HIAWASSEE — The revivalist Vance Havner once remarked, “We won’t know who the great preachers are until we get to heaven.” Harold Ledford, 71 and pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church in Hiawassee for 30 years, passed away on Feb. 11. He may have already been identified as one of those great preachers upon entering his heavenly home.
Ledford, known in the community as “Preacher Ledford,” was intricately involved in the life of the community. He had served as a volunteer firefighter in Habersham County in years past. He drove a school bus for Townes County for 30 years. From all reports he not only transported students to and from school with care, but also used that role to exert a calming influence upon the students and became a mentor to countless children and coworkers in the school system.
Bradley Thomas, associate and youth pastor at Macedonia, was quoted in the Towns County Herald as saying, “As a selfless and humble servant, [Preacher Ledford] never made it about himself, but always the advancement of the Gospel.
“He has been called the community pastor many times due to his willingness to step in and help, regardless of whether a person attended church or not. He loved driving the bus. It was a ministry to him.”
A community’s response
The Towns County Herald reported, “When the Towns County Board of Education and Schools Superintendent Dr. Darren Berrong learned that Ledford had passed on … they decided to give everyone the day off Monday so that they could attend the funeral.”
Roger Dyer, faithful Macedonia member, commented, “Reverend Ledford was regarded as the community pastor. He loved everyone and was always willing to help the regardless of where they went to church. We will miss our beloved pastor.”
Ledford was also involved in Georgia Baptist life, having served as a trustee at the Georgia Baptist Children’s Home and Family Ministries, Inc. and the Executive Committee of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.
Lennie Poteat, who served as the pastor’s secretary and church secretary for 18 years, observed, “I had a habit of writing down things he said, because he truly knew how to cut through religion and get to who Christ is. On my wall I have posted a quote from one of his sermons, ‘In contrast to happiness stands joy, running deeper and stronger. Joy is the quiet confident assurance of God’s love and work in our lives that He will be there no matter what. Happiness depends on right happenings, but joy depends upon Christ.’
“Also in one of his sermons he used these points: “Courage to stand, commitment to remain, compassion to act.’ I asked him if I could put that on our entrance wall – and we did. These sum up how he lived his life. He was totally sold out to Christ from the day he met Him.”
Linda Barrett, devoted Macedonia member, explained, “[Preacher Ledford was] fun loving, but serious about his ministry.”
A minister for all
Hundreds of people attended “Preacher” Ledford’s funeral service to pay their respects to the man of God who had led them to Christ, officiated at their weddings, visited them in the hospital, wept with them in their sorrows (because he preached 434 funerals), rejoiced with them in their exultations, and preached to them the unsearchable riches of Christ.
At the funeral Doug Merck, Georgia Baptist Mission Board area missionary, stated, “You probably wouldn’t want to go eat with Brother Harold, because if you did you really wouldn’t get to eat with him, because he would have to talk to everyone in the restaurant before he sat down to eat. I would often be finished with my meal before Harold ever sat down to eat. He put people first.
“On another occasion Harold was visiting someone in the hospital who was having surgery and after praying for the patient Harold went around to every person in the waiting room, asked them who they were visiting, how the patient was doing, had prayer with them, and then called Lennie (his secretary) and asked her to put each one on the prayer list. I have never heard of another pastor doing that in my life – but that was Harold.”
Obviously, Harold Ledford was the consummate pastor, the passionate preacher, the quintessential family man, and an exemplary Christian. Surely, he earned the Father’s “well done thou good and faithful servant.”
The Macedonia pastor is survived by his loving wife Viola Stewart Ledford; daughters and sons-in-law, Lora Ann and Tim McClure of Catawba, VA and Dodie Lynn and Rodney Thomas of Baldwin; grandchildren, Megan, Morgan, and Micah McClure and Maddie and Mason Thomas; sisters and brothers-in-law, Willaree and Thomas Johnson of Cornelia, Brenda and Frank Raper of Mt. Airy; and Judy and Lanny Word of Greenwood, SC.