If there was ever a “golden boy” in Anderson, South Carolina’s history, it was Edwards Bobo Murray. He had looks, money, family background, and a brilliant legal mind. But sadly, none of these could save Murray from the dangers of his swimming pond. His life, death, and the avenue that bears his name are the subject of this tale.
Edwards Bobo Murray was born in Newberry County, February 5, 1854, while his family was on a short visit. His farther, the Rev. John Scott Murray, was a well-known Baptist minister. His mother was Claudia Rebecca Edwards. Rev. Murray had been ordained in the fall of 1851, as the first full-time pastor of the Anderson Baptist Church, now called First Baptist Church.
Like many ministers of his day, Rev. Murray had a second occupation: he was one of the most successful antebellum lawyers in Anderson. In his later years, the Rev. Murray would hold several elected positions at the local and state level, deftly mixing religion and politics. The Murrays placed a high value on education, being well educated themselves. They saw to it that their son was to receive the best education and training possible.
A life devoted to study very much pleased young Murray. He was an excellent student, excelling at nearly every topic he studied. Even when stumped with a subject, he would not stop his lessons until they were completed. He had a hunger and thirst for knowledge that seemed to know no bounds. Murray joined the Anderson Baptist Church in 1866. Three years later, at the age of fifteen, Murray was accepted to the 1869-70 term at Furman University. His classmates at Furman recognized his talents, and he was elected as the adversary essayist and session orator. Murray was able to hone his debating and reasoning skills.
From 1870 to 1871, Murray attended the University of Virginia, but due to ill health, he was forced to return home to Anderson to recover; he did not, however, stop studying. In 1872, after spending nearly a year at rest, Edwards entered his father’s law office and began reading and studying the law. At the age of nineteen, in 1873, Edwards passed a exam that is the equivalent of today’s state bar exam, receiving an order admitting him to the bar in 1875, when he reached the age of twenty-one. That same year, Edwards became an editor of the Anderson Conservator, a small paper which later merged with the Anderson Intelligencer, which Murray was also the editor of.
On March 3, 1874, the General Assembly passed an act empowering Edwards B. Murray to practice law in the state of South Carolina at the age of twenty. He is the only person in the state’s history to receive such an honor. The firm of Murray & Murray, partnered by the Rev. John Scott and his son Edwards Bobo Murray, was open for business. Murray quickly rose to a prominence that few lawyers attain. His skill at speaking and his argumentative prowess gave confidence to his clients and dread to his opponents. Murray approached the law differently. He relayed not on musty precedents but on original ideas and common sense. He fought to win and represented clients not just in state and federal courts. He was also well known in the surrounding counties, and his legal aid and advice was often sought by firms across the state and beyond.
Murray had always taken an interest in politics and was heavily influenced by his father. The Rev. Murray had been a staunch secessionist and served as a Confederate chaplain in the Civil War. The situation in the south after the war was distressing to many as Reconstruction continued to devastate the state. Murray was among those who resented the control the “carpetbaggers” had over South Carolina’s affairs. He believed that the state needed to make a change, and he wanted to be part of it. In 1872, Murray was elected as a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from Anderson County. He held this seat until 1884.
Four years after he was first elected, Murray wed. His bride was the young, beautiful, and intelligent Eva Sloan, and the two were married on July 10, 1876. They had six children, two daughters and four sons.
As a representative, Murray was very popular, and the Anderson Intelligencer dubbed him “the real representative of Anderson County.” The citizens of Anderson respected him, although his actions were often misunderstood by the folks back home. His primary goal was the welfare of Anderson County, and he was a major factor in the economic growth of the town during this period. Murray respect among his peers was such that he was the leading voice of the upcountry representatives.
His life was not without controversy. The Intelligencer also noted the following:
“We should not be understood as saying he made no mistakes, for it is human to err, and he was human; but few men have ever been able to overcome their mistakes and errors with the power and ease that he did. Several incidents in his life would have relegated an ordinary man to the past forever, but he with his wonderful mental power and indomitable energy rose above them all, and continually went higher and higher, in the scale of life, leaving his mistakes below him.”
They are referring to a feud between Murray and Benjamin Tillman.
Murray was also a major supporter of Wade Hampton III during his run for the governorship in 1876. He campaigned for Hampton as what was called a “straightout” in Anderson County and beyond, often traveling day and night to speak on behalf of Hampton. Murray unabashedly used his reputation to ensure the votes for Hampton were there. In doing so, Murray put himself first among the young rising political stars in post-Reconstruction South Carolina.
In 1886, the citizens of Anderson County elected Murray to the state Senate, a seat he held until 1890, the same year his political career ended when he was defeated in the U.S. Senate race against George Johnson. Although he officially retired from politics, he did not retire from public life. He was chosen in 1891 as a deacon of First Baptist, having been active his whole life in the church’s Sunday School. Having been the beneficiary of a good and sound education, Murray was passionate about the issue. He was a trustee of Furman University and the Greenville Female College, and held a seat on the board of Converse College.
