My Pulse News

Mena Arkansas News covering Polk County and the surrounding area

Tales from the Old West

James Franklin “Bud” Ledbetter

By Ray Shelley

I want to tell you a true story about a boy born in 1852; he got older wanted to be a successful farmer like his father and grandfather.  Being a policeman was the furthest thing from his mind.  Until the age of 27, married with two children, a white linen suit sent him on the way to a 48-year adventure in Law Enforcement; his name is James Franklin ‘Bud’ Ledbetter… 

Bud had moved his family to Coal Hill, Johnson County, Arkansas, from Madison County, Arkansas.  He felt the soil in Johnson County was best suited for his farming needs.  After settling the family into their new surroundings, Bud decided to pick up some extra income by seeking a part job in the surrounding coal mines.

One Saturday, Bud told his wife Mary that he would go to town for supplies and check out the job situation.

Mary said, “you are not going job hunting in those clothes; you go get your married suit on”  Bud replied, ” there is nothing wrong with the clothes I have on; they are clean,” Mary replied, “JAMES FRANKLIN, go get your suit on.”  When Mary used my two names together, I knew she meant business. Kind of like my mom would do if I did something wrong as I was growing up.  Anyway, to keep the peace, He put on his suit, which happened to be white linen.

Bud’s first stop in Coal Hill was the general store; he dropped off his supply list and told the clerk he would return for his items later.  Then he headed for the local saloon; even though Bud was a teetotaler, he knew if anybody knew about extra work, it would be workers relaxing in a saloon.

When Bud enters the saloon, he observed nine rough-looking coal miners, all of whom seem to be well into their cups.  When the miners saw Bud, they started in on ridiculing his linen suit, comments like, “did your mama dress you today” or “what a sweet looking guy,” but what upset Bud, when one of the drunks came up and pulled on his shirt to see if it was silk.  

Bud didn’t say a word; he turns and walks out of the saloon heading for the general store.  Bud then purchased an oak ax handle, returned to the saloon, locked the door behind him, and proceeded to knock out the nine miners that made fun of him.

In the meantime, a citizen of Coal Hill heard the commotion in the saloon and found the door locked, so he proceeded to get the Mayor.  When the Mayor arrived with several citizens, he broke open the saloon door and found Bud leaning against the bar slapping the ax handle in his hand; Bud looked at him and said, ” you want some of this?”  

The Mayor directed the citizens to clean up the mess Bud had made, then told Bud, “I’m the Mayor, and I would like to talk to you about a job.”  The Mayor offered Bud the job of Town Marshal.  That was the beginning of James Franklin ‘Bud’ Ledbetter’s 48 years as a peace officer…

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