Monday July 15th, 2024 12:50PM

Officer Carol Leigh Ledford Memorial Intersection dedication set Friday in Cleveland

When Cleveland Police Officer Carol Leigh Ledford of Clarkesville was killed in 1999 by a drunk driver, the visitation was one of the largest in Clarkesville’s history with people lined up down the street for hours to get inside the funeral home.

The video of the first DUI arrest she made was made into a commercial by the Ad Council that still is being aired.

Now, almost 24 years since her death, District 51 State Sen. Steve Gooch has gotten the state legislature to approve naming a Cleveland intersection in Ledford’s memory.

A dedication of that intersection is set for Friday morning.

Melissa Strickland of Clarkesville said the intersection naming remembering her sister shows that Ledford has not been forgotten.

“It means everything because it just goes to show that our family and her friends, her family in the blue, is not going to let her death be in vain,” Strickland said

Ledford’s mother, Geraldine, of Clarkesville said the intersection dedication is an important reminder to those who would drink and drive.

“It means so much that she will just, the way I see it, she keeps on living here,” Ledford said. “I know where’s she at, but her life being a police officer meant so much to her and maybe it will get the attention of these other people. You know if you want to drink stay at home. You’re bothering nobody, hurting nobody, but yourself.”

At the time of her off-duty death, Ledford worked full-time for Cleveland Police Department but also worked part-time in Helen and for other agencies as well.

“She worked part-time for Demorest, Clarkesville,” Strickland said. “She also worked part-time, or maybe just for a short time, where she was working with the [Georgia Department of] Revenue where she was purchasing as an underage officer alcohol because she was firmly against drinking and driving – something that could take your life. She was firmly against that.”

Ledford put herself through the police academy for a career she had wanted since she was young.

“She was in the fifth grade, and she came home she said, ‘I'm going to be a police officer’ and I said ‘well you’ve got a long time, Carol Leigh, to think about that. ‘Oh no, I'm going to be one.' I said, ‘ok’.”

To be so young when she was killed, Ledford reached many lives, including one man she arrested for drinking and driving in November 1998. That man wrote the poem “Young Gun” about Ledford upon her death.

But he wasn’t the only one she touched.

“I had a friend of hers that he's younger than her,” Strickland said. “He was a deputy. And he came up to me and he told me that Carol Leigh was the reason why he went to church, and he got saved. And through Carol Leigh’s testimony, he's a Christian and you know, things like that. It's just wonderful. And just like the gentleman that she arrested, he's in the commercial. He wrote a poem about her. You know, not many people that's been arrested by a police officer can honestly say good things about them. They want to say you know, negative things, and I think that says a lot about her character.”

One of Strickland’s prized possessions is a letter from the leader of the Daisies, a group of kindergarten and first-grade girls at Cleveland Congregational Holiness Church who considered Ledford a hero and explained their reasons.

“I keep this letter with me because it's such a great reminder because she wanted to be a mentor for kids,” Strickland said. “And she wanted kids to know that police officers were good, and they were safe with them. And it just shows these little girls. They thought she was a hero because she was little and one of the little girls specifically you were saying she was the little lock mean those little kids. You know, I think it's something we need to be reminded that children are watching us not just police officers watching all of us and if you don't have a good character when you think somebody's not looking versus when someone is looking need to rethink things.”

Asked how she’s feeling now that the dedication is at hand, Strickland said, “I just have a lot of emotions and they're all happy emotions because when we lost Carol Leigh, I think our whole family — a part of all of us really died. We just weren't buried. I lost myself. And getting this done, it brought back confidence for me that I actually done something to help and to keep Carol Leigh's name going.”

Ledford’s mother said a part of her died when she lost her daughter, and she still struggles with that and always will.

“It’s still yet hard,” Ledford said. “It will soon be 24 years in April. It’s still hard, but I know where she is. That’s the only peace I get.”

Friday’s dedication will take place at 10 a.m. at the intersection of Hulsey Road (Appalachian Parkway) and NOK Drive. Parking will be along NOK Drive.

 

  • Associated Categories: Homepage, Local/State News
  • Associated Tags: dui, Habersham County, white county, Helen, Demorest, Cleveland Police Department, clarkesville, Helen Police Department, Clarkesville Police Department, Demorest Police Department, Georgia Department of Revenue, Cleveland , Officer Carol Leigh Ledford, intersection dedication
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