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St. Louis native D. Orlando Ledbetter ’90 is a lucky man. Throughout his career, he has been able to combine his two loves—journalism and the law—creating a uniquely successful career. Here’s how he did it.
After moving to Ohio at the age of 11 and matriculating through junior high and high school, Ledbetter attended Howard University in Washington, D.C. for college, majoring in journalism and minoring in political science. After graduation, he started his career working as a sports writer at The Charlotte Observer and The Cincinnati Enquirer. Then, law school called.
While on staff with The Cincinnati Enquirer, Ledbetter learned that several of his colleagues and friends from Howard were attending law schools across the country. That, combined with his general interest in communications and the law, prompted him to consider applying. UC Law appealed to him for several reasons, he noted, including the school’s reputation and bar passage rate. While he was still deciding which direction to go in, Ledbetter had the opportunity to visit the school, meet students, and tour the facility before deciding to attend the College of Law. “I was impressed with the institution overall,” said Ledbetter. Interestingly, throughout his law school career Ledbetter continued to work at the Enquirer.
Following law school, Ledbetter was presented with a unique opportunity to move to Milwaukee to pursue both of his interests simultaneously. He passed the Wisconsin bar exam and joined the small law Milwaukee firm Gonzalez, Saggio, Birdsall & Harlan LLC. At the same time, he was working for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, reporting on the NBA and the Milwaukee Bucks. His schedule at the law firm was very flexible; when the basketball season was over he worked full time at the law firm. During the season he worked at the firm when he could. A lot of his work involved labor and employment work on the defense side; some of the clients he worked with included McDonald’s and Harley-Davidson.
Making the Jump to Atlanta & Full-time Journalism
Ledbetter remained in Milwaukee for eight years, and in his last year there he became a columnist with the newspaper. The new position did not allow for him to continue working at the law firm. “I decided to focus on sports full time at that point,” he said. After that year, however, he and his family moved to Atlanta because of a job opportunity for his wife, Deborah, also a UC graduate.
In Atlanta, Ledbetter started by working at a friend’s law firm, Prioleau & Associates, LLC. He was again practicing labor and employment law, although now he was on the plaintiff’s side. He was also doing some editing work for LexisNexis at the time. Eventually, though, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution needed a sports writer. So, Ledbetter decided to go back to journalism full-time and joined the staff, where he is today. His beat is professional football and he reports on both the Atlanta Falcons, specifically, and the NFL in general. “I write about everything,” he said, “from covering the team’s practices and game performances, to covering players around the NFL who get into trouble with the law.” In fact, during the accusations and trial of former Atlanta Falcon Michael Vick for dog fighting, Ledbetter was a primary reporter on the case. He said, “I cover anything, both on and off the field, that comes from the NFL or the Atlanta Falcons.”
Currently, Ledbetter is covering a significant story about the disputes between the football teams and the unions. “This story is particularly interesting to me,” he commented, “because it brings up issues of labor law, which I have experience working with in my legal positions. It’s really great, because sports and law end up mixing in my current job when legal issues arise, so I still get to focus on both at times.”
Football Brings Cool Experiences
At Super Bowl XLIV in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Ledbetter was selected to be on the 44-member committee in charge of selecting members for the Professional Football Hall of Fame. He continues to keep in touch with some of his law school classmates, including well-known sportscaster Cris Collinsworth ‘91. In his free time, Ledbetter enjoys golfing, although he wishes he could go more frequently to improve his game. He and his wife also have a good time raising their children, Danielle and Dionne, who are both active in acting, sports and other activities.
Lindsay Mather '11