U.L. and Emogene Ledbetter


Many buildings and homes in and around the Livingston area were crafted by the hands of a fellow who was much in demand when it came to good building skills.He was a bachelor until he was in his 30s, when he met his future wife, Emogene, on the square in Livingston.

U.L. Ledbetter, the son of Norman Ledbetter and Lockie (Richardson) Ledbetter, grew up in the Fredonia Community near Livingston. He was one of seven children – two girls and five boys whose names were Clifton, Gladys, who went by the nickname “Shorty”, Corbet, J.V., Mary Alma, and Helen.

He described his life growing up as a happy one. The Ledbetter home on Saturday nights was the place where neighbors gathered to listen to the Grand Ole Opry on the radio. His family lived not too far from the one-room school at Fredonia where the children walked to attend. Two of the teachers he can remember who taught there were Haskel Huddleston and Bernice Ledbetter. He began his working career at the very young age of 14, and when he was about 16, he enrolled in a trade school in Jamestown where he learned the skills of carpentry work, along with plumbing and wiring.




In 1943, he enlisted in the United States Navy and served for four years on the USS Ringgold in the Pacific Ocean. The same day he enlisted, he was taken by train from Cookeville to Nashville, and then on to Great Lakes, IL, for three weeks and four days of boot camp. Following boot camp, he left by ship headed for North Africa. For a period of 33 months, his feet did not touch soil anywhere. As a new recruit, he had to endure an initiation ceremony that was given just as the ship crossed the Equator. He described the ordeal in great detail, and it was definitely not something anyone would soon forget. It was when he had returned home from service and had begun work as a builder that he asked Emogene Sells for a date, after seeing her sitting in a car on the square in Livingston.

Emogene grew up in Pickett County, near the Hatcher Hall Community. She was the oldest of eight children whose parents were Booze Sells and Elmer “Tood” (Taylor) Sells. The log home they lived in consisted of two big rooms, and was located not too far from where years later the ferry crossed Dale Hollow Lake. Her family members were Willodean, Ina Ruth, Billy Dren, who went by the nickname “Buster”, Douglas, Johnny Benton, Irene, and Kenneth Ray. She and her sisters and brothers walked some three or four miles from their home to attend school at Plain Grove. The school building consisted of two rooms and had two teachers. Emogene remembers Lectie Bilbrey, Opal Sells, Ona Amonett, Ray Jouett, and Ray Huffer as being some of the teachers who taught at the school.

Snow days were unheard of during the time Emogene went to Plain Grove. They went to school, regardless of the weather, and would sometimes put socks on over their shoes for the walk to school in snowy weather. Some of the other families Emogene remembers who had children in school at Plain Grove, (which is known by many even today as Possum Trot), were Marshal Flowers, Bigam Johnson, Ed and Virgie Jolly, Billy Morgan and Rose Garrett, and Lester and Ruby Winningham. The school had a wood-burning stove, which was later changed over to a stove that burned coal.

After completing grade school at Plain Grove, students were bussed to Byrdstown to attend high school. Emogene started high school in Byrdstown, but quit before graduating, and later achieved her GED diploma. She began a career that totaled some 27 years in the nursing field at Lady Ann Hospital. Some of the work she did involved caring for babies in the hospital nursery and helping in surgery. She also worked at what is known now as Livingston Regional Hospital, but quit following a layoff of some of the younger employees. Although she was not included in the number laid off, she said she quit because some of the younger ones who became unemployed had small children, and her own were grown, so she felt they needed work more than she did. But that didn’t end her working life. She continued on as a care giver for many families in the Livingston area long after she was no longer employed at the hospital.


She told me that she and U.L. dated for at least two or three years before they married, and when I asked why they waited that long to marry, she said she considered marriage to be something you did for life, and she wanted to be sure it was the right thing to do.  When they did decide to get married, Clifford Ingram, who was the minister at the Livingston First United Methodist Church, performed the ceremony. After hearing that U.L. and Emogene had gotten married, some of the local carpenters who were good friends of U.L., like Byrd Dillon and Harold England, came looking for them. But U.L. said his car was a little too fast for anyone to catch them, so they got away before any mischief his fellow workers had in mind to do to the newly wed couple could be accomplished.

Emogene remembers that her uncle, Bush Taylor, gave them their first radio. The first few weeks of their married life were spent in the home of the Ledbetter parents, and shortly afterward, the couple rented a home in the same neighborhood. Some years later, U.L. built the home they still live in today, although it was moved just down the road to where it is now.


Two sons, David and Douglas, make up their family. When the boys were small, U.L. covered up the hardwood floors in their home to ensure the boys had a good place to play.  He told me he never had to spank either one of the boys while they were growing up, and that only on one occasion was there ever a time that he was talked back to by one of his sons. He and Emogene had an understanding that one didn’t interfere with the other when the boys were being disciplined. Their family now includes one grandson and one granddaughter, and as typical grandparents will do, their eyes light up just talking about these two grandchildren.

Apple trees grow near their home and most every year, they dry the fruit – something they both enjoy doing. Emogene shared with me a recipe for dried apple stack cake from a cookbook of recipes Marie White Lewis put together, and she assured me that it was one that would not fail.

At least 17 or 18 homes and/or buildings in and around Livingston have been built by U.L.’s skillful hands. First United Methodist Church here in Livingston was one of the places he helped build, and he said that his hands were the last ones to touch the cross of the steeple on that church.

It’s easy to see that their marriage has been as solid as any of the homes and buildings U.L. helped to construct during his working career, and that Emogene’s decision about getting married that took some time to reach proved to be the right one for both of them.

Both U.L. and Emogene were very good at, not only their chosen professions in life, but in the raising of two fine sons. Their lives, their marriage, and their family have all started with something that is very necessary to achieve the best results, and that’s a good foundation.


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