Col. Ollie Herbert Edwards was born on February 6, 1933, in rural Scott County, Mississippi. He had fond memories of being a young boy, trudging along beside his Grandpa Weems behind a plow and mule in Forest. He grew up in West Point, Mississippi, graduating from West Point High School in 1951 in a class of 43 members, most of whom he remained in touch throughout his life, including attending class reunions frequently. He attended the University of Mississippi for two years in pharmacy school before becoming a cadet at Lackland AFB, San Antonio. After training in electronic warfare at Biloxi AFB where he was commissioned, he was assigned to Little Rock AFB, just under construction. He was the first 2nd lieutenant on base where he served in multiple positions. As the new base expanded, he became a crew member on a B-47. During his 24 year military career, his favorite assignment was the Strategic Air Command at Columbus Air Force Base in Columbus, MS. He served as electronic warfare officer on B-52s for six years. During the Cold War with Russia, he found a lasting camaraderie with his peers, flying 24 hour chrome dome missions and spending days and nights in the alert shack. He delighted in telling the story of the midnight adventure of ejecting from an out-of-control B-52, along with all crew members except the pilots who were able to get control and land on base. Ironically, this ejection happened about 25 miles from his hometown and, much to his chagrin, his midnight adventure was headline news in the daily paper the next day.
Col. Edwards was stationed at Takhli AFB in Thailand during the Vietnam War where he was a crew member on EB66s, flying 123 combat missions. He then served two tours at Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio, working in electronic warfare research and development divisions, ending his career with the assignment as Chief of the Avionics Research and Development Lab.
During his military career, Col. Edwards logged approximately 4300 flight hours and received numerous medals, including the Legion of Merit, a Distinguished Flying Cross, and seven Air Medals. He retired on March 31, 1977. During his military service, he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Math and a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering, both from Auburn University.
After retiring from the Air Force, the Edwards family returned to Auburn where Col. Edwards flew for Auburn University, was an instructor pilot and an assistant professor for Auburn’s School of Aviation, retiring from AU in 1993. Then, he earned two degrees from Alabama Aviation College to become a certified airplane mechanic to work on his Cessna 210. He continued to serve as a consultant with the University Aviation Association and FAA helping American universities develop their aviation programs. In addition to cheering on Auburn’s sports teams, especially baseball and football, Col. Edwards’ passions were always flying and hiking. Helping others learn to fly was a highlight for him. In addition to his private pilot’s license, he also held both instructor and commercial pilot’s licenses, and logged approximately 5500 flight hours in those areas. He was also an avid hiker and added to his life-story by hiking approximately 175 miles on the Appalachian Trail and hiking all the trails at Roosevelt State Park, GA, numerous times. He said he felt closest to God when he was flying among clouds in the sky or hiking in the deep woods.
Col. Edwards was a man of deep faith and enjoyed his membership at Auburn United Methodist Church. He was active in the Lacy-McGehee Sunday School class, a men’s Bible Study group, and Harvesters. He will be remembered by family, friends, and students for his sharp wit, love of telling jokes, and his affinity for perfection and punctuality.
June 18, 1955, Col. Edwards married his West Point sweetheart, Virginia Mitchell. After East AL Medical Center helped them celebrate their 65th anniversary while both were patients with Covid-19, Col. Edwards died on Father’s Day, June 21. He leaves behind Virginia, his loving wife of 65 years, three children - Sherry Edwards, Gary Edwards (Anna), and Candy Avera (Dave), five grandchildren, two great grandchildren, a brother, Bobby Edwards (Brenda) of West Point, MS, many nieces and nephews, and his beloved cat, Hallie. He was preceded in death by his parents, Ollie and Eloise Edwards, and two sisters, Carolyn Edwards Smith and Joyce Edwards Lynch.
Graveside services will be held Friday morning, September 25th, 10:00, at Auburn Memorial Park Cemetery, Auburn, AL. He will be buried with full military honors. A time of visitation with family will be held following the funeral. Due to the concerns of Covid-19, the family requests masks be worn. To honor Col. Edwards, please send any memorial gifts to the Wounded Warrior Project, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, or a charity of your choice.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Ollie H Edwards, please visit our floral store.