Ledet, an Abbeville native, was a 1938 Little All-America guard who spurned a contract offer from the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles to remain in Natchitoches and at Northwestern as an assistant coach to Harry Turpin. He married his college sweetheart, Betty Willis of Natchitoches. They celebrated their 71st wedding anniversary July 24 and he was nearing what would have been his 94th birthday Jan. 4.
Ledet was a 1996 inductee in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and was the Hall’s oldest member at the time of his sudden passing Friday morning. From 1952-64, while also serving as assistant football coach, he was a highly successful head track and field coach at Northwestern who won five straight Gulf States Conference Championships from 1953-57 and missed a sixth in a row by half a point.
He helped shape the careers of three other Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame competitors, Charlie Tolar, Charlie Hennigan and Pro Football Hall of Fame member Jackie Smith, who came to Northwestern on a track scholarship.
He was in Northwestern’s Long Purple Line Alumni Hall of Distinction and the Graduate N Club Hall of Fame for his athletic exploits. The track and field facility at NSU was named in his honor, the Walter P. Ledet Track Complex, in 1996.
Ledet became the university’s registrar in 1966 and officially retired in 1980. He was a constant figure at university events and athletic competitions both at home and on the road. He was recently honorary referee of the 2011 Southland Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships hosted at the Ledet Complex, which is also the site of the annual Louisiana High School Athletic Association Cross Country Championships.
An active member of Holy Cross Catholic Church who still helped tend to the church’s flower beds, Ledet was the last living founding member of the Kiwanis Club of Natchitoches. The university’s Catholic Student Organization recognized him in 2003 for his contributions to the university and its Catholic students.
The Ledets have four children, Dr. Walter Ledet Jr., a surgeon in Sulphur; Elizabeth Kurz, of Shreveport; Camille Bollinger of Nacogoches, Texas, and Dr. Ted Ledet, an internist of Nacogdoches. There are 12 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Family members said a memorial service in Natchitoches will be held later. Ledet donated his body to medical science.