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Edwards, George

Published onJul 30, 2021
Edwards, George

(Jan. 28, 1896 - Feb. 13, 1985)

Quick Facts

George Edwards, a prize-winning beef cattle herdsman for Iowa State, was highly influential in the cattle industry.

The 1925 International Live Stock Exposition Grand Champion Steer Mah Jongg from Iowa State. Pictured along with the steer is (left to right) Iowa State College Dean of Agriculture Charles F. Curtiss; (not known); H. H. Kildee, head of Iowa State College Department of Animal Husbandry and dean when Curtiss retired; John Clay, the Commission Man; E. N. Wentworth, the International Ringmaster; J. Egerton Quested of Kent, England, the judge, and George Edwards, the Iowa State College Herdsman.

George Edwards was born January 28, 1896, in Glamas, Angus, Scotland, the 11th child in a family of 14 children. He attended school close to Glamas Castle and knew and was a playmate of the Queen Mother. As a small child he helped his father with his Angus herd in Scotland. He was with the British Infantry for 3-1/2 years during World War I and served in Turkey, France and Greece.

Mr. Edwards came to the United States in 1920 and to Ames in 1922, when he was hired by Dr. H.H. Kildee as the herdsman. On September 28, 1928, he married Margaret Mackie in the Little Church Around the Corner in New York City, NY.

One of the most unforgettable beef cattle industry figures, for those fortunate to have known him, was the slight, always polite and soft-spoken Scotsman, George Edwards. For many years, 1923-1973, he was the prize-winning beef herdsman at Iowa State College. During his long career, Edwards was to claim four grand championships at the prestigious International Livestock Exposition in Chicago, Illinois, winning all with Aberdeen Angus steers selected from Iowa State’s cattle herd.

After his last grand championship, a reporter asked Edwards if he was sad knowing the steer’s days were numbered. Edwards said “No, Sir. The ultimate end of all beef is the [butcher’s] block.” The reporter was confused, but Edwards knew the basic fact of livestock life: all roads lead to the slaughterhouse, eventually.

During Edwards’s era many colleges and universities routinely competed in major livestock shows against entries submitted by regular breeders and livestock men. Iowa State competed for both market hog and beef honors in several major shows, including Chicago’s International. About Iowa State and livestock, Edwards observed, “Livestock made Iowa State the Greatest agricultural school in the world.”

Edwards grew up a Scotsman, raised on the estate of Queen Elizabeth II’s father. Edwards was one of five brothers who came from Scotland to become beef herdsmen in the US. H.H. Kildee hired him to work with the cattle, which Edwards did, arriving in the cattle barns at 5:00 a.m. each morning, expecting all hands there ready for chores.

Animal husbandry became animal science in 1962. The university stopped competing with conventional livestock for show ring honors or the sale of breeding stock. Show ring competition to identify superior strains of meat animals waned as ultrasound lean-fat measurement techniques became popular.


After 42 years and 4 months with Iowa State, Edwards retired in 1965 and moved to Des Moines. In 1979 he moved to the Ledges Manor at Boone. He was a member of Collegiate Presbyterian Church and Arcadia Lodge #249, AF & AM. He was named to the Iowa Cattleman's Hall of Fame. Edwards died at age 89 at the Boone County Hospital, Boone, Iowa. He was survived by two sons, Hector and Donald, and a sister living in Scotland. He was preceded in death by his wife on December 31, 1942; four brothers and seven sisters.

Selections of text republished with permission from Iowans who made a difference: 150 years of agricultural progress by Don Muhm and Virginia Wadsley, published by the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, 1996.

Selected Sources

Des Moines Register Friday, February 15, 1985, page 23

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