Dr. Calvin “Cal” Ledbetter Jr., a beloved professor emeritus of political science and former dean of the UALR College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, died unexpectedly on Saturday, Aug. 10.
Not only did Ledbetter, 84, lead a long and distinguished academic career at UALR, he also enjoyed a successful political career, serving five consecutive terms in the Arkansas House of Representatives from 1967 to 1977.
Ledbetter first joined the UALR faculty in 1960. During his chairmanship of the political science department from 1961 to 1978, the faculty grew from two to 13, and an associate degree in law enforcement was created. Bachelor of arts degrees in political science and criminal justice, as well as master of arts degrees in criminal justice and public administration, were also added.
Following a national search, Ledbetter was chosen to lead UALR’s College of Liberal Arts as dean in 1978, a position he held for 10 years.
During his tenure, master of arts degrees in public history, applied psychology, and technical and expository writing were established. The Center for Arkansas Studies and the Humanists as Mediators program, in which liberal arts faculty served as mediators in minor legal disputes, were also created. In 1994, UALR awarded him the Faculty Excellence Award for Public Service.
Upon his retirement from UALR in 1997, he was distinguished as a professor emeritus. Ledbetter endowed non-traditional scholarships and a monograph press at UALR and was a major supporter of KLRE/KUAR, two public radio stations housed at the university.
In April 2013, Ledbetter made his papers available to the public after donating his collection to the UALR Center for Arkansas History and Culture. Ledbetter’s papers are primarily from his political career, but a portion also represents his academic career at UALR. Ledbetter established the UALR Cal Ledbetter Arkansas Legislative Institute Endowment, founded to promote a better understanding of Arkansas through scholarly study.
Ledbetter enrolled in Princeton University following high school and graduated from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He received his juris doctorate from UALR’s William H. Bowen School of Law. After briefly practicing law in Little Rock, he joined the U.S. Army as a member of the Judge Advocate General Corps and served in Germany for three years. After completing his military service, Ledbetter earned a Ph.D. in political science from Northwestern University, where he taught as a graduate student.
Ledbetter wrote extensively about Arkansas and wrote a biography of the state’s 22nd governor, George W. Donaghey. In addition, he authored more than 30 articles for various journals including the Arkansas Historical Quarterly, National Civic Review, and University of Arkansas Law Review and State Government.
Ledbetter served in several Presbyterian churches in Little Rock and was very active in community and service organizations, as well as numerous professional organizations.
A memorial service for Dr. Ledbetter will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, Aug. 16, in the Donaghey Student Center’s Calvin R. Ledbetter Jr. Assembly Hall on the UALR campus. This room was named in his honor in 2009.
Visitation will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 14, at Ruebel Funeral Home in Little Rock. A private graveside service will be at Roselawn Cemetery on Thursday, Aug. 15.