|Bobbie and Wallace Edwards|
Almost eight years ago on an early July morning, I got into my Honda CRV and raced like the wind towards Robbins, North Carolina.
It’s a small town east of Charlotte where John Edwards’ parents, Wallace and Bobbie, lived. I wanted to see firsthand the excitement about their son being named as John Kerry’s running mate.
They were simple folks and lived in a comfortable but modest house — considering that their son was a successful trial lawyer, a U.S. senator and now a vice-presidential candidate.
But despite his own success, John Edwards had always called himself a champion of regular people. He was the son of a mill worker who worked hard to support his family in the Deep South.
It all showed in Bobbie and Wallace.
They were simple, down-to-earth people who were fiercely proud of their son.
Bobbie opened the door for me and when she found out I had driven all the way from Atlanta, she welcomed me in.
They were sitting down to dinner and had the television set tuned to CNN to watch their Johnny. They graciously asked me to join them.
“We weren’t absolutely sure it would be him until this morning,” Bobbie said.
The morning announcement was emotionally overwhelming. After that, they had tried to go about their day as routinely as possible. But, of course, their emotions leaped out of their hearts
“It just doesn’t seem real, ” Wallace told me.
He said that when his son talked about the values instilled in him, he wasn’t just spewing rhetoric.
Last week, I looked a photographs of John Edwards escorting his parents into the federal courthouse in Greensboro, North Carolina. The man who’d been hailed once as a populist candidate had fallen so far from grace, accused of conspiring to secretly obtain thousands of dollars from wealthy supporters to hide his affair with videographer Rielle Hunter.
His wife of many years, Elizabeth, lost her battle with cancer and is no longer here to see John Edwards lowest moment before the public.
His daughter, Cate, who has been by his side all along had to leave the courtroom one day last week when a former aide described a moment when Elizabeth found out about the affair in the National Enquirer. She confronted her husband at an airport, ripping open her blouse in front of staff members.
Bobbie and Wallace stand by their son but I can imagine the agony inside being just as strong as was the excitement on that July day in 2004.
John Edwards proved to be more disappointing to me than any other politician, perhaps because I felt so betrayed. I had written countless stories about a man I once perceived as genuine.
Now, I feel sorry. Not for him but for Bobbie and Wallace, who raised him to be a good man. Even if he is found not guilty, his name is marred forever and his parents will end their lives with that painful knowledge.