Leo, a resident of Smithfield, graduated from Sampson County schools, then obtained his B.A. and L.L.B. from Wake Forest. He practices law in Smithfield but has also served in leadership roles in both houses of the North Carolina General Assembly, serving in the Senate from 1989-1993, and in the House from 1994-2016. He was a candidate for Governor in 1999 and has been a delegate to the Republican National Convention at various times between 1976 and 1996. He currently serves on the UNC Board of Governors, among other boards.