Dr. Freeman Ledbetter, Noted Durham Real Estate Developer And Jazz Musician, Passes – Spectacular Magazine

DURHAM, NC – Durham-based bass player Freeman Ledbetter, Ph.D., taught himself to play the bass while in undergraduate school. In 1976, after completing post-doctoral studies, Freeman launched a successful business as a designer and developer of solar, eco-friendly homes. Dr. Freeman Hillyard Ledbetter, Jr., 80, passed on July 17, 2021, at Duke University Hospital.

Ledbetter attended Harnett County public schools and graduated from Lincoln University in 1964. In 1974 he earned a Ph.D., in Biochemistry from Duke University. While studying at Duke University Freeman married Willie Marie Washington Ledbetter.

After completing his Ph.D. and a postdoc at Duke University in 1976, Freeman launched a successful career as a developer, designer, and builder of environmentally friendly houses. His first project was developing Green Mill in Durham. Freeman was one of the first in Durham to build “Green” homes. In 1987 Sun Space, LLC was launched to design and construct passive solar, eco-friendly homes. Later his son, Tarik, joined him in the business.

An article in Black Enterprise published July 17, 2008, notes that Ledbetter didn’t have his sights set on starting his own medical practice. Instead, Ledbetter, which they referred to as “Dr. ‘Green’ House”,  envisioned a career in home development. To some, it may have seemed a bit offbeat for someone who had spent eight years learning about the complexities of the brain and body, but to him, it was a reasonable choice.

“During my post-doctorate period, I came to the conclusion that the majority of the life-threatening diseases that we experience are pretty much preventable if we just clean up the environment in which we live,” Ledbetter said in the article. “So, I thought that I would have a much more exciting time trying to figure out ways to prevent disease rather than trying to find cures, and that led me to thinking about what is now called ‘green’ building,” he stated.

While in undergraduate school Freeman became interested in jazz. He taught himself to play the bass and became an outstanding jazz bassist. Freeman performed with jazz greats, such as Mary Lou Williams, Paul Jeffries, and Yousef Salim to name a few. During the early 2000’s he was one of the founders of Generations, a jazz group consisting of jazz professionals, instructors, and students (including his daughter vocalist, Adia Ledbetter). Freeman continued to perform with various jazz groups until his retirement.

According to Melva’s Musings on Jazz blog, in 2008 Ledbetter organized a tribute to and for Brother Yusuf Salim, a noted and beloved Durham musician who performed in area clubs for over 30 years. Due to Freeman’s connections, jazz musicians from around the Triangle area showed up at the nursing home where Brother Yusuf stayed the last few weeks of his life.

After retirement, Freeman enjoyed listening to and playing jazz. He was an avid supporter of the NCCU jazz studies department and all the jazz students. He was a loving, supportive father and grandfather and a dedicated member of St. Joseph AME Church.

Freeman is survived by his wife of 52 years, Willie Marie Washington Ledbetter; one son Tarik, and one daughter Adia; two grandchildren, Mia James Ledbetter-Jones and Tarik Ledbetter, Jr. and one sister; Jean Louise Ledbetter, sister-in-law, Carrie Spence Ledbetter; Aunt Georgia Willis Heard Bennett, and extended family including nephews, nieces, cousins and a host of friends. 

A private service is planned. Arrangements are entrusted to Holloway Memorial Funeral Home. Flowers will not be accepted on behalf of the family at the funeral home.  The family will advise where flowers are to be sent.

This content was originally published here.

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