Benjamin F. Edwards 3d, who led the former St. Louis-based A.G. Edwards & Sons for 34 years, during which the firm expanded from a local brokerage to a regional powerhouse with a national reputation and top 10-ranked public finance business, died Monday of prostate cancer at the age of 77.

Mr. Edwards took over in 1967 as president of the firm founded by his great-grandfather. It employed a few hundred brokers working out of 44 offices at the time. He steadily built the firm's base into a St. Louis behemoth that employed 5,000 locally and a total of 7,000 brokers in hundreds of offices across the country when he retired in 2001. The firm ranked ninth among senior managers nationally for 2001, leading $5.5 billion of deals.

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