Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Edwards, Esther Gordy

The sister of Motown founder Berry Gordy, Esther Gordy Edwards was an integral part of Motown Records and a founder of the Motown Museum, Hitsville U.S.A. Born in Onconee, Georgia on April 25, 1920, Esther and her family moved to Detroit where she attended Cass Technical High School, Howard University and Wayne State University.

In 1951 she married Michigan State Representative George Edwards. She had a son, Robert Bullock, from an earlier marriage. She originally worked with her two brothers, George and Fuller, at the printing company the three of them founded, from 1947 until 1959, the year the Gordy family loaned her brother Berry money to start a record company. In 1960 she was made senior vice president of International Travel Management, Inc., the artist management component of Berry’s Motown Records. The same year she also became chairman of the Detroit Recorder Court Jury Commission, the first African American appointed.

Edwards had a variety of jobs at Motown Records, ranging from corporate secretary, to the director of the Artists Personal Management Division. It was in this position that she was able to help polish public images and guide careers of artists such as Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Mary Wells, the Miracles, Smokey Robinson, the Four Tops, the Temptations, and more. Edwards later became the manager of Motown Record Corporation’s overseas venues. In 1972, when Motown moved to Los Angeles, California, Edwards elected to stay in Detroit. It was here that she not only continued to work for the company but was also CEO of the Gordy Foundation.

Throughout her days working at Motown Records, Gordy Edwards kept and saved memorabilia. In 1985 she opened the Motown Historical Museum, in the original Motown Records company offices and studio at 2648 W. Grand Boulevard, becoming its director.

In addition to Edwards work with Motown, in 1973 she was the first woman elected as a board member of the Detroit Bank of the Commonwealth and the first woman elected to the board of the Greater Detroit Chamber of Commerce. She chaired the board of the development company that built Trappers Alley in the Detroit Greektown area in the 1990s. Additionally, Edwards was a trustee at Interlochen Center for the Arts, a member of the historic Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, and a board member of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.

Esther Gordy Edwards passed away on August 24, 2011 in Detroit. She was 91 years old.