Shelby County Commissioner Joe Ford was appointed interim Shelby County Mayor effective Dec. 10. Ford is part of the most famous, or infamous, “Ford Family,” political family in Memphis. Ford served as a Memphis City Council member and ran for Memphis mayor in 1999, coming in second to incumbent Willie Herenton. He gave up his council seat to run for mayor and then was appointed to the Shelby County Commission to fill the vacancy created by the 2001 death of his brother, James Ford. Ford won the votes of seven of his fellow commissioners to claim the appointment. Shelby County Commission chairwoman Joyce Avery has been serving as county mayor since A C Wharton Jr. took the oath of office as Memphis Mayor last month. Ford will be resigning his district 3 position 3 seat. Ford introduced members of his transition team, including Methodist Healthcare executive Cato Johnson, former City Councilman Tom Marshall, pastor LaSimba Gray and various state representatives. The swearing-in ceremony was elaborate, a violinist, county employees and elected officials including Memphis Mayor A C Wharton, christmas wreaths and potted poinsettias, a live rendition of the national anthem followed a “presentation of colors” by the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office Color Guard. And the 15-member Schilling Farms Middle School Honors Ensemble provided live entertainment.

A littele background about Joseph S. Ford. He was appointed to the County Commission on January 28, 2002 after the District 3, Position 3 seat was left vacant by the death of his brother, Dr. James W. Ford in November 2001. Ford was elected to the Board of Commissioners in 2002 and currently serves as Chairman of Committee #10, General Government. He was first elected to the City Council in November 1994 to fill the District 6 position vacated by his brother, Dr. James Ford, who was elected to the Shelby County Board of Commissioners. He served on the City Council from 1994 to 1999 and was the 1999 Chairman of the City Council.

Ford graduted from Mitchell High School in 1971, he received his B.S. degree in Business Administration from Tennessee State University and in 1980 received an Associate Degree in Mortuary Science from Northwest Mississippi Community College. Ford is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., and the Walker Horne and Riverview Neighborhood Associations, 1998 Salute to Fatherhood Elected Official Father of the Year, a 1998 graduate of Leadership Memphis, 1998 Honorary Chairperson of the Tennessee Black Heritage Celebration and is a Mason. Ford is one of 12 children of the late N.J. and Vera D. Ford. He has been with N.J. Ford and Sons Funeral Parlor for 29 years and now serves as President and Chief Executive Officer.

The Ford Family

The first records of the Ford family are those of Newton F. Ford. Newton F. Ford and his wife Lonnie are the great great grandparents of Harold Ford, Jr. Newton F. (whose grandson would be named Newton J. Ford) was prominent and active in Memphis, but to what extent is uncertain. The Ford family maintains that he served as Squire of Shelby County in the late 1890s. While I cannot confirm or deny that I do find a record or him being one of the founders of the second incarnation of “The Old Folks Society in 1870. This was a society focused on local history and its founders were a small (about 28 people) and prestigious group including such names as Magevney, McLean, Trezevant, Vance, Toof and Mayors John Johnson and Edgar McDavitt. Newton F. Ford also donated land for the building of Ford Chapel AME Zion Church. There is no doubt that Newton F. Ford was an important man.

Newton and Lonnie gave birth to Lewie Ford. Lewie Ford married Ophelia Geeter. The Geeter family were land owners in the Whitehaven area. The family donated the land on which Geeter High School was built. The school was built strictly to provide education to African-American young people. Ophelia, a graduate of Lemoyne Normal Institute became a teacher while Lewie opened the first Ford family undertaking business.

Lewie Ford brought his son Newton J. Ford into the family mortuary business after the latter graduated from Manassas High School. Newton, or “N. J.” Ford married Vera Davis. N. J. Ford opened his own mortuary business and named it “N. J. Ford and Sons”. That firm is still in business to this day and is the center of the family’s connection to the community. N. J. Ford and Vera had 12 children and provided them all with college educations.

