His first job was as copyist in the St. Ann’s Bay District Court’s Office where he stayed for three and a half years. In 1883, he left the island for Panama and worked for three and a half years for the English and Dutch firm who were the contractors for the Culebra Cut. In 1887 he returned to Jamaica and qualified for Matriculation in Bishop’s College, Montreal, to study medicine; he entered the College in October of the same year.
In his first year J. J. Edwards won the Dissector’s Prize and took first place in every subject but one. In the second year he won the ‘year’ prize. He also came top in every subject and clinched his hold on David’s Scholarship and medal. In his third year he carried off the Scholarship and medal. In his final year at College he carried off the 3 gold medals and came out ahead in every subject of the graduating year. He received his Diploma as “Dr. of Medicine and Master of Surgery.” Dr. Edwards thus won five out of six prizes and medals thus establishing a record which had never been beaten at Bishop’s College in its forty years of existence. In the Autumn of 1891 he took his qualifications at Edinburgh and Glasgow, taking “the triple qualifications,” and in a class of one hundred students winning the third place.
On returning to Jamaica, he practised in Spanish Town, where he established “The Governor Olivier Sanitarium,” and the “Nurses’ Training School” which was opened by His Excellency the Governor in 1906; 110 Nurses were trained at the School.
He was a member of the St. Catherine Parochial Board, for eight years, and also found time to give popular Iectures on health at the St. Catherine Teacher’s Association, and regularly addressed the children of the Government Schools in Spanish Town on various topics.
He visited England in 1909 for special studies in ear, throat and mouth diseases and was Clinical Assistant at the Moorfields Eye Hospital, City Road, and also at the Gray’s Inn Road Nose, Ear and Throat Hospital.
Later he moved his practice to St. Mary where he was also active in local affairs
He was Acting Medical Officer of Health for Spanish Town, and adjoining districts, and also for the District of St. Dorothy, in the parish of St. Catherine. Later he was Medical Officer of Health for the Bagnolds and Retreat districts of St. Mary. He played a major role in fighting the Alastrim [a mild form of small pox] epidemic in 1920- in St Catherine and St Mary.
In 1919 he was honoured by McGill University, Montreal, who conferred on him an “M.D Ad eundem” Degree “Honoris Causa,” the only doctor in the West Indies to receive such honour. In the same year the Royal Institute of Public Health, London, England, at a meeting of the Council unanimously elected him a “Fellow of the Institute."
Horticulture was one of his hobbies and he contributed regularly to the St. Catherine Shows and on one occasion he carried off twelve first and two second prizes. He acted as President of the St. Catherine Agricultural Society, and on several occasion was a judge at the Hope Shows.
Dr Edwards supported Dr Robert Love in his campaign to get Black men into the Legislative Council.
He was a Director of the St. Catherine Building Society; a Member of the Hamilton Lodge, Free Masons, and a Past Master; a Past District Chief Ranger of the Ancient Order of Foresters; Provincial Deputy Grand Master of the Manchester Unity Odd Fellows, Jamaica.
In the 1926 Who’s Who in Jamaica he listed his recreations as “Hard work, intense application, horticulture.”
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