Robeson County Genealogical Researcher and Historian
Jurney Short"Jay" Edgerton, Jr.
Photo taken in Nha Trang, Vietnam, March of 1964
Growing up on the J.F. McKay family farm at Philadelphus below Red Springs, N.C., and being surrounded by the memorabilia collected by that family, Jay Edgerton became interested in history and genealogy at an early age. In time Jay was recognized locally in this regard and he would discuss family history with elderly local residents from whom he gathered much information, factual and traditional, on local and regional clans and connections. Jay corresponded with distant cousins in other states across the nation, and collected, discovered and preserved original papers. He lovingly and diligently recorded all of his research. History, its accuracy and preservation, was a major concern of his short life.
Jay was the son of Jurney Short Edgerton and Dorothy Frances Pellegrini Edgerton, born September 9, 1943. He graduated from Red Springs High School in 1961, and attended Pembroke State University for a short time. In November 1962 he enlisted in the United States Army. After completing basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., he was sent Fort Eustis, Virginia where he received aircraft maintenance training. He was then sent to the Vietnam conflict, during which he served with distinction, having been awarded the Air Medal for meritorious achievement while engaged in aerial combat. As a helicopter gunner, he flew over 200 missions. On November 1, 1963, he and a sergeant were caught downtown amid the violent coup d'état that overthrew President Diem, and they both rounded up pedestrians into a nearby bar on Tudo Steet. He returned from that war in 1965, and left the Army in the rank of Sergeant in 1966.
On Christmas night of 1967, Jay met with a serious automobile accident while on Christmas holiday from employment in Illinois. It was this accident which clouded a mind and eye so keen and sharp for historical research. Tragically, after nearly two months in a coma, he was diagnosed with brain damage. Jay was not to be knocked down for long, however. His mind sharpened again during the next several years—he returned not only to his historical research, but to Pembroke State University to receive his degree.
Due to Jay's altered brain physiology, in the mid 1980s he suffered several setbacks in his mental and ocular condition which in turn caused an overall deterioration in his health, leading to his death on May 31, 1996. It must be noted here that, despite Jay's infirmity, he demanded accuracy in his research as far as was possible, and though his long-term memory was largely intact, his short-term memory often failed him. Also, one will find within his collections of notebooks and papers, many jotted notes and additions. His early handwriting was neat and clearly legible, but near the end of his life his script became large and awkward. For two or three years before the end of his life his mind occasionally drew blanks or was inaccurate on certain points of history. So, within the pages of his histories, when I have encountered his large and awkwardly written notes, I used them as a guidepost rather than accepted them as fact. In the pages one encounters here on this site, such questionable notes will be pointed out to you the researcher to regard as guideposts.
His interest not only included Caucasian families of Robeson, Cumberland and surrounding counties, but Lumbee Indian families as well, though his life was cut short before his collection could grow very far in researching many Lumbee families.
Written by his brother, S.C. Edgerton, 1999.