“He was larger than life to me,’’ Trey said. “I had heard all the stories about how good he was as an athlete at Massey Hill and Carolina. I got to watch some of those films and see how good he actually was.’’
Trey said he will especially miss what he called “the big old teddy bear” his dad became late in life. “He was an even better person than he was an athlete,’’ Trey said. “He was an even better dad. He was my first hero. He was my buddy.’’
Trey said the biggest lesson he learned from his father was that life is first and foremost about family and love. “As long as we’ve got that, we’re going to be all right,’’ Trey said. “His support and his love meant the world to me.’’