Costellar Ledbetter: A constant presence in Suffolk

Published 9:28 pm Saturday, February 19, 2011

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of stories about inspirational, black Suffolk residents or natives in honor of Black History Month.

Even after her retirement from a 32-year career teaching English and business in Suffolk Public Schools, Costellar B. Ledbetter hasn’t stopped helping young people implement their dreams.


So it’s no surprise that she was tapped to receive one of the 15th annual Implement the King Dream Awards from Unique KHC Productions. The awards, given to local people who are making a difference in the community, will be given Friday in Norfolk. Other honorees include pastors and former Chesapeake mayor William Ward.

Email newsletter signup

Ledbetter, perhaps, was more surprised than anyone. “It was an honor to be selected,” she said. “But everything I’ve done is not to be honored. It’s all about helping others.”

Ledbetter is known as a community activist, with a hand in organizations as varied as the Suffolk Retired Teachers Association, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the East Suffolk Alumni Association and the National Council of Negro Women.

As a teacher, she was also involved in 4-H programs and Students Against Drunk Driving.

As part of these organizations and more, she has helped complete numerous service projects for the community. But she does even more on her own.

Ledbetter is widely known for carrying food to the sick, helping young people get tuxedos and corsages for prom and encouraging everyone she meets to follow God.

“I look at myself as a missionary,” she said. “We just need to do what we can do to help each other.”

Ledbetter has organized Bible studies and health events, ensured families had food and gifts on Christmas and even mentored her children’s friends.

Currently, Ledbetter is juggling projects to support local women’s shelters, feed the hungry, plan a black women’s health event and more.

“I’m just one of those people that likes to help people,” she said.

Ledbetter says she is honored to receive an award named after Martin Luther King Jr.

“He left a legacy,” she said. “He’s going to be remembered for a very long time.”

Having lived through the Civil Rights movement, Ledbetter encourages her friends and neighbors to take advantage of the opportunities they have now — ones they did not always have, like the right to vote.

“Many people lost their lives to get us to a point where we are able to vote,” Ledbetter said.

She also acknowledges God as the sole source of her strength.

“I know I wouldn’t be able to do it without Him,” she said. “I give Him all the praise and all the honor.”