James Don Edwards

James EdwardsA man of energy and action, known for dedication to his profession and to his students, he forged important links between academic and professional spheres of accounting during a career spanning half a century. Born in 1926 in Ellisville, Mississippi and raised in Louisiana, his father, Thomas Terrell Edwards, was a baptist minister. He graduated in a class of ten students from Atlanta High School in Atlanta, Louisiana. During World War II, he served with the U. S. Naval Marines in Okinawa, China, Korea, and Japan. Following his military service, he earned a baccalaureate degree from Louisiana State University graduating in 1949. In 1950, he received his M.B.A. from the University of Denver and in 1953, his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a CPA in Texas and Georgia.

Following his graduate work at the University of Texas, he joined the accounting faculty at Michigan State University as an assistant professor. He was promoted to the rank of associate professor in 1955 and full professor in 1957. In the next year he was named head of the department, a position he held for 13 years, serving in one of those years as Acting Associate Dean of Michigan State's Graduate School of Business Administration. His students remember an inspiring teacher who salted his lectures with anecdotes about former students and famous friends-and he always knew and was respected by an extraordinary range of important people. He was also an early advocate for women in public accounting. His faculty remember a strong and well-organized leader with a talent for sustaining dialog and also for hearing and remembering what was said. Both students and faculty remember a man always willing to pull out all of the stops and go to bat for them when their interests were at stake.

In 1972, after a year at the University of Minnesota, he was appointed Professor of Accounting at the University of Georgia, and in 1976, he was appointed as the first J. M. Tull Professor of Accounting. He was the key player in the transformation of Georgia's accounting department into the Tull School of Accounting in the late 1970s. He served the University of Georgia in many other capacities and provided extremely effective support for its fund raising throughout his years on the faculty. In 1994, he received the Abraham Baldwin Award from the University of Georgia. In 1999, after serving as Interim Dean of the Terry College of Business and after 26 years at the University of Georgia, he was named Professor Emeritus. In 1998, he was invited to the Georgia House of Representatives to hear a resolution honoring him and recognizing his contributions to the field of accounting and the State of Georgia. The University of Georgia Foundation recently established a Chair of Corporate Accounting Policy in his honor.

The author or co author of more than a dozen textbooks and numerous research articles on accounting, financial management, and accounting history. His first book, History of Public Accounting in the United States, remains an important source of material and insight on the development of the accounting profession. In 1993, the Academy of Accounting Historians awarded him its Hourglass Award for his contributions in the area of accounting history. In addition, he lectured throughout the United States and abroad--including invited lectures and seminars in Brazil, France, England, Vietnam, Cuba, and Ukrane--and served as a visiting scholar at Oxford University's Nuffield College. His many honors and awards include an honorary doctorate from the University of Paris.

His extraordinary record of professional service includes important contributions to both the practicing and the academic wings of accounting profession. He was an original trustee of the Financial Accounting Foundation, the parent organization of the Financial Accounting Standards Board. He served on the Board of Directors of the American Institute of CPAs, as a vice president of the Institute of Management Accountants, and as chairman of the Georgia State Board of Accountancy. He also served for a decade on the Public Review Board of Arthur Andersen reviewing audit quality in 40 countries-and also served on the AICPA's Committee on the Standards of Professional Conduct, the CPA Board of Examiners, and held many other offices, committee posts and board memberships in professional and business organizations. In 1994, in recognition of his many contributions, he received the AICPA's Gold Medal, the Institute's highest award.

As president of the American Accounting Association in 1970-1971, he fostered formation of the Association's Commission to Establish Accounting Principles-an effort that, like the AICPA's Wheat Committee, foreshadowed the formation of the Financial Accounting Standards Board. In addition, he provided the leadership for the establishment of the AAA Doctoral Consortium. He was an early advocate of publication outlets for research on accounting education, and served the Association through membership on and chairmanship of many committees. He also served as an officer and trustee of the Academy of Accounting Historians. In recognition of his many contributions to accounting academe, he was awarded the American Accounting Association's Outstanding Educator Award in 1975, and he was the first recipient of Beta Alpha Psi's Outstanding Accountant of the Year Award. In 1983, he was inducted into the Louisiana State University Alumni Hall of Distinction.

As professor emeritus, he has served on the boards of Home Banc, Georgia National Bank, Georgia Cities in Schools, Greenfield Capital, Cornerstone Bank, and East Lake Foundation.

He lived in Athens, Georgia, with his wife, Clara, who had supported his career since their marriage in 1947. They have one son, James Don Edwards, Jr., and four granddaughters. He was the 69th member inducted into The Accounting Hall of Fame.  

James Don Edwards passed away on November 21, 2020 at the age of 94 years.