Burial Site of Carroll Shelby, Leesburg Cemetary
According to the Historical plaque located inside Leesburg cemetery, the cemetery was founded in 1870 after Dwight Hays Townsend donated land on which the cemetery was established. The oldest marked grave on the site belongs to Tapley Wylie who lived from 1836 until 1870 but according to the plaque, the first burials at the site belong to two children. Among these burials lay other people from the town of Leesburg including children, war veterans, and pioneers. The site is also the resting place of Carroll Shelby, former race car driver who was born in Leesburg and owned ranch land in east Texas.
Backstory and Context
Carroll Shelby passed away in May of 2012 after 89 years of life. A portion of his ashes are buried here in Leesburg cemetery in the small town of Leesburg, in which he was struck by a love of automobiles and speed. Throughout Shelby’s life, he influenced the style of vehicles produced by both Ford and Chrysler, but this was only made possible by his success in making America relevant in the European motorsport world.
The son of a rural mail carrier in east Texas, Shelby, was born in the town of Leesburg in 1923 and came from a humble background. At 8 years old a school nurse detected an abnormal murmur in his heart. Immediately this limited his ability to participate in sports or play with other kids. At 18 when he entered the military during World War Two his heart murmur was not detected. After being enrolled in the Air Forces his duty was to train Pilots during the war, Shelby remained in the United States during the course of World War Two.1
After the war, Shelby became involved in various business ventures the most successful being chicken farming. After becoming “bored” with a large number of his business projects Shelby decided to pursue his true passion at 28, racing. After winning a race in a friend’s Mg Tc Shelby began a career in Motorsports, soon after he began driving for Aston Martin then a small racing company overshadowed by the likes of Ferrari.2 During his time with Aston Martin, Shelby was very successful eventually becoming the second American ever to win the 24 hours of Le Mans in 1959.4 He proceeded to win prestigious European race events until his Angina Pectoris began to cause him heart pain. It reached the point of him racing with Nitroglycerin pills under his tongue to reduce chest pain.5 After losing a race at Laguna Seca he decided to retire from the sport of racing as a driver.
Carroll Shelby turned to building cars after his short racing career in Europe. After being turned away by General Motors Shelby turned to Ford. Ford being eager to rival General Motor’s Corvettes and becoming relevant in the European Racing scene provided an engine for Shelby to use in his design. The engine combined with a British Bristol AC chassis manifested Carroll's vision of a sports car but it wasn’t initially enough to compete with the Italian Ferraris. After a redesign by Peter Brock, Carroll Shelby International, an American Company won the World Manufacturer Championship. Shelby helped prepare the Ford Racing team their Ford GT to beat Ferrari at Le Mans in 1966 after Ferrari won every single year after 1959 when Carroll Shelby alongside Roy Salvadori won the event.7After decades of helping Ford and Dodge produce various sports cars, Carroll Shelby had a heart transplant in 1990. Soon after he founded The Carroll Shelby Kids Foundation which financed organ transplants and provided educational services for young people.3 After Carroll Shelby passed away in Dallas in 2012 there was a legal battle between his widow Cleo Shelby and his kids over what should be done with his remains. In a 2012 document signed on February 8th, Shelby stated he wanted his son Michael to handle his body after death and stated that he wanted his ashes "divided equally among and given to each of my then living children and one additional equal share to be buried in my parents' family plot in Leesburg, Texas."8 The dispute ended with Carroll's ashes being distributed amongst his children and widow. A portion was also buried in Leesburg cemetery on August 29, 2012 in the Shelby family section alongside the graves of his father Cader Atkins Shelby and mother Francis Etoise Shelby.
2.Goldstein, Richard. "Carroll Shelby, Car Builder Who Added Muscle to American Racing, Dies at 89." New York Times 1923-Current File(New York)May 12, 2012. , Historical ed.
3.Goldstein, Richard. "Carroll Shelby, Car Builder Who Added Muscle to American Racing, Dies at 89." New York Times 1923-Current File(New York)May 12, 2012. , Historical ed.
4Weingarten, Marc. "Carroll shelby: Dr. go-fast at 80." New York Times(New York City)December 10, 2003. , Historical ed, f7-f7.
4.Weingarten, Marc. "Carroll shelby: Dr. go-fast at 80." New York Times(New York City)December 10, 2003. , Historical ed, f7-f7.
5.Weingarten, Marc. "Carroll shelby: Dr. go-fast at 80." New York Times(New York City)December 10, 2003. , Historical ed, f7-f7.
6."Carroll Shelby: A Tough Texan Throws His Chips In With Ford." New York Times(New York)June 19, 1966. , Historical ed.
7."Carroll Shelby: A Tough Texan Throws His Chips In With Ford." New York Times(New York)June 19, 1966. , Historical ed.
8.Hirsch, Jerry. "COURTS; A battle over auto legend's body; Carroll Shelby's widow and children argue over the rights to his remains.." Los Angeles Times(Los Angeles)June 19, 2012. .