Due to an editing error, the eighth paragraph in today's preprinted report on Page E1 about Rep. Jack Edwards (R-Ala.) is incorrect. It should read: Chose his neighbors in Bethesda as his closest friends rather than pursue the mighty who might have done him more good.
Rep. Jack Edwards went home to Mobile for good last night.
His colleagues in the House, where he has represented Alabama's 1st Congressional District for 20 years, consider him an endangered species of politician. For he:
* Gained power but did not flaunt it.
* Could have been reelected but decided he was too tired of the Washington rat race to do a good job.
* Could have made big money lobbying for defense contractors by exploiting the contacts he made as ranking Republican on the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense but decided to resume practicing law in Mobile instead.
* Listened, not just talked, while pushing President Reagan's rearmament program through the House for the last four years.
* Was the most successful politician in forcing the Defense Department to buy more spare parts so it could use the weapons it had rather than continue to buy new ones.
* Chose as his neighbors in Bethesda his closest friends rather than pursue the mighty who might have done him more good.
* Seldom talked to his children about what he did for a living for fear they would think they were special. And his family stayed whole during 20 years of public life, but Edwards freely admits that the credit belongs to his wife, Jolane, not himself, and will try to make amends in his remaining years back home in Point Clear outside of Mobile.
"I averaged about 50 weekends a year out of Washington where my family was living when my kids were growing up," he said during a farewell interview. "I averaged 100 times a year in the Atlanta airport.
"It was a difficult time for the kids. I'd say, 'This weekend I'm going to stay home with the kids; do things with them. Stay home.' Then the phone would start ringing. Somebody would be saying I just had to make some speech; go to some meeting; resolve some crisis.
"There is just this mentality in politics that says you have to get to the next speech. You go in rainstorms. You do things you shouldn't. You're late and you travel the highways at 80 miles an hour. House Majority Leader Hale Boggs D-La. getting killed in a plane crash in Alaska. I've been through all that.
"First thing you know, years have slipped by. I feel this very keenly now.
"Seems kind of backwards. Now that my kids are grown and gone, I'm going home. This lack of time that most of us in public life have to spend with our families.
"Sure, I feel the guilt. Looking back, there are a lot of times when I could have done something differently, done something for them.
"I feel fortunate that I had a wife who liked to go out and do everything with the kids," Edwards said in a deep but soft Alabama voice, projecting a bit of sadness in contrast to the humor everyone, including the generals and admirals sweating under his cross-examination, came to cherish during the exhausting defense hearings in the subcommittee's tiny room in the Capitol.
"They've seen every museum in this town," Edwards said of his wife and children -- but not himself.
"They've been to Williamsburg. They've done white-water rafting trips in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Georgia. I don't think I've ever been on the white water.
"One of the things I'm looking forward to with great joy," he said, "is spending time with my grandchildren in Mobile. I'm probably going to wear them out."
Edwards talked, too, about the issues that had consumed him for much of his 20 years in Congress, such as how much is enough for defense. He said the Pentagon will be lucky to get a 3 percent, after-inflation increase in its fiscal 1986 budget.
The MX intercontinental ballistic missile is "in deep trouble," Edwards added. He said incoming Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.), in advising Reagan in a Washington Post interview to give up on the MX missile, was saying something about the mood of the Congress.
"When a Goldwater is turned off on the MX missile, it says to me that the feelings up here vis a vis the deficit are very deep."
Edwards, 56, who will start work Jan. 3 for a Mobile law firm, was willing to talk about the national issues, but his heart obviously was not in them.
"I'm going home," he said as he looked at the packing boxes strewn around his once-impressive suite in the Rayburn House Office Building.