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George Edwards was spotted by Dr. H. H. Kildee, then animal husbandry department head, when Kildee was judging cattle in North Dakota in 1921. Edwards was then just two years removed from his home county of Angus, Scotland. The day he first met Dr. Kildee, Edwards had won prize after prize with his employer's show herd. After the show, Edwards was approached about a job at Iowa State. The Scot quickly pointed out he had "little education." But Dr. Kildee explained, "We don't want you to teach — we want you to work with cattle."
It was at the International Livestock Exposition in Chicago in 1922 that Edwards agreed to become the Iowa State herdsman. Thus began a friendship of 40 years. During that time, Edwards worked skillfully at his post in the college beef barns; Dr. Kildee advanced to dean of agriculture and to a judge of great livestock shows around the world.
The first International grand champion, MahJongg was shown only two years after Edwards became the Iowa State herdsman (1925), with an Angus. Less than a decade later, Campus Idol (another Angus) scored in 1934. The third steer crown came 10 years later, with Toby. And, in 1961, another Angus steer was honored. The accomplishment was even more meaningful because Kildee was dean emeritus of the agricultural college and was completing four years as president of the International Livestock Show.
It was in 1961 that Edwards pointed out to newsmen who remembered that all of his grand champions had been "Blacks." "I wish to tell you we do not have all Angus at the college. We have all breeds," he added, with the burr of his voice a bit more pronounced for emphasis.
The herdsman loved the competition of the livestock show ring. "Some folks wish to de-emphasize competition, just like in sports," said Edwards. "It seems to me that without competition, you lose the incentive to strive to make things better."
To which Dr. Kildee agreed. "Some may think shows have no value," he said. "I don't agree. But I do say that shows themselves are not sufficient to improve livestock."
Parting with a steer is no easier for a great showman such as Edwards than for any 4-H Club or F.F.A. showman. "It's like leaving a good friend you've learned to love," the Scot observed. "But we must remember that the ultimate end of all beef cattle is the butcher's block?" His parting with the 1961 grand champion meant about $14,000 to Iowa State, as the steer sold for $14 per pound. The champ, Jack, weighed about 930 pounds when exhibited, but gained weight before the sale.It was more than double the price his champ Toby sold for 10 years earlier.
George Edwards was born January 28, 1896, in Glamas Angus, Scotland, the 11th child in a family of 14 children. He attended school close to Glamas Castle and knew and was a playmate of the Queen Mother. As a small child he helped his father with his Angus herd in Scotland. He was with the British Infantry for 3-1/2 years during World War I and served in Turkey, France and Greece.
Mr. Edwards came to the United States in 1920 and to Ames in 1922, when he was hired by Dr. Kildee as the herdsman. On September 28, 1928, he married Margaret Mackie in the Little Church Around the Corner in New York City, NY. After 42 years and 4 months with ISU, he retired in 1965 and moved to Des Moines. In 1979 he moved to the Ledges Manor at Boone. He was a member of Collegiate Presbyterian Church and Arcadia Lodge #249, AF & AM. He was named to the Iowa Cattleman's Hall of Fame. Edwards died at age 89 at the Boone County Hospital, Boone, Iowa. He was survived by two sons, Hector and Donald, and a sister living in Scotland. He was preceded in death by his wife on December 31, 1942; four brothers and seven sisters.