Ed Bethune grew up in Arkansas. He joined the Marines when he was eighteen years old and rose to the rank of sergeant. He received an honorable discharge in 1957 and then earned two degrees from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, a bachelor of science from the School of Business Administration and a juris doctorate from the School of Law. He served four years as a special agent of the FBI and then became a prosecuting attorney in his hometown of Searcy, Arkansas. As a private attorney, he was lead counsel in the trial of many important cases, both civil and criminal.
In 1978, against all odds, he won a seat in the United States House of Representatives, the first Republican to hold that seat in 104 years. He served three terms in Congress and then lost a campaign for a seat in the United States Senate. After Congress, Bethune joined the law firm of Bracewell & Giuliani in Washington, D. C. and became a high profile ethics lawyer, representing Speaker Newt Gingrich, Majority Leader Tom DeLay and others. He and his wife Lana reside in Little Rock, Arkansas. They have two children and eight granddaughters.