North Carolina Conservatives Questions Education Cuts

Notes by Eric Byler written on the day this interview was recorded in Aug. 2013. Release of this video was delayed due to a tense political climate in the mountains of western North Carolina.

Today we met with the Ledford family and filmed a long interview. They wanted to be interviewed all at once so it was six people plus Annabel. Not easy to light or to film, but I got most of it using 3 cameras.

Lee Roy Ledford, a former Mitchell County Commissioner, and the family as a whole are trying to navigate the shifting dynamics of politics in the region.

Luke and Jake Deyton, Lee Roy's grandsons, are college-bound very articulate and identify as Democrats, which the family light-heartedly tolerates. Lee Roy's daughter Tracy married into the Deyton family which she described as conservative Democrats, or "Dixiecrats." Lee Roy's son, their uncle Tommy Ledford, is a school board member who says he does not plan to seek higher office. He was the most conservative person at the table, and expressed the closest thing to disapproval of the boys' Democratic affiliation.

Lee Roy and his grandsons all expressed frustration with hate-based political rhetoric and what they called propaganda. Lee Roy's fallout with fellow Republicans in Mitchell County began with the marriage amendment (On May 8, 2012, North Carolina voters approved the amendment, 61.04% to 38.96%, with a voter turnout of 34.66%). He and the other county commissioners voted unanimously to encourage voters to vote their conscience. This was turned into, "Lee Roy is for gays getting married," and he was defeated in the next primary. He says his political career is over, and he and his son Tommy gave emphatic, negative responses when I asked if they were thinking of running a slate of moderate Republicans in the next primary.

Tracy spoke passionately about the teaching profession, and lovingly about her experience in Raleigh attending a Moral Monday protest themed around education.

Grandma Sue Ledford was very emotional, as her grandson Luke is soon to leave for Appalachian State University (about an hour away), and, as both her grandsons say they can't imagine making a living in Bakersville. Tracy seemed to have come to terms with the reality that the town held very little for her sons, especially if they are to surpass their parents' generations education levels, as her generation had.

We were introduced to the family with Lee Roy's proud statement that the Ledfords had been in Bakersville for 8 or 9 generations dating back to the 1700's. I later noticed that the Monument to the Confederate Dead, which was erected in 2011 at the base of the courthouse shown in the first image of this video, includes a Ledford.

The family seems to feel that the TEA Party movement had fueled the lurch to the right in the county. Annabel shared her philosophy and faith that open dialogue will improve conditions up here by allowing others who agree with the Ledford family to come out of the woodwork, once there is a safe environment, and more role models who demonstrate civic courage.

Below, Tracy Ledford-Deyton speaks at a Moral Monday event in nearby Burnsville, NC

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