|Birth: ||Apr. 28, 1932|
|Death: ||Mar. 21, 2010|
Mary Brown "Brownie" Williams Ledbetter is a lifelong political activist who worked in many controversial and crucial campaigns in Arkansas, as well as nationally and internationally. A catalyst in many local grassroots organizations, she has exhibited a dedication to fair education and equality across racial, religious, and cultural lines.
Born on April 28, 1932, in Little Rock, Mary Brown Williams was the first of four children born to William H. Williams, a businessman and dairy farmer, and Helon Brown Williams. Born with brown eyes, she was nicknamed "Brownie" by her family. After her mother's death in 1947 and her father's death in 1950, Williams and her siblings were raised by relatives Grainger and Frances Williams, who moved into the Tall Timber Jersey Farm (the Williams family farm) with their own two children.
Williams graduated from Little Rock High School (later named Central High School). She went on to attend Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, from 1950 to 1953 but felt she did not fit the image of Southern womanhood the school projected and did not finish her degree. On July 26, 1953, she married Calvin Reville Ledbetter, an attorney and political science professor. The pair relocated to Germany, where Ledbetter was stationed with the U.S. Army for three years before returning to the United States, residing first in Illinois and later in Arkansas. The couple had three children. Her middle son, Jeffrey Ledbetter, died unexpectedly in 1986.
While in Germany, Ledbetter first learned about the growing crisis surrounding the desegregation of Central High School. Her aunt signed Ledbetter up for the Women's Emergency Committee to Save Our Schools (WEC), which supported the reopening of public schools in Little Rock. When Ledbetter returned to Little Rock, she immediately began volunteering with the group. After the dissolution of WEC in 1963, Ledbetter worked with the Panel of American Women, a nonpartisan forum focused on religious and racial diversity in which women discussed their own personal experiences in an effort to bridge the gap between people of different races and cultures. In 1981 the panel became the Arkansas Public Policy Panel and expanded its mission to include organizing and assisting grassroots groups. Ledbetter served as volunteer executive director before retiring in 1999 and oversaw the creation of the Arkansas Citizen's First Congress, a progressive political force in Arkansas legislative and political affairs.
In 1983, Ledbetter founded the Arkansas Fairness Council, a coalition of twenty-three organizations representing labor, African Americans, teachers, environmental and church organizations, serving as president and lobbyist for fifteen years. Other organizations on Ledbetter's résumé include the Arkansas Women's Political Caucus (founding member), the ERA/Arkansas Coalition (organizing member, 1973–1978), Arkansas Career Resources, Inc. (founder and executive director from 1985 to 1990), the Southern Coalition for Educational Equity (state director from 1982 to 1985), the Arkansas State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the State Federation of Business and Professional Women (legislative director), and the Women's Environment and Development Organization (co-founder with Bella Abzug).
In addition to her grassroots activities, Ledbetter worked with many state and national political campaigns. In 1967, she served as campaign manager for her husband's successful bid for the Arkansas General Assembly. Brownie served as organizer and consultant in Dale Bumper's run for governor in 1970. She ran the Arkansas McGovern for President Campaign and was a senior consultant to the Fulbright senatorial campaign in 1974. Ledbetter served as the first Political Action Chair of the National Women's Political Caucus in 1973 and was part of the successful statewide effort to support the appointment of the first African American federal judge from Arkansas. Her work with the Democratic Party also includes a place on the State Democratic Central Committee from 1968 to 1974 and the position of Affirmative Action Committee Coordinator for the State Democratic Party in 1973–1974. She was the organizer of the first Planned Parenthood affiliate and clinic in Arkansas in 1984 and spearheaded the defeat of the first statewide ballot initiative to restrict private and legal forms of birth control and abortion.
Through her service on the Women's Environmental and Development Organization (WEDO) and the Brooklyn based National Congress of Neighborhood Women, she had the opportunity to work with women and minorities from many countries. Ledbetter has participated as a nongovernmental delegate in UN prepatory and commission meetings in New York, at the UN Conference on Environmental and Developmental in Rio, the UN Conference on Population and Development in Cario, the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, the UN Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa and the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg.
Ledbetter has received countless awards and recognitions, including the American Civil Liberties Union Civil Libertarian of the Year, the Mary Hatwood Futrell Award from the National Education Association, the Father Joe Biltz Award from the Just Communities for Central Arkansas and the National Women's History Month Award. She was the inspiration for the "Brownie Ledbetter Dragonslayer Award" awarded each year by the Arkansas Public Policy Panel and the Arkansas Citizen's Congress for outstanding achievement in the field of social justice.
After her retirement, she worked on public school issues involving the achievement gap among low income and majority students and served on the national board of the Center for the Advancement of Women in New York City. Brownie was a founding member of the Women's Foundation of Arkansas. An ordained Elder in the Presbyterian Church, she was active in Church affairs.
Brownie is survived by her husband Cal Ledbetter; son Grainger and wife Sherry Curry; daughter, Snow and husband Chris Moen; siblings, Grainger "Bish" Williams, Quendy Veatch, June Williams, Ann Wedaman and Alfred Williams; Uncle Grainger Williams and Aunt Frances. She leaves five grandchildren, Gwyneth, Lily, Mary, Jeffrey and Campbell, and numerous nephews and nieces.
Funeral services were held at 2:00 PM on Friday, March 26, 2010, at First Presbyterian Church, 8th and Scott, officiated by Rev. Bill Holmes. A reception followed immediately at the church until 4:00 PM. Burial services were held at 4:30 PM at Roselawn Memorial Park. Arrangements were by Ruebel Funeral Home.
Calvin R. Ledbetter (1929 - 2013)*
Roselawn Memorial Park
Created by: Anonymous
Record added: Mar 23, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 50116224