Calvin Reville “Cal” Ledbetter, Jr., was born April 29, 1929, in Little Rock, Arkansas, to Virginia and Cal Ledbetter, Sr. (II). His father served as president of the Boyle Realty Company, having inherited shares from his mother, Snow Ledbetter Boyle, and stepfather, John F. Boyle, Jr., who founded the prestigious firm.
After graduating from Little Rock Central High School, Ledbetter went on to earn an undergraduate degree from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. He returned to earn his Juris Doctorate from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. After a period from 1955 to 1957 when he was stationed in Germany as a member of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General Corps, he was awarded a Ph.D. in Political Science from Northwestern University in 1961.
In 1953, Ledbetter married Mary Brown “Brownie” Williams (1932-2010), who became a political activist in her own right as a member of the Women’s Emergency Committee in 1958 and a founder of the Panel of American Women in Arkansas (later the Arkansas Public Policy Panel) in 1963. Cal and Brownie had three children, Grainger, Jeffrey (deceased), and Snow. This exhibit features an article on Brownie’s accomplishments that was contributed by the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, which holds Brownie’s papers.
In 1960, Ledbetter joined the faculty at Little Rock University (now the University of Arkansas at Little Rock). Over his long tenure with the university, he served in various roles including chair of the Department of Political Science and dean of the College of Liberal Arts (now the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences). He retired from the university in 1997 and was awarded emeritus status as professor.
In addition to his academic career, Ledbetter served five terms in the Arkansas House of Representatives from 1967 to 1977. A strong advocate of legislative reform, Ledbetter chaired the Committee on Legislative Organization and championed the Eagleton Institute’s study of the Arkansas legislature. He was also elected as a delegate to the state Constitutional Convention of 1968-1970, and again as one of four vice presidents of the Constitutional Convention of 1978-1980. Ledbetter additionally chaired the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Task Force after serving on its first executive committee, and was later appointed to the National Advisory Committee on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals. Ledbetter was also a delegate to two Democratic National Conventions, 1968 and 1984.