Robert Brooks Edwards

Published 1:51 pm Friday, May 17, 2024

The Honorable Robert Brooks Edwards died at his home in Smithfield on May 13.  Son of R. Franklin Edwards and Arbee Rasar Edwards, he was born in Knoxville, Tennessee on November 7, 1937 and grew up in Smithfield from the age of six. He graduated from Smithfield High School in 1954, University of Richmond in 1958, and University of Virginia Law School in 1961. He then served in the U.S. Army, mainly in Germany, achieving the rank of Captain in the Judge Advocate General Corps.

Bob, as his friends knew him, met his wife of 60 years, Laverne Watson, at an induction ceremony for a history honor society at the University of Richmond, where Verne was a student at Westhampton, the women’s college. The couple married on August 13, 1961—the same day the Berlin Wall was built. In later years they noted with pleasure that their marriage of 62 years, until Verne’s death in August 2023, outlasted the Wall.

 During Bob and Verne’s time in Germany they bought a Sunbeam Alpine convertible and drove all over Europe, inspiring a lifelong love of travel.  They returned to Smithfield in 1967, where Robert joined his father’s law practice. In 1977 Robert was appointed by the Virginia legislature to serve as judge of the Fifth District Court, which included Isle of Wight and Southampton Counties and the City of Franklin. He was reappointed regularly until his mandatory retirement at age seventy, after forty years on the bench. Judge Edwards was widely respected for his quiet courtesy in the courtroom, and for bringing court employees home-grown roses from his garden.

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Judge Edwards was a member of the Isle of Wight and Virginia Bar Associations. A longtime member of the board of Historic St. Luke’s, he served as treasurer for twenty years. He was a member and at one time a trustee of Smithfield Baptist Church and was active in several book clubs and service organizations including 56 years in the Ruritan Club. Through the Hampton Roads Community Foundation, Bob and Verne set up a college scholarship fund for students from Isle of Wight County.

Bob read widely and loved classical music. He was an avid salt-water fisherman on his boat Misdemeanor. He and Verne loved to travel and see how other people lived and thought, visiting over 60 countries and all 50 of the United States. Slowed in his last years by Vascular Parkinsonism, Bob still loved birdwatching from the windows of his home on Moonefield Drive.

Judge Edwards is survived by daughter Rebecca Edwards of Poughkeepsie, New York; son Robert Timothy Edwards and daughter-in-law Linglan Edwards of Poolesville, Maryland; and grandsons William Edwards, Michael Edwards, and Robert Benjamin Seidl. 

A memorial service will be held at Smithfield Baptist Church on Sunday, July 21 at 1 pm. A reception will follow at the church’s Family Life Center. At 4 pm, Bob and Verne’s ashes will be interred together at historic St. Luke’s Cemetery, as they had long planned. Funeral arrangements will be made by Little’s Funeral Home. Memorial donations may be made to Historic St. Luke’s; the Chesapeake Bay Foundation; or a charity of one’s choice. Online condolences may be registered at