JS told my friends, including his son, and I this story about his time at Davidson College after discussing USC’s traditions.
He explained that at Davidson College in the 1970’s, his class secretary fabricated a student. Bill Edwards was his name. JS’s classmates and classes in the years to follow would open up the yearbook every year to look for a photo of Bill Edwards. Though no such photo exists, every class graduating after JS’s class wavers between believing and not believing in the existence of Bill Edwards. JS explained, “the whole college rallied around this.”
Every couple months a new detail was added to Bill Edwards’ story. After graduating he supposedly worked for the United States’ State Department. Then he worked his way up to the CIA. Later students learned that he had married a Vietnamese bride from his time undercover. Years later they learned that he had seven kids. Everyone was glued to it.
Eventually, Davidson College made a new library. Alumni of JS’s year decided to donate around $20,000 to have a book return desk named after Bill Edwards, thus perpetuating the legend of Bill Edwards.
Perhaps students at Davidson are so ready to believe in this Bill Edwards character because he seemed to live a cool life. He started working at the State Department but worked his way up to be a secret agent for the CIA–a move that demonstrates his work ethic and dedication to the United States. At the CIA he worked undercover, which demonstrates that he is intelligent, physically fit, cunning, and ready to risk his life for his country. His marriage to a Vietnamese woman demonstrates his worldliness and paints a James Bond-esque image. Perhaps his seven children further reveal his sexual appetite while also demonstrating his conformity to the idea of finding a nice woman, settling down, and having lots of babies. Perhaps students at Davidson are proud of Bill Edwards and his successes; therefore, why not believe it?
You can read more about Bill Edwards via the Davidson College Archives. You can also see his tombstone in at Davidson College as well as his book drop at the E.H. Little Library on Davidson’s campus.