Paula “Hope” Gadson loves her son more than anything in this world and she was gracious enough to share her memories of her son with me while crafting Believe EG21. We held a handful of phone conversations and exchanged emails prior to deciding that a written interview would work best. Enjoy her eloquent, detailed answers below.



Can you describe young Eddie Gadson? 

Eddie was a beautiful infant, a fun and curious toddler, an energetic child and an irresistibly handsome, charming and humorous adolescent and adult. He was an old soul in many ways, but with a spirit and determination I so admired. He certainly inspired me and I was proud to be his Mother.

In relation to sports—here lie his true passion. Whether it was dodgeball or volleyball with friends and family or baseball, basketball and football with youth leagues, high schools and his college teams…he had a drive and challenged and pushed himself to improve.

His father played on base basketball teams for years, and Eddie (beginning at 2 years or so) and I would attend his games. At half time, all the children would grab basketballs and head to the center to play. Eddie joined right in, and it was comical, endearing, and cute initially, but as time passed, you could see the coordination and skill begin to truly develop.

Soon Eddie was old enough for an official youth team. He was about 5 years and we signed him up for a youth basketball league where we were stationed. Eddie looked so adorable in his little shirt, shorts, sneakers and his beautiful big hair—now was the time to begin learning the rules of the game. It didn’t take long to realize, Eddie had a gift…he picked up the game and rules quickly. He would run and run to the point of exhaustion and still wanted to run. He wanted to play and became furious when coaches took him out for a break. He wanted to be put back in as soon as he was taken out.

Joining an official youth football team though came a little later for Eddie. His Dad was stationed away from where we were, so Eddie and I held down the home front. I was NOT pleased about Eddie wanting to try out for youth football and hoped it was a passing fancy, but finally relented. He had played with friends for fun, but nothing organized. So, soon I found myself, the only women coach of six on a football team of little male football players; little guys with full pads…funny…very funny indeed. Eddie was all serious though and so Mom needed to be just as serious; I couldn’t be an embarrassment after all. I quickly learned the game, the rules, all most of the ins and outs, but Eddie was a much faster learner. Eddie…wow…talk about an impressive player. He wowed all the coaches and teams, and scored a record 28 touchdowns.

Eddie had a big heart and watched out for teammates too. There was this small little guy, Justin. Boy was this guy tiny. Justin’s pads and gear were so big on him! Justin would get knocked down all the time, but he kept going. Eddie would reach his hand down to help him up Justin has yet again been clobbered and Eddie gave him a nice tap on the helmet as a sign of encouragement…after all, Justin was a teammate, someone who took the hard licks which also helped Eddie score those team touchdowns. A mutual respect among players.

Why did Eddie choose CSU?

I personally like to think of Charleston Southern University as a happy accident in Eddie’s life; a path towards his destiny. I recall years before when Ed and I were stationed at Charleston Air Force Base, Eddie playing in the school band—the French Horn actually…of all instruments. He had wanted to play trumpet, but apparently there were too many, so the teacher encouraged him to try the French horn….really??! During a band event, he participated in at Charleston South University, when it was time to pick him up, he has liked the place he said, and something impressed struck me about the place too.

Years later, I chuckled at the irony of it all. His high school football teammate, Nick Ellis, has received a scholarship to play Division 1 Football at Charleston Southern. That was a big wish of Eddie’s. Eddie had visited with Nick and Eddie’s high school coaches had put in good words and sent tapes to the coaches at Charleston Southern. The rest is history; Eddie eventually walked on to the football practice field in the hopes of proving himself and becoming an asset to the Charleston University football team.

What did Eddie talk about when he called or came home? Did the passion for his team that everyone talks about spill over to his conversations with you?  

Eddie talked about the team, the players, and things going on, how practice went this day or that day. He would talk about his roommate, Darius and how great they were getting along. He would give specifics and some days you could tell, he had a tough practice, because he was more reflective and quiet on the phone. He certainly internalized a lot and reflected often. He always had great things to say about the team and all the great guys he played with.

Eddie was his own hardest and worst critic. If he were ever scolded or reprimanded, he only wanted to work harder not to let the incident occur again and to prove himself…he at times felt “underrated” as he termed it. He placed a lot of pressure upon himself and wanted to please the coaches and his teammates. Make no mistake, Eddie was competitive, and if someone told him he couldn’t; it was his mission to prove them wrong. He thoroughly enjoyed the team and his teammates.

What was the most important thing to Eddie?

Eddie valued and cherished family and his friends/relationships and giving back. Although he loved sports, he knew there were other things that made him whole. He often joked that while other folks were having issues with their parents, he had no issues with his. He loved all his Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and cousins. He was especially close to Darnell and David Jr. (DJ); the boys in the crew of the Gadson grandchildren. There would be arguments and fights with the older girls (Victoria, Christina, and Latoya) and spirited words and fun with the younger ones: Latasha, Aysha, Temeka, Emma, Demoya, Brianna, and Tyra, but even though the cousins fought like cats and dogs at times; he loved them all and no one had better mess with them.

