DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Tony Ledbetter, chairman of the executive committee of the Volusia County Republican Party and Central Florida's No. 1 Donald Trump fan, passed away earlier today, Feb. 13, 2019, surrounded by family members. He was 71.
Ledbetter was diagnosed with Cancer in late November and fought hard for the last 10 weeks, according to his wife, Toni, who was at his bedside when he passed on.
Maureen France, a longtime GOP activist and Ledbetter friend, was saddened by the news of Ledbetter's passing.
"So very sad indeed," France told Headline Surfer, adding, "so many people loved Tony. His tenacity to get the job done was unmatched. Love him or hate him, he had a job to do and by gosh he did it! It is a sad day for Volusia Republicans: We will march on as Tony would want us to do."
Margie Patchett, a longtime friend of Ledbetter's was stoic: "RIP my dear dear friend. I love you and you will be sorely missed. RIP and I am sure you are preparing for a huge Trump rally in heaven. You did your job here on earth and I am sure God has said to you, 'Well done good and faithful servant.' I am going to donate to our local Republican Party in (your) memory I will miss you."
Melody McSorley Johnson, a former school board member and chair, said of Ledbetter's death: "I am truly sad that Volusia County and the nation has lost a great American. As a former elected official, he supported all that I did. He cared about our students, county, and nation. I was truly blessed to know him and call him friend. I pray now for all his family and friends that we find peace in the midst of the storm and joy in our memories."
Native Georgian took stepfather's name
Ledbetter was born on March 11, 1947 in Columbus, Ga., to Edward Laverne Tudor and Laura Johnson Tudor. Ledbetter was adopted by his step-father, Henry Ledbetter, and took his name. He graduated from Jordan Vocational High School in 1965 in Columbus and then served in the United States Air Force for 4 years entering in 1966, receiving his Honorable Discharge as Sergeant in 1970.
After working in the Insurance business for several years, Ledbetter began work with the National Federation of Independent Business, a lobby organization for small business, and rose to district manager for portions of Georgia and South Carolina before starting his own small business in 1991. Though his first name was Earl, Ledbetter early on in life preferred instead to be called by his middle name, Tony.
A proud Barry Goldwater conservative, Ledbetter became active in politics first with the election in 1980 of Ronald Reagan for President. He loved Ronald Reagan and attended the President's State Funeral activities in Washington D.C. in June 2004, paying his respects in the Rotunda of the US Capitol.
Once his two children, Anthony Scott Ledbetter and Kimberly Lynn Ledbetter Patterson grew up and began their own lives, he and his wife, Toni, moved to Daytona Beach in 1996, and settled into the Ormond By The Sea area for the last 23 years.
Elected as chairman of Volusia County GOP
Ledbetter became active in the Volusia County Republican Party as a volunteer in 1996. In 2010 he was elected vice chairman of the Republican Executive Committee. Near the tail-end of 2012, he was elected chairman, re-elected in 2014 and 2016, and was just re-elected in December to continue his role as chairman until 2020.
In 2009, Ledbetter jumped right into the Tea Party movement that was sweeping the nation and brought his entire family to Washington for the March on Washington. Upon his return home, he helped organize Volusia 912 groups throughout Volusia County.
Ledbetter was a strong supporter of Gov. Rick Scott from 2010 to his US Senate race in 2018.
Through all of his political activities, Ledbetter has been credited with building a strong Republican Party in Volusia County, becoming the majority party on the Volusia County Council and among the Volusia elected officials in the Florida State Legislature. In May 2017, the number of registered Republicans passed the registered Democrats for the first time in Volusia County history.
In 2015, Ledbetter became one of Donald J. Trump's first believers in Volusia County. Soon on staff with the Trump Campaign for the March 2016 Presidential Primary Election, he made believers out of most all he met: He opened a Trump Victory Headquarters and organized a Trump Rally that packed the Ocean Center and spilled onto the streets of Daytona Beach.
Elected as delegate to GOP convention in Cleveland
With the Trump Florida Primary victory, Ledbetter was elected to serve as a delegate to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in the summer of 2016, and cast his vote to nominate Donald J. Trump as the party nominee for president.
Upon his return from the GOP convention, Ledbetter continued on the Trump Team serving as regional political director for 22 Florida counties. He also was in charge of statewide distribution of Trump signs and T-shirts to local counties and helped in the many Trump rallies around the state.