In 1974 one of these sons, State Legislator Harold (now often referred to as Harold Ford, Sr.) defeated incumbent Dan Kuykendall for a seat in the U. S. House of Representatives. Harold Ford Sr. was the first African American to represent a Tennessee district in the U.S. Congress. Like much that was to follow the election was questionable, with ballot boxes “found in dumpsters”. In any case Harold Sr. took the election and stayed in office for 22 years becoming part of the powerful Ways and Means Committee and earning a pristine reputation among his constituents for being responsive to their needs. As a congressman he was constantly under investigation for various things, but never convicted of wrong-doing. He was formally indicted for bank fraud in 1987 but was acquitted 6 years later. To date only brother Emmitt Ford has been convicted of wrong-doing. He was forced to resign his seat in the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1981 after being convicted of insurance fraud. He served the district for twelve consecutive terms until he retired in 1996 and was succeeded by his son Harold E. Ford Jr.

Both Harold Sr. and his brother John were in elected office by 1971 with John beginning on the City Council. When Harold Sr. was elected to the U. S. House in 1974 brother John also won election to the State House. Harold’s old seat in the State House was won by brother Emmitt. Brother James was elected to the City Council in 1979 and later served on the County Commission until his death in 2003. Brother Joe Ford who had previously lost a bid for the mayor’s office to Willie Herenton was appointed to that position which he still holds.

Ford detractors often refer to the “Ford Machine”. Although the word “machine” carries negative overtones in politics it is really just a negative name for a well-run political organization. No one can ever say that Harold Sr. did not establish a well-run political organization. By 1996 he was powerful enough to have his young son Harold Jr., fresh out of college, elected to take his place in congress. The move may have been prompted by the difficulties Ford faced in the 1994 when he declared that his organization was writing down the addresses of “the devils in East Memphis” who had signs in their yard promoting his opponent, Rod DeBerry.

Whatever his motivation Harold Sr. was successful in putting “Junior” in the congress. At the time of this writing [October 2006] Harold Ford Jr. has resigned his seat in congress in order to run for the U. S. Senate. A month before the election he is tied in the polls with former Chattanooga mayor Bob Corker. It is not the purpose of this site to deal with current events, but it is a great tribute to the Fords, especially Newton J., Harold Sr., Harold Jr. and their families that they are able to reach out from this remote corner in Tennessee to impact and possibly win a race for the U. S. Senate, especially in light of recent negative publicity about other Ford family members.

Although there are articles that address the “Tennessee Waltz” and other aspects of the life of John Ford. On April 27, 2007, John Ford was convicted by a federal jury in Memphis of accepting $55,000 in bribes. However, the jury deadlocked on the more serious charge of extortion, creating a mistrial on that count. He was acquitted on three counts of witness intimidation. On August 28, 2007, Ford was sentenced to 66 months in federal prison to be followed by two years of supervised release. Ford is also facing corruption charges in Nashville, TN for accepting bribes totaling over $800,000.00 from medical contractors doing business with the State. In a press conference after the sentencing hearing FBI Agent in Charge My Harrison credited agents Brian Burns and Mark Jackson with excellence in detective work related to Operation Tennessee Waltz which resulted in a ten for ten conviction record against public officials engaged in using public office for private gain through bribery. One defendant remains to be tried in Operation Tennessee Waltz. On April 29, 2008, Ford reported to prison in Louisiana.

Dr. James Ford, now deceased. He was elected to the Memphis city council and the Shelby county commission.

Emmitt Ford, former state representative, convicted of insurance fraud in 1981 and sentenced to 21 months in prison for tax evasion in 2000.

