John Edwards: The charismatic lawyer whose big gamble paid off

For John Edwards, a gamble made last September has truly paid off. Then, the millionaire trial lawyer turned politician announced he would not be seeking re-election as Senator for North Carolina so he could concentrate on his run for the presidency.

For John Edwards, a gamble made last September has truly paid off. Then, the millionaire trial lawyer turned politician announced he would not be seeking re-election as Senator for North Carolina so he could concentrate on his run for the presidency.

Supporters of Mr Edwards, 51, say that decision underlined his determination and resilience. Others might say it pointed to canniness and ambition - running for the presidency but in reality aiming for the next slot - often ignored in all the talk of Edwards' southern charm.

That he has charisma in buckets is beyond doubt. The youthful senator warmed, flirted with and engergised audiences from the start, whether he was speaking to several hundred or just a few dozen. His persistent message was there were "Two Americas". Too many people, he said, were in that America stricken by poverty and a lack of opportunity.

It was an environment to which Edwards said he could relate. He was born into a blue-collar family in Seneca, South Carolina. His father worked in a textile mill and his mother in the post office.

His family moved to the small North Carolina town of Robbins, where he excelled at the local high school. Edwards' route out took him to North Carolina State University and from there to law school and a hugely successful, 20-year career as a trial lawyer. He won more than $150m worth of verdicts or settlements in 60 cases in the 1990s, often against large corporations and insurance companies.

Tragedy struck Edwards and his wife Elizabeth - they had met at college - in 1996, when their son Wade was killed when high winds swept his four-wheel-drive off the road. Edwards still cites a trip he and Wade made the previous year to climb Mount Kilimanjaro as one of his most meaningful accomplishments.

Edwards then changed paths. He won the Senate seat in 1998, beating the Republican incumbent Lauch Faircloth. He and his wife also had Emma Claire, now 5, and Jack, 3. They already had a daughter Catherine, now 21.

He was such a rising star that he was considered as a possible running mate for Al Gore in 2000. He did not get the nod, but could take comfort in People magazine's decision to name him as the "Sexiest Politician in 2000".

Edwards entered the Democratic presidential race with much fanfare at the start of 2003. Many felt his star had risen too quickly and he would be unable to satisfy expectations.

It seemed, however, that Edwards was able to strike a chord. He said: "This is the America that still believes the son of a mill worker can beat the son of a president for the White House."

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week