By Tom McGehee, Museum Director of the Bellingrath Home
In 1950, C. Ernest Edgar Jr. was named as one of the five original trustees of the Bellingrath Morse Foundation. Mr. Edgar was the son of Mrs. Bellingrath’s sister Daisy Morse Edgar. He had been born in 1906, the same year Walter and Bessie Bellingrath married and in many ways was raised as their own.
He often recalled spending New Year’s Day of 1918 roaming around a recently purchased fishing camp down on the Fowl River. Little did he realize that he would be in that same place in 1932 when the mobs visited what would soon be renamed Bellingrath Gardens.
Ernest attended Davidson College in North Carolina and returned to Mobile in 1926 and went to work for his uncle. His first job was delivering Coca-Cola on the Saturday route. City directories list his occupation as “Advertising Agent, Coca-Cola” in 1927 and then “Salesman, Coca-Cola” in 1930. By the 1935 edition, his wife, the former Amelia Moore, is listed beside his name and his job title was now “Bookkeeper, Coca-Cola.”
It was during this period that his aunt was purchasing antiques to furnish the Bellingrath Home which was under construction. As bookkeeper he found himself handling his aunt’s occasional overdrafts, reminiscing that she routinely wrote her checks out to “cash” leaving her husband in the dark as to what she was buying.
The 1942 edition of Mobile’s directory reflects that Mr. Edgar had been promoted to the position of Secretary-Treasurer for his uncle’s Coca-Cola plant. He and his young family were shown to be living at 352 S. Ann Street at the time.
A year later they purchased a house at 1202 Government Street, and his aunt told he and his wife to help themselves to any furniture she had stored over in the garage behind the Bellingrath home on Ann Street. City directories indicate that his parents shared the address and it was here that the Edgars raised their three children.
Ernest Edgar served on the board until August of 1952. By that time he had left his position with the bottling plant and turned his business interests elsewhere. His mother-in-law owned one of Mobile’s earliest apartment buildings on Government Street near Barton Academy. The family demolished the three buildings and built the Downtown Hotel Court in 1954.
As a longtime Rotarian in Mobile, Ernest Edgar knew a wide circle of businessmen and that circle grew as he learned the hotel trade. He was honored as Rotarian of the Year by the Rotary Club of Mobile in 2003 and a large live oak tree was planted on the Great Lawn at Bellingrath Gardens in his honor.
When Bellingrath Gardens and Home marked its 75th anniversary, Ernest Edgar was there for the celebration – undoubtedly the only participant to have also have been here on opening day. In 2006, his 100th birthday was celebrated among friends and family within the Bellingrath Home and a live oak was planted at the entrance of the home honoring that milestone.
C. Ernest Edgar Jr. died on August 1, 2007. His younger son, Walter Bellingrath Edgar, became a trustee of the Bellingrath Morse Foundation in 2011.