Monroe James ‘M.J.’ Edwards Remembered As Philanthropic Businessman
Philanthropist and businessman Monroe James “M.J.” Edwards, Sr., founder of M.J. Edwards Funeral Home, passed away March 15, 2019.
His funeral took place on March 22, 2019, at New Salem Baptist Church, followed by interment at Memorial Park Cemetery. Numerous visitations preceded Edwards’ homegoing, including his funeral home locations at 4445 Stage Rd., 5494 Elvis Presley Blvd., and 1165 Airways Blvd.; along with several churches: Second Baptist Church (Coldwater, MS), and Beulah Baptist Church.
Edwards, 92, was a son of sharecroppers who worked their way into becoming business owners. The World War II veteran eventually became one of the largest funeral service providers in the Memphis metropolitan area.
In March 1980, Mr. Edwards, Mr. Craft and Mrs. Cooper opened M. J. Edwards Funeral Home. Edwards was president of the firm. Cooper and Craft were co-managers of the business. The three of them shared in handling day-to-day operations. Sometimes they contracted extra help to facilitate funeral services, especially on their busiest days of the week: Saturdays. To this day, the Saturday trend continues, sometimes more than 21 funerals conducted in one day.
Edwards began the funeral business without an embalming room for four years. Two funeral home owners signed an affidavit, allowing Edwards’ personnel to embalm and casket remains within their facilities. Eventually Edwards built a, embalming facility and a large chapel. Over time, M.J. Edwards Funeral Home expanded from Airways Blvd. to Elvis Presley Blvd. and Stage Rd. locations with 13 hearses, 16 limousines, and five sedans.
Edwards demonstrated relentless work ethic, drive and passion to fulfill his dreams of serving those in need and giving back to the community. He served thousands of families during the course of his funeral service career, spanning more than 7 decades. His huge heart even prevented his turning away those who were unable to afford their loved ones’ memorials in many instances.
During his lifetime Edwards was former president of the Christian Benevolent Lodge Society and Director Emeritus of the Tri-State Bank Board of Directors. Philanthropy became his signature as he founded the M.J. Edwards Foundation, facilitating a number of sponsorships across the Mid-South, particularly in the Memphis Orange Mound neighborhood. A number of organizations have permanently memorialized M.J. as a result of his benevolence, including the M.J. Edwards Library at Memphis’ Hanley Elementary School; and Coldwater, Miss. based M.J. Edwards Health Center.
Along with his professional accomplishments, most important to Edwards was his faith and his reflection of Christian values. He was chairman of Beulah Baptist Church’s Trustee Board for more than 60 years and supported 3 pastorates during his tenure.
Edwards is survived by two sons, Kenneth J. Edwards and Monroe J. Edwards, Jr; longtime companion Evelyn Cooper; 3 grandchildren, 5 great-grandchildren; siblings Doris Edwards Hayes, Freddie C. Edwards and Roy Hoskins.