Murray incurred the wrath of no less than Benjamin Tillman in the 1890’s. Murray was selected as a candidate for the position of delegate to the State Democratic Convention of 1892. He supported John Calhoun Sheppard as opposed to Tillman. While speaking at Cedar Grove in Abbeville County, he was attacked by a mob. Although injured, when asked about pressing charges, he declined, stating that he bore the men no ill will. He knew that they were receiving orders from Tillman, a man Murray had nothing in common with personally or politically.
While both Tillman and Murray sought reformation in South Carolina, Murray was more conservative for his time. He was a member of the Bourbon Democrats, a branch of the Democratic Party in South Carolina which had risen to power with Hampton. Bourbon refers to the fact that they were returning to power, much like the Bourbon dynasty did in France. They called themselves the Redeemers because they had redeemed the state from Reconstruction. In essence, the Bourbons believed that power should reside with the old established families in the state. Tillman took a more populace approach and, not surprisingly, it eventually led him to the governor’s office.
Less than two years later, Edwards Bobo Murray was dead. He died on July 7, 1894. The Murray estate was located just a few blocks north of Anderson to the west of Main Street. On the property was a large pond that was fed by an underground stream. Murray loved this pond and would often retreat to it and study. He was also an excellent swimmer. On this Friday afternoon, Murray, his daughter, Felicia, and two of her friends, Mary Preer and Helen Sloan, were all enjoying the pond. Murray and Preer were excellent swimmers and they were teaching the other two.
After about an hour in the water, the three girls headed for shore to rest. Murray remained in the water. He had pulled a boat out in the middle of the pond and was holding on to one side when he began to struggle. The girls noticed him and realized he was in trouble when he disappeared below the water. Felicia ran into the water but was unable to help due to her gossamer. Helen Sloan ran to the house which was about seventy-five yards away. Little Edward Jr. was sent into town for help.
Back at the pond, the ladies were working to try and save Murray. At one point his daughter was able to grab Murray hair and it was short and slipped out of her fingers. Frantic she began to paddle through the water, screaming for her father. But he did not reappear. The water calmed and then, as if a last breath had entered his lungs, Murray reached out of the water and grabbed his daughter. The boat tipped and as if he knew that he was endangering his daughter’s life, Edward Murray let go and sank to the bottom of the pond.
Edward Jr. returned to the house with several men from the town. J.L. Tribble, Lawrence Maxwell, and Williams Giles were the first to arrive. After some work, Giles was able to finally retrieve Murray from the water. By this point, he had been under water for half an hour. Drs. Wilhite, Frierson, and Harris all worked for an additional hour to try and save Murray but he was gone.
Anderson had not seen such a funeral since the death of Governor Orr. Cards and letters poured in from all over the state. At five in the afternoon of Monday, July 9, 1894, hundreds gathered at the Murray home before marching in solemn procession to First Baptist Church. Every seat in the church was occupied and there were many standing outside in the gentle rain which had been falling for some time.
Three ministers, Oscar L. Martin, Charles Manly, and I.M. Mercer, conducted the funeral. The list of pallbearers and honorary was a “who’s who” of Anderson’s elite. The pallbearers were W.W. Keys, Jefferson Davis Maxwell, James Albert Brock, Frank T. Wilhite, J.P. Duckett, James L. Orr, William Laughlin, J.L. Tribble, and H.H. Watkins. The honorary was Sylvester Bleckley, Benjamin F. Whitner, Aaron R. Broyles, Col. J.B. Patrick, Baylis F. Crayton, A.B. Towers, D. Sloan Maxwell, W.F. Barr, Patrick K McCully, J.F. Clinkscales, W.G. Watson, A.J. Stringer, J.W. Poore, Dr. W.H. Nardin, J.T. Green, J.S. Fowler, N.O. Farmer and George W. Sullivan.
Resolutions of respect were passed by the Vanderbilt Benevolent Association of Charleston, the Board of Trade of Anderson, the Sunday School of First Baptist Church of Anderson, and the Pickens Bar. Nearly every major state newspaper from Walhalla to Charleston published an editorial praising Murray for his legal knowledge, skill, and compassion.
Murray was remembered for many things, but his love of Anderson was the most important thing to him. He was taken with honors to Old Silver Brook Cemetery where a handsome monument now stands over his grave.
One of the many memorials had this to say:
“The most beautiful trait, however, in Maj. Murray’s character was his fidelity to his friends and devotion to his family. To his friends he was frank, generous and sincere, and no man who ever hard a claim on him was turned away unrequited. He tied men to him with hooks of steel, and probably enjoyed the ardent friendship of more men than any man in South Carolina. To his family he was most affectionate. No personal sacrifice was too great for him to make for their happiness, no exertion too much for their pleasure – a dutiful son and loving husband, a devoted father. In Church and State, in politics and religion, in business and family affairs, he filled the full measure of duty: a gentleman, a scholar, a patriot and a Christian.”
During the early twentieth century, when a new road was added to the north of the Blue Ridge Railroad Cut, the land through which the road would travel was the of Murray property. It was agreed at that time to name the road Murray Avenue, in honor of the late Edward Bobo Murray. For the first few decades of its existence, Murray Avenue did not connect across the railroad cut with the southern street, at the time called Peoples Street. It was not until the 1940’s that a permanent bridge between the two streets was completed.