Former United Negro College Fund President Dies at 75

Former United Negro College Fund President Dies at 75


Christopher Fairfield Edley, who served as president emeritus of the United Negro College Fund, died of a heart attack at his home last month. He was 75.

Born in Charleston, W.Va., Edley graduated magna cum laude from Howard University in 1949, then became one of a few Black students at Harvard Law School, where he earned his law degree in 1953.

He moved to Philadelphia and became a prominent prosecutor, then civil rights lawyer there. In 1973, he succeeded Vernon Jordan as president of the United Negro College Fund, headquartered in Fairfax, Va.

Edley used the organization’s trademark slogan, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste,” to raise more than $700 million to help students bound for historically Black colleges.

In 1979, he started the fund’s yearly telethon, enlisting singer Lou Rawls as host. The telethon has raised more than $100 million.

Edley was succeeded in 1991 by the fund’s current president, William Gray III.

He is survived by his wife, Zaida Coles Edley; a son, Christopher Edley Jr., a Harvard law professor and member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights; a daughter Judith of Hartford, Conn.; a sister, Joyce Dean, of Lynchburg, Va.; and three grandchildren.

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