Judge Blair Edwards
By Tonyalea Elam
In March of 2017, Judge Blair Edwards visited Southeastern’s campus to deliver a powerful account of Juvenile Court Dynamics. Judge Edwards was elected on November 4, 2008, as the first juvenile judge of the 21st District. Her re-election in 2014 solidified her role as juvenile judge until December of 2020. Judge Edwards is the wife of Daniel Edwards who serves as Tangipahoa’s Sherriff and the sister-in-law of Governor John Bel Edwards. The Edwards family has four generations of Tangipahoa Parish Sheriffs in their lineage making Judge Blair Edwards’ marriage to her husband a dynamic team of service providers to their community.
Sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Sciences as a Real-World Ready event, Judge Edwards eagerly accepted an invitation to speak with students pursuing degrees in Social Work, Criminal Justice, and Education. Her presentation included data on truancy, child abuse/neglect, drug court and the complexities that comes from working with youth and families impacted by Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) and trauma.
When asked about her interest in law and the driving force behind her chosen career path, Judge Edwards chuckled and paused as if reminiscing of her journey to judgeship. She began by sharing that growing up in a family with four siblings, she was always the one her siblings deferred to when a dispute could not be settled. She was known to be candid and brutally honest even if someone’s feelings were hurt as a result. As this trend continued, Judge Edwards was encouraged by her grandmother and mentor who referred to her as Bara “to keep talking because everyone was going to have to listen to her one day.”
Judge Edwards disclosed an intimate detail of her life growing up, as she became pregnant at age sixteen. She remembers being more disappointed in herself than any family member or friends could ever be. J. Edwards recalls, however, one person, her grandmother who always encouraged her not to allow her mistakes to define who she was. She used her grandmother’s encouragement to pursue a GED and to apply for college. After receiving a Bachelor’s of Science degree in accounting at Nicholls State University, she went on to work as an accountant for Texaco. Later, Mrs. Edwards graduated from Loyola University School of Law and even ran for Mayor in Amite, LA. losing by a meager 72 votes. Mrs. Edwards soon realized her passion to serve and advocate for those who did not have a voice when it came to telling their own stories and defining their own futures.
Driven as a former pregnant teen who felt targeted to become another statistic, Atty. Edwards became a juvenile public defender. The common thread she said she witnessed in court over and over again was childhood experiences that sought to define the identity of the young people who interfaced with the system. It was then she realized her calling and pursued the office of judgeship with the support and blessings of her husband Sherriff Daniel Edwards, Jr. Judge Edwards maintains that “it wasn’t a political move, but rather a mission and passion to advocate for families and children who felt forgotten and unheard due to past mistakes.”
When asked how difficult it is to carry a name that is synonymous with the rich history of the Tangipahoa region, Judge Edwards said while she loves her family first and foremost, her commitment to the community, youth and families continue to define her as a passionate public servant who just happened to marry into a family of political giants.
When giving advice to students about career paths, Judge Edwards told her audience of more than 90 students to find out what you love doing and pursue it with every fiber of your being until you reach the destination God always intended. She reiterated the importance of writing the chapters of your own book and learning from your challenges and victories. She asserted how much better she is as a person because of her struggle as a young person.
Judge Edwards in action at the Teaching Education Center at Southeastern
She urged students and other attending agency professionals that work with children and families to remember that “everyone has a story so it’s important to withhold judgement until you know what someone’s journey was prior to interfacing with your agency or facility, as that is where you discover the real areas of need.”
Tonyalea Elam’s Social Work students who served as “Real-World Ready” hosts at the event