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John Edwards and the Ed Prichard Example

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In 2008, Eliot Spitzer was the politician making headlines because of a sex scandal.
Author and CNN Commentator Jeffrey Toobin spoke to the Kentucky Bar Association that year and talked about my fellow Kentuckian Ed Prichard.

"Prich," as his friends called him, was one of the brightest stars of his generation at Harvard Law School. He was part of a group of young stars that rose to power as Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal hit Washington.

Then it all fell apart for Ed in 1948. Prichard was caught up in a silly, ballot stuffing stunt that caused him to serve time in prison (he was later pardoned) and ended his political career.

Prichard's story is best told in David Halberstam's bestseller, The Powers That Be, and an in excellent biography by Tracy Campbell called, Short of the Glory.

Toobin added an additional detail to the Prichard story.

Toobin once interviewed Donald Edward Graham, the longtime publisher of the Washington Post and found that Graham's middle name was in honor of Pritch.

Ed's best friend was Phillip Graham, Donald's father, and a historic figure who took the Washington Post from being the number two newspaper in its city and began its journey to becoming one of the most influential media outlets in the world.

Toobin had been a law school classmate of Spitzer at Harvard. Toobin said he sent a copy of Short of the Glory to Spitzer.

Maybe someone will send a copy to John Edwards too.

The John Edwards scandal has been a real dilemma for me.

I knew John Edwards and really wanted him to be president. I helped to sponsor a couple of fundraising events for him in 2003, and like most of my family, made the maximum donation to his campaign. I had lunch with him and we spent most of the time talking about our families and our affinity for a band popular with infant children called the Wiggles. He seemed like a standup guy.

I really thought he was on track in 2008. His message of two Americas and focus on poverty was more in tune with Main Street than what Obama and Hillary Clinton were saying. People wondered why I gravitated to Mike Huckabee and Edwards, as they differ dramatically on social issues, but both seemed to have a populist spirit and neither seemed controlled by Wall Street.

As the economy crashed later that year, I felt Edwards (or Huckabee) would have had a better ear to Main Street than anyone else running.

Then, like Pritchard, John Edwards threw his political future away.

At age 59, Edwards must be wondering what to do next. He "won" a trial that never should have taken place but is not seen as victorious in the public eye. Everyone hates him.

I met Ed Prichard at roughly the same age that Edwards is now.

As a college student, I had allegedly run a stop sign in Frankfort Kentucky and my lead foot was going to cause me to lose my driver's license.

Ed got my ticket amended, but doing traffic court work was well below his Harvard upbringing.

Prich wasn't making a lot of money but devoted himself to public service. Quietly, and as time went on, more and more publicly, he devoted himself to education reform in Kentucky.

In 1980, he put together a group that is now called the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence. The group has, and continues to have, an incredible impact on education in the state.

Prichard died in 1984, but most credit for the ground breaking Kentucky Education Reform Act that became law in 1990.

I grew up in Northern Kentucky where many people moved across the river to Cincinnati because the schools were better. Now it frequently works the other way. You have to give Ed Prichard his due for that kind of impact on society.

The late Robert Sexton, who was a longtime director of the Prichard Committee, said that "There were, of course, two Ed Prichards. One was a genuine prodigy-charming, compelling, brash, arrogant, irresponsible. The other, familiar to us years later, was older, still brilliant, but also mellowed, chastened and remade; a far different man from the younger Prichard."

I hope someday, years in the future, people say there were two John Edwards.

That the one who was irresponsible, charming, arrogant and a liar was replaced by one whose tremendous fall from grace chastened and remade him into a man who truly made an impact on the plight of "the other America."

Edwards needs to get Prichard's biography. It's a good starting point on redemption and channeling great talents in a productive manner.


Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC is the bestselling author of the books, "Son of a Son of a Gambler: Winners, Losers" and "What to Do When You Win the Lottery" and "Wealth Without Wall Street;" McNay, who lives in Richmond, Ky., is an award-winning financial columnist and Huffington Post contributor. You can learn more about him at www.donmcnay.com.

He is one of the world's leading authorities on what to do when you win the lottery. He is the Chairman of the Board for the McNay Settlement Group, which provides structured settlement consulting for injury victims, lottery winners, and the families of special needs children.

McNay founded Kentucky Guardianship Administrators LLC, which assists attorneys in as conservators and setting up guardianships. It is nationally recognized as an administrator of Qualified Settlement (468b) funds.