DETROIT (WWJ) – Esther Gordy Edwards, founder of Detroit’s Motown Museum, has died at the age of 91.
Her younger brother Berry Gordy started Motown Records in 1959. After Motown became established, Esther Gordy took an active role in management of the museum. In 1985, Edwards became the director of the Motown Historical Museum, and has been credited with maintaining the original studios of Motown.
Edwards has often been described as “the pillar of Motown”.
Motown singer Martha Reeves said Edwards was vital to the success of the famed “Motown Revue” in the early 60s. That tour saw numerous Motown artists pile into a giant bus, for 94 one-night shows across the nation.
“Mrs. Edwards decided she’d go with us to make sure that we were alright and to show us the ropes. She actually rode that bus with us and was our mentor,” Reeves told WWJ Newsradio 950. “She was our mentor and she helped us discover show business.”
Reeves said Edwards was responsible for the personal and professional development of so many Motown acts as they began their careers.
“She was concerned about the artists and always wanted to make sure we had the best training and represented Motown properly,” said Reeves. “So, she was our image and our mentor, and certainly one well-respected we looked up to for her knowledge, her sincerity, and her love for each artist.”
Statements by some other Motown stars:
“Mrs. Esther Gordy Edwards not only is she one of the most important people to come into my life both personally and professionally and someone I will always love, but it is because of her wisdom and foresight that we have a pictorial and itemized history of Motown, the Motown Museum, which allows people now and for generations to come to have a first-hand look at our legacy. Thank you Esther and I know you are in the arms of God.” – Smokey Robinson
“I’m taken back by the loss of Esther Gordy Edwards. She meant so much to me as a human being—she embodied the idea of never giving up. She was ever determined in everything she did, she was full of energy and her spirit will continue live on. She loved the idea of what we were creating in Motown.
She believed in me—when I was 14 years old and many other people didn’t or could only see what they could at the time, she championed me being in Motown. I shared with her many of my songs first before anyone else. She was like another mother to me, she was an extension of that same kind of motherly love.
I’m in Washington DC right now celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King and Esther, who was also a friend of Coretta Scott King, without question will be celebrated here this week and weekend, and her spirit will continue live on.
When we lose someone, we often think “they don’t make people like this anymore.” It is my hope that younger generations and the world will know of her spirit and her pride in world culture.” - Stevie Wonder
“Esther Gordy Edwards was a top Motown executive, businesswoman, civil and political leader, who received numerous awards, commendations and accolades. She was the most educated in our family and was the go-to person for wisdom in business.
Whatever she did, it was with the highest standards, professionalism and an attention to detail that was legendary. She always came out a hero. Esther wasn’t concerned with being popular. She was dedicated to making us all better—the Gordy family and the Motown family.
Esther turned the so-called trash left behind after I sold the company in 1988 into a phenomenal world-class monument where Hitsville started—The Motown Museum. She preserved Motown memorabilia before it was memorabilia, collecting our history long before we knew we were making it. She nurtured and held it together through the years, protecting the Motown legacy for generations to come—which is only one of the reasons people all over the world will remember and celebrate Esther Gordy Edwards.
Despite my sorrow, I will proudly continue to honor and celebrate her. She will always be my big sister and she will forever live in my heart. ” - Berry Gordy, Jr. and the Gordy Family