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Dorothy Edwards, former state rep, council member, dies at 96

Surprise birthday tribute scheduled in March had to be canceled due to COVID-19


PORTSMOUTH — Dorothy B. Edwards, a former state representative and member of the Portsmouth Town Council, died Tuesday at her home at 25 Cove St. She was 96.

Mrs. Edwards, a Republican who first ran for office in 1966 as a “sacrificial lamb” to oppose State Rep. William Gallagher, a seemingly unbeatable Democrat incumbent who held the District 94 seat, pulled off a great upset and remained in office for seven terms until 1980.

As a representative, Mrs. Edwards saw herself as someone who put Portsmouth first and foremost in her interests. She sponsored bills to study traffic patterns on the Mt. Hope Bridge, to authorize the town to issue bonds for a new municipal complex, to establish a probate court, to resurface Park Avenue (she lived in Island Park), to control subdivisions, to provide property tax exemptions for seniors and veterans in Portsmouth, and more. 

She was also a prime sponsor of a bill which restored the legal drinking age in Rhode Island to 21 years old. 

Mrs. Edwards retired from the legislature, but couldn’t stay away from politics. She was elected to the Town Council and became its president during her second term beginning in 1985. 

Born in Fall River on March 22, 1924, she was the second of four children of George A. and Esther (Holland) Jackson. Her husband, Edwin B. Edwards, Jr., died in 1999.

Mrs. Edwards was scheduled to attend a surprise tribute and celebration of  her life and accomplishments on March 22 — her birthday — at Holy Trinity Church in Tiverton. Four of her children, Debbi Pappas, Cindy Edwards, Gary Edwards, and E. Branford Edwards, were also planning on being there. However, the event had to be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We plan to have a more extensive story on Mrs. Edwards’ life in next week’s paper.

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