What Ledbetter called, “the Honor of my life” happened when he was appointed one of 29 Florida Electors for Donald J. Trump and cast his vote "for our next President" on Dec. 19, 2016, in the Senate Chamber of the Florida State Capitol.
After attending Inauguration festivities in January 2017, Ledbetter returned home to promote and participate in a new weekly radio show on WNDB called “Trump Talk Live” to promote President Trump's agenda and to ensure that the real news was made available to the public in light of the “fake news” being put out by the socialist media organizations.
100% support for Donald Trump
Ledbetter began every speech with, “I was glad when I woke up today and Donald Trump was still my President!”
He had 100% confidence in President Trump and would have been a staunch supporter for the 2020 re-election campaign. Ledbetter worked every day for the Republican Party. He was known by all as “the General”, “the Boss” and “the Energizer Bunny." A beloved volunteer described him as “a force of nature."
No one could outwork him and most strived to help him. He loved and appreciated his “peeps” and the volunteer work and money they contributed to make him and the Republican Party successful.
Ledbetter began every speech with, “I was glad when I woke up today and Donald Trump was still my President!” He had 100% confidence in President Trump and would have been a staunch supporter for the 2020 re-election campaign. Ledbetter worked every day for the Republican Party. He was known by all as “the General”, “the Boss” and “the Energizer Bunny." A beloved volunteer described him as “a force of nature."
No one could outwork Ledbetter and most strived to help him. He loved and appreciated his “peeps” and the volunteer work and money they contributed to make him and the Republican Party successful.
The friendships and support of so many meant everything to Ledbetter, former Deltona City Commissioner Webster Barnaby told Headline Surfer.
Barnaby, who is a candidate for the 27th District seat in the Florida House, said Ledbetter was second to none in terms of his passion for the GOP and for Donald Trump, in particular.
"Tony was Donald Trump's No. 1 fan through thick and thin in his run for the White House, and since he took the oath of office as president," Barnaby said. "Tony's passion was what drove me to run for the statehouse in 2020."
Ledbetter served the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) as district 6 caucus chairman from 2012-'16; vice chairman of the chairman’s caucus and as vice chairman of the Trump Voter Engagement Committee in 2017-'18.
Supported and pushed Ron DeSantis for Florida governor campaign
Ledbetter began helping Ron DeSantis in 2012 for his first election as Volusia County and 6th District Congressman. He wanted DeSantis to run for governor and spent great time reaching out to other counties in Florida through Facebook to start talking about Desantis to those who didn’t know of his conservative values and background.
He was so proud to host a Rally visit right before the general election at the Volusia Republican Victory Headquarters with Jeanette Nunez, Rudy Giulani and Pam Bondi traveling with Ron and Casey DiSantis. Over 500 people attended inside and outside too.
Volusia County gave DeSantis a high vote percentage and Ledbetter was again proud to host a "Thank You Tour Stop" the first week of December at the Riverside Pavilion with a packed room.
Ledbetter had tremendous faith that DeSantis will prove to be one of Florida’s best governors and that he will guide the Sunshine State back to the Constitution he believed in so much.
Battle with cancer after Thanksgiving overwhelming
Ledbetter's sudden battle with Cancer after Thanksgiving was overwhelming and he regretted so much that he could not see everyone again to say goodbye. He was able to spend some time with his wife, Toni, and his children and grandchildren whom he loved so deeply.
Funeral arrangements are being handled by Volusia Memorial Funeral Home.
Earl Tony Ledbetter was pre-deceased by his first wife and Mother of his children, Juanita Marie Ledbetter.
Ledbetter is survived by his wife, Toni; his son, Anthony Scott Ledbetter and daughter-in-law Debbie Ledbetter; his daughter Kimberly Lynn Patterson and son-in-law Brett Patterson; step-daughter Lisa Cummings; grandchildren Lauren Ledbetter, Kyle Ledbetter, Brenna Patterson, Braylon Patterson, Bristol Patterson and step-grandchildren Christopher Cummings, Lindsey Ready and Allie Cummings; half-brothers Gary Ledbetter, Edward Tudor, Eric Tudor and Ricky; and half-sister, Lee Tudor Hance; many nieces, nephews and cousins.
In lieu of flowers, please support the American Cancer Society. Cards may be sent to P. O. Box 10747, Daytona Beach, Fl 32120.