People Issue

Ronnie Claire Edwards, Best Known for The Waltons, Fell in Love with Acting in Dallas

In this week's Dallas Observer we profile 20 of the metro area's most interesting characters, with new portraits of each from local photographer Can Turkyilmaz. See the entire Dallas Observer People Issue here.

Ronnie Claire Edwards still receives fan mail from her time as Corabeth on the 1970s television drama The Waltons. Thinking about this one day recently, she lets out a warm, quiet chuckle.

"I get recognized too, but at State Fairs mostly. That show made me recognizable and I loved it," she says, her voice raspy and purring. "But for me, it's hardly the pinnacle of my career."

At 81, Edwards still tackles what she calls "projects," whether designing coats for Neiman Marcus, refurbishing the old Swiss Avenue church she now inhabits or writing plats, including one about an old-time Dallas stripper who was friends with Jack Ruby, which premieres at Theatre Three in August. "I feel so lucky to have spent my life working, so blessed," she says. "Work is a luxury."

Edwards moved to Dallas five years ago, a fitting return. When she was falling in love with theater for the first time in the early 1950s, she received a two-year fellowship to work in Dallas alongside Margo Jones at her innovative theater-in-the-round.

"My first love was the stage: the language, the movement," says Edwards, who spent her early days studying both drama and dance. "Margo changed the world of theater and it was exciting to be there as it was happening."

After spending five decades as a film and television actress, Edwards says, she grew tired of acting in television or film and set her sights on a city that had been good to her. She sold her Hollywood mansion to Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Of course, the buyer of her home is a detail she'd easily ignore, because Edwards isn't impressed by celebrity.

"Fame is like Chinese food. You want to eat a lot of it, it fills you up for a minute and then it's gone," she says. "You're better off creating things you can take pride in."

When we met for coffee at Lucky's Cafe, the host showed me to "Ms. Edwards' table," and during our visit, friends stopped by to make dinner plans, talk about recent casting calls, or just chat.

"When I moved here, I didn't know a soul, but now I have a good number of friends -- many of them are artists too," she says. "Work comes first, but fun is important too.

"I've learned that in life, you can't rely on others to amuse you. You've got to amuse yourself."

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Lauren Smart
Contact: Lauren Smart