Cover photo for Donald Holt Ledford's Obituary
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1929 Donald 2019

Donald Holt Ledford

October 7, 1929 — May 27, 2019

Donald Holt Ledford, 89, (Don) of Cleveland, Tennessee passed away May 27, 2019.   He was the founder of Don Ledford Automotive Center.  He was a member of Center Point Baptist Church, former Cleveland Rotarian and Elks Lodge member.

The Ledford family had a very long history in Bradley Co., his great grandfather William Lafayette Ledford settled here in the late 1800’s purchasing a 2500-acre farm in Charleston on the Hiwassee River.  The farm included a 300-acre island that became known as Ledford Island.

Don was a very well-known entrepreneur, developer and businessman, starting his working life at a very young age working on family farms.  He loved to tell the story of hopping on the ferry at what is now B and B Marina and riding it over to the “the island” along with equipment and crew to farm, how fertile and rich the land was there.  After that he learned the saw milling trade and at the age of 14 started his first business, purchasing his own sawmill and putting together a crew to run it.  He could still drive around and tell you buildings, homes and barns that he supplied the lumber for many years ago.  In his mid-twenties he got involved in the automobile business, going up to Detroit purchasing vehicles and bringing them back down to Tennessee to sell.  He worked very hard for many years acquiring tractor trailers to transport what became a very large operation. He became very well known and respected in the automobile industry.   In the early seventies he started developing properties the first being the Cloverleaf Center.  He then began developing a warehousing business.  He was one of the first to bring the mini-warehousing concept to Cleveland.  He then became one of the first commercial warehousing developers. His first project was a truck terminal for Mason Dixon truck lines.  He then got a contract from Duracell to build a large climate-controlled facility and went on to do business with Eaton, Georgia Pacific and other nationally known companies.

In 1981 the Pontiac and Buick franchises became available and he opened Don Ledford Pontiac Buick in a location that everyone considered the country at the time. Fortunately, the third Cleveland exit came along, and the start of the Paul Huff Parkway began.  It became one of the more centrally located dealerships in town.  In 2001 he acquired Cadillac and GMC, thus becoming Don Ledford Pontiac Buick Cadillac GMC.  In 2007 the family was able to acquire Heritage Pontiac Buick GMC and Athens Chevrolet Cadillac in Athens, to combine them into one store and one location on Congress Parkway.  In 2012 the Chevrolet franchise became available and was added to the line up on North Lee Hwy in Cleveland.  The family built new facilities in both locations and had the GM franchises for the whole territory between Chattanooga and Knoxville.  He was very proud of the stores and was truly a GM man through and through.

Don truly appreciated all the thousands of customers and many employees he got to meet through out the years.  He loved to get up and go to work every day, in fact even in his later years he was often still the first one there every morning making the coffee.  Even when he could barely communicate, he wanted to get up and “go to work”.

The family would like to thank all the people of Bradley, McMinn and Hamilton counties for their patronage and support through out the many years.  Don Ledford had a full and unique life.  He had an unreal work ethic, drive and determination.  Coupled with a strong sense of loyalty and great sense of humor, he will be missed by many.

He was preceded in death by his parents, William LaFayette Ledford and Myrtle Frances Shields Ledford; brother, William Julian Ledford; and sister, Betty Jean McDaniel.

Survivors include his children, Donald Holt Ledford II and Debbie Ledford Melton (James Kenneth Melton spouse); lifelong companion and friend Melody Pendergrass; six grandchildren, Lauren Olivia Ledford, Caroline Reed Ledford, Julia Holt Ledford, James William Melton, Ella Marie Melton and Jessica Ann Melton; several nieces and nephews; former wife, Ella Sue Bacon Ledford; and special friends, Randy and Wendy Scott, Sammy Shelton and Trinity Scott, Misty Pendergrass and Hannah Lawson.

 Funeral services will be at 1:00pm on Friday, May 31, 2019 in the Ralph Buckner Funeral Home Chapel with Mitch McClure and Terry Daniels officiating. Interment will follow at Center Point Baptist Church Cemetery with Joe Moore, James William Melton, James Kenneth Melton, John Carroll, David Carroll, William Jenkins, Ross Tarver, Dr. Carlton Vollberg and Larry Hooper serving as pallbearers.   Jim Duggan, Harve McClure, Larry Lowe, Larry McDaniel, Gary Phillips and Johnny Holden will serve as honorary pallbearers. A white dove release ceremony and playing of bagpipes will conclude the services.

His family will receive friends from 4:00 – 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 30 2019 at the funeral home.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial donations may be made to Center Point Baptist Church, 1204 Lower River Road NW, Charleston, TN 37310.

Don Ledford Automotive Center will be closed from 12:00 – 3:00 p.m. on Friday, May 31.

We invite you to send a message of condolence and view the Ledford family guestbook at

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Donald Holt Ledford, please visit our flower store.


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