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Elizabeth Edwards: 'Sweetest Man'

Elizabeth Edwards (search) described her husband Wednesday as "the smartest, toughest, sweetest man I know" -- a natural born fighter who has always had the optimism to see the "brighter day ahead."

Sounding familiar themes from the campaign, Edwards chronicled John Edwards' (search) rise from humble beginnings to legal stardom and -- ultimately -- to the halls of the U.S. Senate, driven by the desire "to make the great opportunities of America available to all Americans."

"He knew there was a brighter day ahead, even as he swept the floors in the cotton mill. He knew if he worked hard enough, he could be the first in his family to go to college. He knew that he could outwork and out-tough any battalion of lawyers to find justice," said Edwards, who was greeted to the packed convention floor with a sea of signs that read "Elizabeth."

Edwards also recalled a time her husband dressed up as Santa Claus for an inner-city child care center. "You know, he even looks dashing in a Santa suit," she said. "If the cause was just and his voice was needed, he was there."

Edwards has called herself an "anti-Barbie," a down-to-earth, 55-year-old mother who left a high-powered law career after the death of her oldest child, Wade, eight years ago, at age 16, in an auto accident.

She has called that event the "A.D.-B.C." moment of her life. The Edwardses decided to have more children as a way to lead themselves and their daughter Cate, 22, through the pain.

Aided by hormone treatments, Edwards was pregnant with Emma Claire, now 6, during her husband's first run for the U.S. Senate in 1998. She had Jack, 4, when she was 50.

Edwards was introduced by her daughter, Cate, a recent Princeton graduate, who described "the next Second Lady of the United States" as a woman "with a strength that inspires, with a courage that carries on."

Like Teresa Heinz Kerry (search), Edwards spent much of her youth abroad, attending school in Japan, where her father -- a decorated Navy pilot -- was stationed.

She married John Edwards, her law school sweetheart, in 1977, the weekend after she passed the bar exam. She clerked for a U.S. District Court judge and worked in the North Carolina attorney general's office. Since the birth of her youngest children, she has been active in two foundations dedicated to Wade.

While her speech focused on Edwards, she drew comparisons between her father and her husband's running mate, both Navy veterans.

"Like John Kerry, my father fought for this country," she said. "Like John Kerry, he was decorated risking his life in her service. My father had another thing in common with John Kerry and with so many of our uniformed men and women across this country and around the world: He has the right stuff. I married a man with the right stuff."