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Political Science

In Memoriam: Dr. Calvin R. Ledbetter, Jr.

Ledbetter Memoriam

The members of the Political Science Department were saddened to learn of the death of our friend and colleague, Dr. Calvin R. Ledbetter, Jr. He was a Professor Emeritus who remained an active and important part of the department until his death.

Dr. Ledbetter was an excellent educator, a generous philanthropist, a distinguished author, an accomplished state legislator, and a dedicated public servant. As a Political Science Professor, Department Chair, and Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, he helped to improve the lives of countless students, served as a mentor to many of his colleagues, led a significant expansion of the Political Science Department, and oversaw the addition of degrees in a number of different fields. Because of his many contributions to the University as a faculty member and philanthropist, the most popular meeting room in the Donaghey Student Center was renamed the Calvin R. Ledbetter Assembly Hall, something which gave him great pride. After his retirement, he remained an important presence on campus, continuing to work on his research, auditing classes in a wide range of subjects, and showing up his younger colleagues with his “iron man” tennis matches. His kindness, intelligence, generosity, and wit will be deeply missed.

We invite you to send your thoughts and recollections about Dr. Ledbetter to jcthomsen@ualr.edu so that we may share them here and on the Department’s Facebook page.

Ledbetter in Class

Below is the full text of his obituary, taken from the Arkansas Blog:

Calvin R. Ledbetter, Jr. (Cal Ledbetter), revered professor, author, politician and philanthropist died in Little Rock on August 10, 2013 at the age of 84.

He was the son of Calvin R. Ledbetter and Virginia Campbell Ledbetter and is survived by his son Grainger Ledbetter (Sherry Curry), his daughter Snow Ledbetter Moen (Chris) and five grandchildren—Campbell, Mary and Jeff Curry-Ledbetter, and Lily and Gwyneth Moen. He is preceded in death by his son, Jeffery Calvin Ledbetter and his wife of 55 years, Brownie Williams Ledbetter.

Born in Little Rock at Saint Vincent’s Infirmary on April 29, 1929, he attended public school in Little Rock and went to Princeton University, graduating from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He received a J.D. from the University of Arkansas Law School and served in the Student Senate. After briefly practicing law in Little Rock, he joined the Army as a member of the Judge Advocate General Corps and served in Germany for three years. After completing his military service he obtained a PhD in Political Science from Northwestern University where he taught as a graduate student.

In 1960 he joined the faculty at the University of Little Rock. From 1961-1978 he was chair of the Political Science Department which was soon expanded to include Criminal Justice. He was particularly proud that during his chairmanship the faculty grew from two to thirteen and an Associate Degree in Law Enforcement was created. Bachelor of Art Degrees in Political Science and Criminal Justice and Master of Arts in Criminal Justice and Public Administration were also added to the curriculum. In 1978, after a national search, he was selected as Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at UALR. During his ten-year tenure as Dean, Master of Arts degrees in Public History, Applied Psychology, and Technical and Expository Writing were established and the Center for Arkansas Studies and the Humanists as Mediators program (a program that employed Liberal Arts faculty members as mediators in minor legal disputes) was created. He also served as chair/president of the National Conference of Academic Deans, the Arkansas Political Science Association, the Arkansas History Commission, and the Arkansas Humanities Council. Upon his retirement from UALR he was made Professor Emeritus for Political Science.

A passionate student of Arkansas history, he wrote extensively about the state and its political past. His best known book, Carpenter from Conway, is a biography of the state’s 22nd governor, George W. Donaghey . He also co-authored three books, Politics in Arkansas: the Constitutional Experience, The Arkansas Plan: A Case Study in Public Policy, and Arkansas Becomes a State. In addition he authored over thirty articles for various journals including the Arkansas Historical Quarterly, the National Civic Review, the University of Arkansas Law Review and State Government.

His academic career was complemented by a successful career in politics. From 1967-1976 he served in the Arkansas Legislature and sponsored several significant initiatives including property tax relief for residents over 65, extended voting hours and a landmark study that led to major improvements in the operations of the Arkansas legislature. He served as a member of the executive committee of the National Council of State Legislatures and chaired the NCSL Criminal Justice Task Force. He was a delegate to Democratic conventions in 1968 and 1984, and served as an election night analyst for ABC from 1964-1984. A strong believer in the need for a new state constitution for Arkansas, he served as vice-president of the Arkansas Constitutional Convention of 1978-1979.

Always active in the community, he served on the Board of Trustees of Philander Smith College and the Boards of St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center and the Community Council of Central Arkansas. He was chair of the College and Universities Section of United Way and president of the West Little Rock Rotary Club. An ardent advocate for education, he endowed non-traditional scholarships and a monograph press at UALR and was a major supporter of Arkansas’s two public radio stations, KLRE/KUAR. A life-long Presbyterian, he served as deacon, elder, and session clerk for several Presbyterian churches in Little Rock.

He received the Arkansas Bar Association Writing Excellence Award and was recognized for outstanding contributions to the humanities by the Little Rock Arts and Humanities Commission. In 1994 UALR awarded him the Faculty Excellence Award for Public Service and he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Arkansas History Association in 2004. He is also listed in Who’s Who in America.

The family wishes to thank Cal’s dedicated and loving caregivers, Dorothy Jackson, Gail Johnson, Nancy Babbs and Dee, Violet and Robert of Compassionate Home Health

The family asks that memorials be made in the form of donations to UALR.

To learn more about Dr. Ledbetter, please visit the Calvin R. Ledbetter, Jr. Papers.

Calvin Ledbetter, Jr
Updated 8.16.2013