Edward Joel Pawley (March 16, 1901 - January 27, 1988) began his theatrical career in 1920 and reached the Broadway stage in 1923. He starred in various well-known Broadway plays including Elmer Gantry (1928), Two Seconds (1931), Subway Express (1929), The Guardsman (1924), The Shame Woman (1923), and They Knew What They Wanted (1924). Pawley's rich, baritone voice was hailed by leading journalists of the day, such as Walter Winchell and Heywood Hale Broun.
Not long after the 'talkie' movies came into vogue, Pawley became interested in acting on the silver screen. He left the theater after 1932 and went to Hollywood where he performed in over 50 movies during a 12-year span. He had feature roles in such movies as Hoosier Schoolboy with Mickey Rooney, G-Men with James Cagney, The Oklahoma Kid with James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart, King Solomon of Broadway with Edmund Lowe , and Little Tough Guy with Helen Parish , Marjorie Main, and the Dead End Kids. He played mostly 'tough guy' roles in gangster, comedy, and Western films. He became friends with James Cagney with whom he made 5 movies, Jackie Cooper (3 movies), and Francis Lederer. One of his earliest friends in the entertainment industry was Arthur Hughes who played 'Bill Davidson' on the long-running radio show, Just Plain Bill . Arthur was also Pawley's best man at his wedding in 1922.
Pawley became disenchanted with Hollywood during the attempted take-over by the communists in the late 1930s and early 1940s; consequently, he left in 1942 and returned to New York City where he became a star on radio. Calling upon his prior training/experience in radio (he performed on the Collier Hour in the very early 1930s), Pawley auditioned for and won a leading role on the popular show, Portia Faces Life. He and Lucille Wall were the 'Love Story Boy and Girl' on that show. In 1943, Pawley auditioned for the starring role of 'Steve Wilson' on the very popular radio show, Big Town. He won the audition and left Portia Faces Life to become the 'new' Steve Wilson, replacing Edward G. Robinson who played that role from 1937-1942 (when the show was produced in Hollywood). Edward's 'sidekick' on the show was Fran Carlon who played girl reporter Lorelei Kilbourne.
During Pawley's 9-year reign, Big Town achieved the number one rating for reporter-type crime/drama shows on radio. His audience was estimated anywhere from 10 million to 20 million listeners. He left the show in 1951 and retired to the small village of Amissville in rural Rappahannock County, Virginia. He had fallen in love with the State early during his theatrical career.
Pawley was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and became interested in both journalism and acting while in high school. He took drama classes and acted in high school plays. After moving to New York City to pursue a career in the theater, he married his high school sweetheart, Martina May Martin (who had also become a professional stage actress). They had one child, a son named Martin Herbert Pawley. Edward and Martina later divorced then remarried and divorced again. In 1937, he married the then popular Broadway singer/dancer/actress, Helen Shipman of Pennsylvania. They were married for 47 years until her death on April 13, 1984. Pawley had two younger brothers, William Pawley and Anthony Pawley , both of whom also performed on Broadway and in the movies.
In retirement, Pawley raised and sold championship goats, wrote poetry, and worked part-time as a radio announcer at a local radio station. He died just two months shy of his 87th birthday as the result of a heart condition while a patient at The University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, Virginia. His residence at the time of his death was in the village of Rock Mills , Rappahannock County, Virginia. He became the quintessential 'Virginia Gentleman' and was loved for his integrity, patriotism, and charm. Also, he was admired for his vocabulary and wonderful speaking voice as well as his status as a former entertainer in three different mediums (i.e., broadway, movies, and radio).