Former Attorney General W. Cary Edwards has died.
Edwards, who was the chairman of the State Commission of Investigation, had waged a long term battle with cancer. He was 66.
The former attorney general under Gov. Tom Kean, Edwards spent nearly four decades in public service, which included stints in local and state government. He also ran for governor twice, losing in Republican primaries in 1989 and 1993.
He was appointed to the SCI in 1997.
In a statement, Edwards’ wife Lynn said her husband was a dedicated family man who committed his life to making the world better.
“He was a dedicated public servant who served the residents of the State of New Jersey with dignity and unparalleled commitment. He spent every day of his life trying to make the world a little bit better than he found it,” Lynn Edwards said. “Most importantly, Cary was a caring and loving husband, son, brother, father and grandfather to his family. His passing has left a void in our lives that will be impossible to fill. We sincerely thank everyone for their condolences and prayers at this most difficult time in our lives.”
During his 40 years in public service, Edwards touched many people, including Gov. Chris Christie, who called Edwards a mentor and one of the state’s great leaders.
“Cary Edwards was one of New Jersey’s great leaders of the last 35 years,” Governor Christie said. “He was a fearless lawyer, respected Chief Counsel to Governor Kean and ground-breaking Attorney General. But, just as importantly to me, he was a role model, mentor and dear friend. On behalf of all New Jerseyans, Mary Pat and I extend our deepest condolences to his wife Lynn and the entire Edwards family at this very sad time.”
Edwards, of Oakland, was born July 20, 1944 in Paterson, New Jersey. He was raised in Fairlawn where he got an early taste for politics at the feet of his mother Virginia Edwards, who once served as mayor.
A 1967 graduate of Seton Hall University he went on to Seton Hall Law, where he served as president of the National Legal Fraternity in 1969. After his graduation a year later, he served as an adjunct professor, assistant dean of students and course author at until 1971.
In addition to his role at Seton Hall, Edwards was an associate with the firm of Villorisi and Flanagan until 1974, when he opened his own firm with Robert Gallo, where he practiced until 1982.
During that time he also served three terms in the state assembly, between 1977 and 1982 when he resigned to become chief legal counsel to Kean. In 1986, Kean appointed him attorney general. He served in that role until 1989.
State Commission of Investigation Executive Director Alan Rockoff said Edwards was one of the “special men” of his generation.
“We have lost a great man and a good friend of the people and certainly a major contributor to ethics and the pursuit of improvement in government in the state of New Jersey,” Rockoff said. “It’s a tremendous personal loss to me, who has worked with him for a number of years. He was one of those special human beings that we were fortunate to have in our generation. He put service before self aggrandizement in everything he did right up to the end.”