How Former Texas Rep. Al Edwards helped make Juneteenth a state holiday

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Tuesday, June 30, 2020
Houstonians honor former Texas Rep. Al Edwards
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Rep. Edwards was known for educating the community on Juneteenth and why it's such an important holiday.

GALVESTON, Texas (KTRK) -- If you've ever celebrated Juneteenth in Galveston, former state representative Al Edwards probably had something to do with it.

He died on April 29th at the age of 83.

"They used to call me his sidekick," said his brother David Lee Edwards. "All my life, he hasn't just been a brother. He's been a real influence on my life even up until today."

David Lee Edwards, who is 69, grew up watching his older brother march for Civil Rights with leaders like Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rev. Jesse Jackson.

And he supported his brother when he headed legislation in 1979 to make Texas the first state to name Juneteenth a state holiday.

The law was so controversial at the time, it only passed in the final 24 hours of the legislative session.

"My uncle stressed the importance of voting to everyone, because that's the biggest voice we have as citizens," said David Lee Edwards' son, David.

COVID19 concerns meant the family couldn't give Edwards the memorial service they wanted.

And those same concerns mean this year's Juneteenth event in Galveston will be much smaller than usual.

But, protests have brought renewed attention to the holiday, and his family hopes the event will be a chance to honor Edwards' legacy of perseverance.

"Al's objective was to do things in life so that for years to come, it would have been meaningful," David Lee Edwards explained.