I recall a time when he surprised his Grandmother (Marie Gadson), at her church one Sunday. He drove to Beaufort, SC to see her, without letting her know he was coming. He explained to me after, how she didn’t realize it was him at first and glanced down again at her book, then, he stated it hit her and she quickly looked up. He said “Mamma, Grandma had the biggest grin on her face and it stayed the whole time.” Eddie had a sweet spirit and had an extra special soft spot for his Grandma.

Growing up with military parents, Eddie was often exposed to charitable events and tagged along to events many times, whether it was cleaning up an elderly person’s yard, to washing cars for a cause, to working events at a Braves Baseball games, to filling sandbags for those in need during heavy rain falls and threats of flooding. There was always another event…and Eddie joined in and helped out! His character was evident.

What was it like to watch him play football at such a high level?

When Eddie initially began with Charleston Southern Football, his Father and I were stationed overseas at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Eddie’s Dad and I would get up in the early hours of the morning (our time) and tune into the football games broadcast online. Although we learned during one of those broadcasts, through an interview of Coach Mills, that Eddie would be awarded a scholarship and how that brought us excitement, seeing Eddie in action and in person playing football was the best experience!

Watching was exciting and scary at the same time! Normally, extended family and friends would join us at the home games and cheer on Eddie and his teammates. I believe Eddie really enjoyed the family being rowdy in the stands—it fueled him. But, have to say, as his Mom, seeing my baby tackled and at times hurt was very difficult and I anguished until I knew he was ok.

Can you describe what it was like to find out about the accident?

The day of the accident will be forever engraved in my mind. To best describe events: devastating, unbelievable, and completely overwhelming.

A Stockbridge, Police Officer showed up at our apartment door around 0630 a.m. He asked if I knew an Edward Gadson. I answered yes, actually I knew two, of which was he referring? The officer stated a young male. I stated that was my son. He informed me that he had been in an accident and had been taken to Henry Medical Center.

I couldn’t really process what he was saying. I asked if Eddie was ok and he said I needed to get to the hospital immediately. He asked if I needed a ride. I should have taken the ride, but, wasn’t thinking.

After the officer left, reality hit me…my baby…I needed to get to him—he needed me. I needed to call Ed! Where the hell was Henry Medical Center? (Ed and I had each recently retired from the Air Force and were waiting on our home to be complete, so we were living temporarily in a one-bedroom apartment complex in Stockbridge, and Eddie was home for the summer break and staying with us).

Ed was on a trip to attend a friend’s wedding and was out of town. I called him, but couldn’t tell him much as I didn’t even know much.

I managed to get directions to the hospital and drive onto the highway and headed in the direction of the hospital. I immediately hit traffic and was stalled. No, this wasn’t happening….I needed to get to my baby, he was hurt. My entire body felt like when one’s limbs falls asleep…I couldn’t catch my breath, and I was talking to myself…telling myself to calm down….get to Eddie, get to Eddie, get Eddie, he needs me.

Traffic wasn’t moving! Damn it…what was going on? I needed to go. (Only much later did I discover why traffic had been stalled). I eventually decided enough was enough, and ended up driving the majority of the way on the right side of the highway, outside the lanes…very illegally…I didn’t care.

When I arrived I was asked to wait. Finally after a time, I was then asked to follow this woman who was going to put me in a separate room. A wave came over me…putting me in a room? This could not be good. Where was my baby?!!! The women informed me the doctor would be right in. When the doctor came in and begin to speak, the world and my life came to an end. They wouldn’t let me see Eddie or be with him. My baby was alone and near. He had died alone….I was not there for him/with him/to protect him. This still haunts me.

Then I had to work up the strength to make a call to inform my husband, Eddie’s Dad—and of all ways to have to tell someone this type of news, over the phone. I cry each time I recall the conversation. I also think of how hard it must have been for Ed to make the trip home from a celebration to such a tragedy.

What, if anything, did the conference championship mean to the you?

I couldn’t bear to be present at the stadium that day, but watched as it was televised at a friend’s home nearby. Wow. What an exciting ending. The team performed like champions and took control…and I believe Eddie was out there too; no doubt! (smile)

What do you miss most about Eddie? 

I miss everything about Eddie. There is not a day that goes by that my heart does not ache, when I do not pray things were different, and wish he were here. I miss his smile and how he made me laugh so hard that it hurt. How he could be silly and get me to smile, even when I was upset at something he had done. He was charismatic. Eddie was sensitive too and always listened and remembered even little details. He thought of others and their feelings, but also had sassiness about him. I miss how Eddie asked me for hugs, “Mamma, can I get a hug,” or “I need a hug.” I loved how he always told us he loved us. Eddie and I could talk about anything and everything. I miss my baby, my boy, my Eddie.

 If Eddie were still with us today, what do you think would he be doing? 

If Eddie were alive today, I believe his profession would be related to sports; whether it was in relation to physical therapy, youth sports, or a coach for high school or college team or potentially a retired professional football player. Eddie would be married, and he and his spouse would have had his Dad’s and my three bratty grandchildren; a girl and two boys! Eddie would have been successful and happy at whatever he was involved with…no doubt!