Ted Roland Ledford, 87, passed away peacefully and with grace at home in Little Switzerland, North Carolina, supported by his loving family, on June 12, 2021. The son of Jess Ledford and Doanie Buchanan Ledford, Ted was born on May 27, 1934 in Bakersville, North Carolina, and grew up in the White Oak community, the eldest brother of Darrell, Bruce, and Lee Roy Ledford.
Ted graduated from Bowman High School in 1952 and until 1956 worked a series of service, mining, and manufacturing jobs in Mitchell and McDowell Counties, with one short, unhappy foray to the car factories of Detroit, returning quickly to the rural mountains he preferred and to Mitchell County where he made his home for the rest of his life. Conscripted into the Korean War in 1956 and trained as an electronics technician in the United States Army, Ted married Eleanor McKinney of Little Switzerland before shipping out to Uijongbu, Korea, where he served in a communications center. After his tour of active duty in Korea, Ted enrolled in Appalachian State Teachers College in Boone, North Carolina, and discovered a love of academia, deciding in his senior year to become a college professor. Ted earned his bachelor’s degree in English and history in 1961 and his master’s degree in English in 1963, both from Appalachian State. He accepted a faculty position at nearby Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, North Carolina, in 1963 and taught there until 1967 when, with the encouragement of the college and the support of government grants, he enrolled in the doctoral program at Ohio University, earning the doctor of philosophy degree in British literature in 1974. Dr. Ledford returned to Lees-McRae where he was the only PhD on the faculty and where he was to spend the rest of his professional career teaching composition, British literature, and Shakespeare (whose work he especially loved and often quoted), retiring in 2002 as Professor Emeritus of English. In addition to his pedagogical, scholarly, and service responsibilities at Lees-McRae, including time as department chair, Ted was an early supporter of—and periodically director of—The Appalachian Consortium, an organization of higher education institutions and other governmental and not-for-profit groups dedicated to the Southern Appalachian region and its residents. Ted’s love of language, literature, and place came together in his commitment to his students and in his scholarly work as a consultant on the Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English (2004). In 1998, The Appalachian Consortium honored Ted with its Laurel Leaf Award for significant contributions to the Appalachian region’s life and scholarship.
An avid fly fisherman and fly tier from a young age, Ted spent decades fishing the high, cold, laurel-covered streams of his Appalachian home with family and friends, and eventually sons-in-law and a grandson, and took an annual trip (well over fifty) to Livingston, Montana, to test his skills in that world-class center of fly fishing. The Shields River, Cherry Creek, and the Boulder River in Big Sky Country were there for Ted at the end of every summer. Ted’s love of fishing was only matched by his love of photography and travel, three recreational pursuits that worked well together. Ted photographed and videoed the Appalachian Mountains; the American West and the Rocky Mountains; and Western Europe, especially the British Isles and Spain, creating photographs and videos of people and place that evoke connection, respect, and love. And Ted could always be counted on to document every family event. He turned these technical, language, and artistic skills into a small media business, Ledford Productions, initially with his brother Bruce, a professor of communications, and finally on his own.
A witty, curious, creative, hard-working, and loving son, brother, brother-in-law, husband, father, father-in-law, grandfather, and friend, Ted was preceded in death by his parents, Jess and Doanie Ledford; two brothers, Darrell Ledford and Bruce Ledford; and one brother-in-law, Dwight Howell. He is survived by his beloved wife of sixty-four years, Eleanor; daughters Katherine Ledford (Bakersville) and Victoria Ledford O’Connor (Alexandria, Virginia, and Little Switzerland); sons-in-law Brian McKinney and Corey O’Connor; grandchildren Ada Ledford McKinney and Zebulon Ledford McKinney, both college students; brother Lee Roy Ledford and sister-in-law Sue Ledford (Bakersville); sisters-in-law Wanda Ledford (Bakersville) and Amelia Ledford (Bakersville); and numerous nieces, nephews, great-nieces, and great-nephews in addition to his wife Eleanor’s sisters Marion Howell (Brevard) and Rachel McKinney (Marion, NC) and brother-in-law Donald McKinney.
A private, family graveside service will take place on June 14, 2021 at Wilson Cemetery in the White Oak community of Bakersville with a Celebration of Life for extended family and friends later in the summer. Pallbearers are Brian McKinney, Corey O’Connor, Zebulon McKinney, Tommy Ledford (nephew), and great-nephews Jess Ledford and Luke Deyton. Darrell "Scooter" Ledford (nephew) is a honorary pallbearer. Henline-Hughes is assisting the family.
The family wishes to extend its heartfelt gratitude to caregivers Louise McClellan and Chris Hobson and to the practitioners and staff of Hospice and Palliative Care of the Blue Ridge. They made Ted’s desire to be at home possible and supported Eleanor tirelessly. In lieu of flowers, please consider contributions to Hospice and Palliative Care of the Blue Ridge.
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