Lt. Col. Alan Carroll Leonard, J.D., a lifelong Tryonite who served as district attorney and assistant district attorney of North Carolina’s western prosecutorial districts for 23 years, as an advisor on legal and ethical issues to sheriff’s departments across the state of North Carolina, as Special Prosecutor for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Court, and who is described by his colleagues on both sides of the bench as “the finest trial lawyer I have ever seen,” and “the absolute best trial lawyer ever,” who for 28 years and through over 5,000 flight hours served in the North Carolina Air National Guard as a navigator aboard C-130 Hercules aircraft, fighting fires in the Pacific Northwest, running supplies during the Bosnian War and two tours of duty in the Persian Gulf War, training the Royal Saudi Air Force through the United States Military Training Mission in Saudi Arabia, achieving the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and meriting the Aerial Achievement Medal, the Air Force Commendation Medal, the Kuwait Liberation Medal, the Southwest Asia Service Medal, and the Humanitarian Service Medal, who sought to vitalize American history as a bass drummer with the Carolina Fifes and Drums and as a Civil War reenactor, who lectured and published articles on topics ranging from the 1953 Tryon Theater Murders to profiles of local World War I doughboys, who placed his Gillette Woods property, Rosebay, into conservation and served on the advisory boards of the Pacolet Area Conservancy, the Tryon Fine Arts Center, and the Polk County History Museum, who, as a member of the Hendersonville Honor Guard, learned to play taps on the bugle, laying over 650 service members to rest with reverence, has passed away unexpectedly at the age of 72 years old.
While his influence and interests spanned the world, Alan lived within a quarter mile of old St. Luke’s Hospital in Gillette Woods where he was born in the winter of 1947 to native Tryonites Edna Maude Hague, a Polk County educator, and Ernest Nelson Leonard, who was proprietor of Leonard’s Groceries and Leonard’s Lucky Links & Tourist Cabins in the Harmon Field area. He spent his childhood delivering groceries and hunting for antiques with his father, which sparked his lifelong passion for fine arts and taught him the value of civic engagement. He was the grandson of William Carmichael Hague and Margaret Maude Waldrop, and Dora Bell Capps and Robert “Bert” Leonard, an English immigrant who designed Tryon Country Club and became its first professional golfer.
Alan was for 40 years the husband of Greensboro native Susan Ann Tally, to whom he credited all accomplishments in a life characterized by humble service and devotion to the principles of duty, honor, country, God, truth, justice, and family. Alan and Susan were married in 1976 and Susan passed away on May 23rd, 2017, three years before Alan’s passing on May 21st, 2020. He was most proud of two things: his children, Will, Sarah, and Caroline, whom he and Susan guided through earning Masters and Doctoral degrees, and his mentorship of Ashley Hornsby Welch, current District Attorney of the 43rd Prosecutorial District, who credits Alan as “the whole reason I’m a prosecutor.”
He was an enthusiastic storyteller who enjoyed doing impersonations as he recounted outlandish courtroom moments and, most recently, telling the story of a giant marshmallow fight at the 2017 Highland Games with the Carolina Fifes and Drums. At 72 he enjoyed competing with 20 and 30 year olds in weightlifting competitions at Tryon Health and Fitness and was an avid skier and member of the Spartanburg Ski Club. He loved slapstick comedies and his favorite movie scene was the claymation skeleton fight in the 1963 film Jason and the Argonauts, which made him laugh until his stomach hurt. He could be seen walking into the local IGA in overalls covered in paint and pine straw dust, and he too often attempted to bring his beloved dog Oliver into places where dogs are not allowed.
Alan sometimes feared that he would not be remembered, but members of the local community describe him as “a man who has left an incredible legacy,” “a cornerstone of the community,” “one of a kind,” “charismatic and fun to be around,” “an amazing man,” “always eager to share his knowledge,” “truly great,” “a gentleman,” “my best friend,” “a brother to me,” “warm and welcoming,” “always smiling,” “kind,” “sweet,” “brilliant,” “funny,” “compassionate,” “caring,” “fair,” “humble,” “respectful,” and “the only Democrat I ever voted for.”
In addition to his children, Alan is survived by his brothers Chip and Mike Leonard.
Due to COVID-19, a memorial will be announced at a future date.
In lieu of flowers, donations should be made to Conserving Carolina (formerly Pacolet Area Conservancy).
Contributed by Alan’s children, Dr. Will Nelson Leonard, Sarah Margaret Leonard, and Caroline Grace Leonard.
Sanders Funeral Home.
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