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Christopher Edley Sr.
The birth of Christopher F. Edley in 1928 is marked on this date. He was a Black lawyer and administrator.
Christopher Fairfield. Edley, Sr., was born in Charleston, West Virginia. When Edley graduated from Howard University in 1953, he was one of the few Black students earning a law degree. Later he went to Harvard, where Edley married Zaida Coles. The couple had a son, Christopher Edley, Jr., and a daughter, Judith. After passing his bar exam, he moved to Philadelphia in its district attorney's office. He became chief of the Appellate Division after three years and served the city's Human Rights Commission. In 1960, he was Chief of the Administration of Justice Division of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Edley worked for the predecessor of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development with the Kennedy administration and was the first Black program officer at the Ford Foundation in 1963.
He was a "man on a mission" at the United Negro College Fund UNCF, according to his son. In 1973, Edley, Sr., succeeded Vernon Jordan as president of the organization; his objective was to open higher education to tens of thousands who otherwise might not have had that chance. Edley took the wheel just after the group started its famous ad campaign "A mind is a terrible thing to waste."
The success of that campaign and his leadership and fund-raising ability transformed the UNCF into one of the nation's best-known charities. One measure of his career is that he raised $700 million to aid students attending America’s Historic Black Colleges and Universities. As part of that effort, he kicked off the first nationally televised telethon for education, the annual “Lou Rawls Parade of Stars,” which has raised about $100 million. Edley also secured a $50 million challenge grant from TV Guide founder and former diplomat Walter H. Annenberg, allegedly the largest single gift in the history of Black philanthropy.
He is most noted for his highly successful administration and fundraising United Negro College Fund. Edley retired in 1991, and in May 2003, died of a heart attack at his home in New Rochelle, New York. He was 75.
Black Heroes of the Twentieth Century
Edited by Jessie Carney Smith
Copyright 1998 Visible Ink Press, Detroit, MI