Gladys Edwards, of Wisner, received the Louisiana Ambassador Award for positively impacting lives of young women.
Edwards was given the award by Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser in a ceremony Sept. 23 at Wisner’s Community Center.
Edwards won four state girls basketball championships at Tensas-Rosenwald High School in St. Joseph and two state championships at Waterproof High School along with multiple Sweet 16 appearances in a career that spanned 30 years.
“Because of her leadership, her nourishment, her coaching, she put many Louisianians on the right path,” Nungesser said. “She impacted the lives of many young women for 30 years, and she didn’t do it for the money.”
The award was originally scheduled to be given Aug. 27 but due to COVID-19 was postponed, Rev. Roosevelt Grant said.
Edwards gave credit to her mother for raising her to always strive to do her best and to God.
“I wish I could give this award to my mother because I am who I am because of her and God,” Edwards said. “She taught me how to do my very best, so I wouldn’t have to do it over again.”
Rev. King Solomon Dawson, her pastor, said Edwards was still “coaching” after all these years.
“She is still coaching around the church,” Dawson said. “She also volunteers at Franklin Medical Center and at church.”
Edwards was know for her tough, no nonsense type of coaching. While coaching at Wisner High School after she retired from the Tensas Parish school system, then principal Mike Caldwell asked her a question.
“He asked me how could I sit on one side of the gym, and my players sit on the other side and not move,” Edwards said in a previous Sun interview. “Because I told them not to move. They were on my time.”
But, Edwards applied additional principles to guide her team through tough times.
“If we lose a game, I would ask them did you give me 100 percent,” Edwards said in that Sun interview. “They would cry. I’d ask them what are you crying for? Once we get on the bus, I don’t want to hear you say nothing. Once they got on the bus, they didn’t say anything. They would just go to sleep.”
A native of Morehouse Parish, Edwards played high school basketball at Morehouse High School, graduated college from Grambling and received Master degrees at Southern University and Northeast Louisiana University.
Her first coaching job came at Sevier High School.
“A.D. Clark was principal there that year,” Edwards said in a Concordia Sentinel interview in 1983. “I don’t recall what our overall record there was, but I recall that we went into the playoffs, and I lost my last game at the school when Ruston beat us in the zone tournament which was held in Rayville in early 1959.”
Edwards married Thadeus Edwards after finishing coaching at Sevier. Initially, the couple moved to Morehouse Parish where she was a substitute at Morehouse High School and coached junior high girls basketball.
In 1962, Edwards started coaching at Tensas-Rosenwald High after moving from Morehouse. People in St. Joseph soon realized their coach would bring them success on the basketball court as her Tensas-Rosenwald team won state in ’65, ’66,’67 and ’70 seasons.
During this time, Edwards was chosen Louisiana Coach of the Year six times.
Tensas Parish schools integrated in 1970, and Edwards moved to Waterproof High School.
In her second season coaching Waterproof, Edwards guided the Lady Tigers to a Sweet 16 appearance and returned for another in 1973. She added two more state championships in 1975 and 1976.
While at Waterproof High School, Edwards was selected as the 1976 coach for the Northeast Louisiana All-Star basketball team. She later would become the first African-American female to win the LSU All-Star game.
In 1992, Edwards also became the first African-American female assistant coach at the Top 24 boy’s basketball tournament in LSU while at Waterproof High School.
During her acceptance speech, Edwards’ inspirational coaching shined through.
“No one can stop you from being the best you can be,” Edwards said. “Strive to be better today than yesterday. I am only one, but I am one…by the Grace of God, He let me do what I can do.”