Bob Ledbetter (’62) has climbed every mountain in the highly competitive world of Texas High School football.
He went from the playing fields of Southeastern State College to All-Everything as head coach of the Southlake Carroll Dragons.
Ledbetter comes home Saturday, August 23, when he will be inducted into the Southeastern Oklahoma State University Athletics Hall of Fame.
A native of Ardmore, Oklahoma, Ledbetter played football, baseball and ran track at Southeastern before blazing a trail through the Lone Star State that led to elite status in coaching.
He met his wife, the former Sue Patty, at Southeastern and they were married at mid-term of their senior years.
In 2005, he was honored as a Distinguished Alumnus at Southeastern.
Ledbetter said, “Southeastern was truly a wonderful experience in my life. You don’t realize all of that until you have been gone and you begin to look back at all of the relationships and friendships you developed while in college.”
One of those relationships/friendships was with Pat Phelps, a Durant native who was Ledbetter’s teammate on the Southeastern baseball team coached by Bloomer Sullivan.
“One semester I moved in with Pat,” Ledbetter said. “His parents were going on a trip and Pat and I thought this would work out great.
“The only problem was when Pat’s mom returned. We didn’t know they were coming home so we had not cleaned house since I had moved in.
“Pat’s mom was devastated. She told Pat they would have to have the house painted inside and that I needed to move out because I was a bad influence on him. Pat agreed.”
Ledbetter spent his first 10 years as an assistant coach before being named head coach at Frisco, Texas. After three years at Frisco, he took the position of head coach at Southlake Carroll, where he became a legend over the next 17 years.
Under Ledbetter, the Carroll Dragons won 208 games over a 17-year stretch that included three 16-0 state championships (1988, 1992, 1993) and a national-record 72 consecutive regular-season wins.
He has many times been named District Coach of the Year and was State Coach of the Year three times. He has coached All-Star teams, posted seven undefeated regular seasons and his 1986-1993 Dragons logged a cumulative 113-5-1 record.
The Horns Illustrated magazine (Vol. 8, Nos. 5-6) declared his 1992 team the Greatest Team of All-Time in Texas High School football in any classification. In 1993, Carroll was recognized as the Most Noteworthy football team in Texas and honored with the Gordon Wood Award.
Coaching was an obvious strength for Ledbetter, but he also placed a strong emphasis on academics as Carroll High School twice earned the University Interscholastic League’s Lone Star Cup for the state’s best athletic and academic programs.
Dr. Henry Scott, Superintendent of the Denison, Texas, ISD and former baseball teammate of Ledbetter’s at Southeastern, had glowing praise for the new Hall of Famer.
Scott said, “Everything Bob did was just top-notch quality. I played baseball with him at Southeastern. He always hustled and was very serious. He pitched, played the outfield and first base. He was a very good baseball player, a great teammate and a really good person.
“There’s no question he was a great coach. He was also a good administrator and director of athletics. Bob helped Carroll make the move from a small school up to class 5A and that’s not easy to do in Texas football.
“Great coaches don’t always turn out to be good administrators. Bob did both with the same excellent results.
“After his retirement, Bob started Champion Search Firm, a unique firm that specializes in matching the right coach with the right school.
“We have used his search firm and it’s just like everything else he has done. It’s absolutely first class and we are very, very pleased with the job they did for us. Our high school football coach/athletic director came through Champion Search Firm. I would certainly give him my highest recommendation.”
Phelps is a Durant lawyer and played baseball with Ledbetter at Southeastern.
“I was Bob’s catcher, fraternity brother, roommate and best man at his wedding to Sue,” Phelps said. “Even as a freshman, Bob was often humorous and always personable; the perfect gentleman. We all knew he would be successful at whatever he choose to do in the future.”
There are many favorite stories among Southeastern athletes who played under coach Sullivan and Ledbetter has one of his own.
“This would be in the ‘funny’ category, probably,” Ledbetter said. “I remember going with Bloomer on baseball trips in the school van. I remember no one wanted to ride in the van where Bloomer was smoking, with that awful-smelling pope that he would beat on the dash to get the tobacco out.
“I remember playing at Northwest Louisiana with a river running behind the baseball field. When we were warming up down at one end of the field, Bloomer called us up wearing a pair of waders and carrying a fly rod.
“I remember he said, ‘You guys get after them, I am going fishing.’ ‘’
Among his Southeastern highlights, Ledbetter listed being able to associate with some great people who had the same dreams and aspirations. Lowlights were few other than tearing up his knee in his senior year.
“I had the opportunity to attend Oklahoma State, but I chose Southeastern,” Ledbetter said. “It was one of the smartest decisions I ever made. We were able to create a lot of great memories and still be able to stay in touch with people. We developed great friendships while at Southeastern.”
Harold Harmon can be reach at HHarmon@se.edu.