MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — People throughout the Twin Cities are celebrating the life of long-time community activist Ron Edwards.

The prominent Civil Rights advocate, who died last week at the age of 81, will be remembered as a champion of the community who helped raise the voice of others.

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Inside Estes’ Funeral Chapel in north Minneapolis, people from all different walks of life gathered to say farewell to a local legend. In attendance was Lynne Crockett, community liaison for Minneapolis Public Schools.

“He was more than willing to share his knowledge, his skills, his methods with other people who he thought sincerely cared about the same things that he cares about,” Crockett said. “He spoke his mind, he stood for what he believed in, he encouraged other people to stand up.”

Edwards, a past president of the Minneapolis Urban League, had a reach that went well beyond his neighborhood. Minneapolis Police Cmdr. Charlie Adams says his friend and mentor never gave up fighting to make sure the police and fire departments reflected the community they served.

Ron Edwards (credit: CBS)

“He meant so much to black police officers on this police department because when we tried to diversify the department back in the early 90s, there was some resistance,” Adams said.

Lt. Richard Zimmerman says Edwards’s efforts impacted the entire city.

“It helped change the culture of the department. It helped the white officers as much as it helped the young black officers that wanted to become police officers,” Zimmerman said.

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Throughout his life, Edwards created and preserved the community’s story.

“He held the history of north Minneapolis,” Adams said. “You could ask him anything about north Minneapolis going all the way back to the 40s, and some into the 30s, and he would tell you. He had that history in his head.”

Many did not know that Edwards was the co-founder of Minneapolis Telecommunications Network, or MTN.

“It’s the biggest loss in the African-American community as far as knowledge. And I know what it is as an activist. I know what we’ve lost here,” community activist Al Flowers said. “He meant everything to me. That’s how I started fighting.”

This loss is felt most by the activists he mentored.

“He was inspirational and encouraging,” activist K.G. Wilson said.

The Minneapolis African American Professional Fire Fighter Association is pushing to name the new downtown fire station in Edwards’s honor. It wants to honor him for his work to desegregate the fire department in the 70s.

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Edwards funeral is Saturday morning at Shiloh Temple on West Broadway Avenue.

Reg Chapman