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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

Bob Burrus and Ronnie Claire Edwards
(2012.201.B0118.0275, Oklahoma Publishing Company Photography Collection, OHS).


Actress Ronnie Claire Edwards was born on February 9, 1933, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the daughter of Warren Hamilton and Pauline Caroline Mills Edwards. Her father, a graduate of the University of Oklahoma (OU) Law School, was a lawyer and county attorney in Oklahoma City for more than sixty years. Her mother also graduated from OU and was a teacher and a writer. Ronnie Claire Edwards graduated from Classen High School, Oklahoma City, in 1951. By 1961 she had married Robert K. Sands.

Before appearing on the professional stage, Edwards had an early start in public appearances. At age fifteen she left home to travel with a carnival around Oklahoma. She became the assistant of Great Shosone Mahaffee, billed as "half American Indian, half Irish, knife thrower extraordinaire." Strapped to a spinning wheel, she had many exciting moments before her allergies to Oklahoma's ragweed caused sneezing and ended her job as a moving target. Two years later Edwards performed melodrama as an amateur in an opera house and the adjoining Sluice Saloon in a Montana mining camp.

Prior to being cast in the lead role in the musical production Paint Your Wagon in New York City in 1962, Edwards had performed in numerous theaters from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles. She appeared on the stage of the Lyric Theatre when it opened in the early 1960s in Oklahoma City. Edwards has received three Los Angeles Dramalogue Awards for excellence in acting. She is best remembered as Corabeth Walton Godsey in the popular television series The Waltons, which aired from 1972 to 1981. She has also appeared in several episodes of the television series Designing Women. Some of her film credits include All the Way Home (1963), When Every Day Was the Fourth of July (1978), and 8 Seconds (1994).

In addition to acting, Edwards has written several plays. With Georgia playwright Allen Crowe she wrote a two-act musical entitled Idols of The King, which pays tribute to Elvis Presley. It premiered at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre in 1997. She also wrote the one-woman show The Knife Thrower's Assistant, loosely based on her autobiography of the same title, and the one-woman show The True Story of the Incarnation of Little Egypt. Edwards coauthored the plays The Last of the Honky Tonk Angels and Wedding Belles as well as the musical Cowboy based on the life of Western artist Charles Russell.

In 1994 Edwards wrote and privately printed a cookbook filled with recipes, photographs, and anecdotes entitled Sugar and Grease (paint) for the Walton's Mountain Museum in Schuyler, Virginia. Her autobiography The Knife Thrower's Assistant: Memoirs of a Human Target was published in 2000. On June 14, 2016, she died in Dallas, Texas.

Linda D. Wilson


Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City), 23 June 1961, 5 June 1987, 18 January 1998, and 25 September 2002.

Ronnie Claire Edwards, The Knife Thrower's Assistant: Memoirs of a Human Target (Tulsa, Okla.: Hawk Publishing Group, 2000).

"Ronnie Claire Edwards," Vertical File, Oklahoma Room, Oklahoma Department of Libraries, Oklahoma City.

"Ronnie Claire Edwards," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.

Larry O'Dell, Oklahoma @ the Movies (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Historical Society, 2012).


The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Linda D. Wilson, “Edwards, Ronnie Claire,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=ED013.

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