John Ford, was a member of the Tennessee Senate for over 30 years, after John was indicted in Operation Tennessee Waltz. Ophelia Ford ‘Extremely Intoxicated’ ran for his brother’s state senate seat and defeated Henri Brooks by 20 votes in the special Democratic primary. She went on to defeat Republican candidate Terry Roland by 13 votes in the special general election. Both elections fell under allegations of improprieties. In the special general election, a state senate election committee confirmed 12 of the 13 votes were invalid. Names of deceased persons and felons were found on the rolls, and dozens of additional votes were counted from voters living outside the district. Further investigation of the election revealed that one of the election officials purportedly certifying the name of many of the voters in question was actually in New York City the day of the election and that her place was taken, without authorization, by a relative. Ophelia Ford sued the State Senate and obtained an injunction from a federal court which upheld the election until the senate met provisions under the Voting Rights Act. The State Senate, having authorization to so act from the court’s order, voted to void the election by a margin of 26-6, on April 19, 2006. Ophelia vowed further legal action to regain the seat. On April 25, 2006, Ophelia Ford filed a federal suit in an attempt to regain her seat. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation investigated aspects of the election, and District Attorney Bill Gibbons obtained 37 indictments, 35 of which are felonies, against three Shelby County poll workers for alleged election fraud. Ford herself was not implicated. For the 2006 election, she ran in a northwestern Shelby County district and won it, her old district had been renumbered as District 33. On May 22, 2007, a Nashville cab driver accused Ophelia Ford of grabbing his shirt collar and ripping a button off his shirt while driving Ms. Ford to her hotel. He claimed that Ms. Ford was intoxicated. You may see here somewhere, falling off a stool in his hotel’s lounge?

Memphis City Council member Edmund Ford Sr. was charged with bribery in a federal criminal complaint. In a separate complaint, former Shelby County Commission candidate Joe Cooper was charged with helping drug dealers acquire cars. Ford allegedly sold his influence to help a developer win approval for a planned development and a billboard near Interstate 240. A confidential informant who is facing indictment cooperated with the FBI and taped Ford allegedly get $6,900. A jury declared him not guilty on all six counts in his extortion and bribery case. Secretly recorded videotapes show Ford accepting $4,900 in cash from a political lobbyist. Watch »

Harold Eugene Ford, Jr. was a Democratic Party member of the United States House of Representatives from Tennessee’s 9th congressional district, centered in Memphis, from 1997 to 2007. Ford did not seek re-election to his House seat in 2006 when he unsuccessfully sought the Senate seat vacated by retiring Bill Frist. During his campaign for the House of Representatives, he sat for and failed the Tennessee bar exam, stating that he intends to try again. In 2002, Ford was mentioned as a possible Democratic candidate for the Senate seat being vacated by Fred Thompson, but he declined to run. In 2006, Ford did not run for re-election to the House of Representatives, due to his campaign for the United States Senate in Tennessee, which he lost. Instead, his younger brother, Jake Ford, ran for the 9th district seat as an Independent, but lost to Democrat Steve Cohen. Ford faced Republican Bob Corker in the November 2006 election. Ford challenged Corker to seven televised debates across the state. In response, Corker said he would debate Ford, though he did not agree to seven debates. On November 8, Ford conceded the election to Corker, who defeated Ford by less than three percentage points. Ford is currently a visiting professor at New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service where he teaches Policy Formation: U.S. Domestic Policy.

Councilman Edmund Ford, Jr. was elected to the City Council in November 2007, making him the youngest African-American ever to be elected to the Council and the second youngest overall at the age of 28. He is a mathematics teacher at Central High School where he graduated from in 1996 at the age of 16. Mr. Ford is the oldest child of former Councilman Edmund Ford, Sr. and Myrna Ford. Councilman Ford graduated cum laude from Tennessee State University where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics with a Minor in Computer Science and a Master of Science degree in Mathematical Sciences with an emphasis in Technology. At the age of 22, he was accepted into Vanderbilt University’s doctoral program at Peabody College where he performed two years of PhD work in the area of Leadership and Policy Studies. During his years at Vanderbilt, he assisted nationally renowned Professor James C. Hearn with the completion and publication of the text, “Diversifying Campus Revenue Streams: Opportunities and Risks”. Ford is currently working on his doctorate in Educational Administration and Supervision having received an Educational Specialist degree in the same field.

Question: Is Joe Ford a Good choice or Bad choice?

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Comments
  1. barbara jackson says:

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  2. Foxy says:

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