Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 20, Number 2, Fall, 2008 Page: 20 of 68
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the Social Frontier
George Clifton Edwards and the
Progressive Impulse in Dallas
BY STEVEN R. BUTLER
etween the end of the Civil War and the turn
of the twentieth century, the United States
went through a thirty-five-year period of rapid,
unchecked urban and industrial expansion.
Although some good resulted, by the mid1890s,
the negative aspects of this unbridled
growth-and there were a great many-began
to capture the public's attention, thanks partly to
crusading journalists called "muckrakers," as well
as the evidence of peoples' own eyes. In
response, thoughtful, reform-minded Americans
from all walks of life began to search for solutions
to the nation's problems during the subsequent
"Progressive Era," which lasted, more or
less, until 1917, when the United States entered
the First World War. There were some people,
though, in whom the flame of Progressivism was
never extinguished, unsatisfied citizens who
throughout their lives refused to stop seeking
ways to improve society, people determined to
turn the country they loved into a place where
freedom, justice, and equality were not mere
One of these impassioned individuals was a
man named George Clifton Edwards, who was
born in Dallas,Texas, on December 23,1877, the
son of attorney William M. Edwards and his
wife, Elva.' In his youth, Edwards was an exceptionally
gifted and disciplined scholar. At sixteen,
he was graduated with honors from Dallas High
School,2 at the same time winning an Episcopal
"bishop's scholarship" to the University of the
South in Sewanee,Tennessee.3
During his undergraduate career at
"Sewanee," as the institution is commonly
known, the young Texan continued to excel. In
1895 he won "a cash prize of $300 in English literature"
and in the spring of 1898, Edwards was
"selected as the valedictorian of a large class."
Almost simultaneously, he won "the first prize of
$500 in English."4
In the fall of 1898, the youthful scholar used
his prize money to pay for graduate studies at
Harvard, where he earned a Master's degree in
English. In the summer of 1899 he returned to
Dallas, where he became briefly involved in his
8 LEGACIES Fall 2008
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Dallas Heritage Village. Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 20, Number 2, Fall, 2008, periodical, 2008; Dallas, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth46806/m1/20/: accessed May 25, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Dallas Historical Society.