My first memory of Ed Jenkins was September 1955, the beginning of our friendship as students at the University of Georgia Law School. I was impressed with his wonderful sense of humor, his down-to-earth personality and we had much in common: Ed a product of the mountains and me, a product of the red clay hills of Madison County and the cotton fields. Neither of us grew up with a silver spoon, as did some of our fellow classmates.
Ed had served in the Coast Guard and me in the Army, and the GI Bill played a major role in our opportunity to attend college and law school. This was the beginning of a friendship that spanned 57 years.
Later, Ed, the man, I knew so well, is the one who came home to his wife, Jo, and daughters, Jan and Amy, in Jasper practically every weekend while serving in Congress. The man who loved being with and attending to the needs of his two young grandsons on the weekends. The man whose word was his bond. The man who was responsive to those who requested his help concerning their needs, such as Social Security disability, veteran's benefits and many other issues presented by or on behalf of a needy person.
Ed Jenkins was one of the most unselfish persons I've ever known. I could relate many examples but will take the liberty of the one that involved me.
When the honorable U.S. Rep. Phil Landrum retired from Congress, I was invited to a cookout along with other supporters of his at a lake near Jasper. I arrived at Ed's home early that afternoon and helped him load food and some spirits into his pickup.
Following the retirement celebration, Ed and I loaded up the leftovers into his truck. We arrived at Ed's home around midnight, and sat in the truck talking till around 2 a.m.
Ed told me that in Phil's opinion, Ed, me and a former legislator in Gainesville could be elected to Congress. Ed then said, "I'm going to support you."
I said, "No, I'm supporting you, Ed, and there will be no more discussion on the issue."
Sometime later, Ed announced his run for Congress. It was common knowledge that Lt. Gov. Zell Miller was considering a run for Congress. I received a message to call Ed a few days later. When I called, he said, "Joe, I believe Zell is going to run, and knowing how close you are to Zell, I'm releasing you from your commitment to support me."
I said, "Who in the heck (or something like that) gave you the authority to release me of my commitments?"
For the past several years, Ed and Jo, Judge Penn McWhorter and Ilene, Judge Avant Edenfield and Mavis and Carolyn and me have spent a few days together during the springtime at Charleston, S.C. The four of us were in law school together.
It won't be the same this year because my friend that I loved and respected will be with us in spirit only. And I already miss him.