LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) --Wendell Ford, a former governor and U.S. senator who was the dominant figure in Democratic politics in Kentucky for 30 years, has died. He was 90.
Glenn Taylor, president of Glenn Funeral Home and Crematory in Owensboro, says Ford died Thursday morning at his home. He said arrangements are pending.
Ford retired in 1998 rather than run for a fifth term in the Senate. He was the Democratic whip, the party's No. 2 leadership post.
He said it was important to represent his constituents' views, including protecting the coal and tobacco industries. Ford was known in some Washington circles as "the Senator from Coal."
Ford once responded to critics by saying: "If they want to criticize me, that's fine. But Kentucky is beautiful women, fast horses, bourbon whiskey, cigarettes and coal. I represent Kentucky, and that's what I represent."
A memorial service will be at 3:00 p.m. Sunday in the Capitol Rotunda in Frankfort where Senator Ford will lie in state from 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. and 4:00 until 6:00 p.m. Sunday.
The funeral service for Senator Ford will be at 11:00 a.m. Tuesday at First Baptist Church, Owensboro. Visitation will be at Glenn Funeral Home and Crematory in Owensboro from 2:00 until 7:00 p.m. Monday and after 10:00 a.m. Tuesday at the church. A private service of committal will be in Elmwood Cemetery.
Several city and state leaders have reacted to the death of Wendell Ford. Some of their comments are below:
From U.S. President Barack Obama:
"Michelle and I were saddened to learn of the passing of former Senator Wendell Ford. A veteran, businessman, Governor and four-term Senator, Wendell dedicated his life to the people of Kentucky. He believed deeply in fairness – everyone doing their part, everyone getting a fair shot. A formidable political strategist, he fought to make sure all Americans had equal access to the polls, championed paying workers a decent wage and extending a helping hand to those looking for work, and mentored scores of young people who entered public service with Wendell's advice and support. Few in politics were as admired as he, and few have had as great an impact on his beloved Kentucky. Wendell leaves behind an extraordinary legacy of service, and a Commonwealth and country that are stronger and fairer thanks to him. Michelle and I send our condolences to his wife Jean and all the members of the Ford family."
From Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer:
"Wendell Ford always put the people of Kentucky first. From his days as governor to his strong leadership in the U.S. Senate, he had a deep knowledge and respect of history while looking toward the future. We have lost an elder statesman, a fine Kentucky gentleman, a visionary leader and a friend. Senator Ford always found time to encourage and mentor me and I will forever be grateful for that. The loving family that he and Jean formed will be a legacy that will continue to change our Commonwealth for the better. Our city, state, and nation mourn this great loss and celebrate the life of this wonderful man."
From U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell:
"Many have now heard the sad news: that one of the giants of Kentucky politics has passed away.
"Wendell Ford first came to the Senate in the 1970s, calling himself just ‘a dumb country boy with dirt between his toes.' But, over a distinguished two-decade career, this workhorse of the Senate would prove he was anything but. I had the opportunity to watch my Senate colleague up close as he ascended to leadership in his party and established himself as a leader on issues of importance to my state.
"A proud Kentuckian who rose from page in the State House to governor of the state, Ford shaped the history of the Commonwealth in ways few others had before him. He never forgot the lessons about hard work he learned while milking cows or tending to chores on the family farm. And this World War II veteran never backed down from a fight either. We imagine he approached his final battle with the same spirit. Elaine and I, and I'm certain I speak for the entire Senate, send our condolences to his wife, Jean — Mrs. Ford, as Wendell often called her — and the rest of the Ford family at this difficult time."
From U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth:
"Wendell Ford was a legend. For decades, he served our Commonwealth and nation with a level of dignity, respect, and common sense not commonly found in so many in politics. As great of a leader as he was, he was an even better person, never losing his one-of-a-kind sense of humor and kindness throughout his life. My thoughts and prayers are with Mrs. Ford and their entire family."
From U.S. Sen. Rand Paul:
"I wish to extend my sincerest condolences to the Ford family. Wendell Ford loved Kentucky deeply. He served the Commonwealth and its people for decades with honor and purpose. I am honored to sit behind the same desk and serve in the same seat as Sen. Ford, a man so dedicated to his party, our state and this country."
From Ky. Gov. Steve Beshear:
"Kentucky has lost one of its great statesmen, and we all have lost a friend. Jane and I join with all of Kentucky to mourn the loss of Senator Wendell Ford. As I began my career in public service, I watched and learned from Senator Ford, who was the epitome of principled leadership. In every office in which he served, his methods were simple: Wendell Ford listened, he cared, and he got the job done. Our state and our nation are better places for his decades of thoughtful, cooperative work to help people. We are grateful for his legacy of service, and our prayers are with his wife, Jean, their children, Steve and Shirley, and their families."
From Lt. Gov. Crit Luallen:
"I'm deeply saddened by the loss of Sen. Wendell Ford, who was one of Kentucky's great leaders. He was a true voice for the people of Kentucky throughout his remarkable career in public service, and so many Kentuckians are better off today because of his leadership and willingness to always put Kentucky first. I got my first job in politics in the mailroom of his Senate campaign, and he continued to mentor and guide me throughout my career, just as he did so many other Kentucky leaders. My thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Jean, and his entire family during this time of mourning and remembrance of this iconic Kentucky statesman."
From Louisville Metro Councilman David Tandy:
"With the passing of Senator Ford, Kentucky has lost a true political giant. When I served as an intern in his office in 1994, his example is the reason why I chose public service as a vehicle to give back to my community, my Commonwealth and my country. He was in politics and public service for the right reasons. He inspired generations of elected officials in Kentucky by his work and love of the Commonwealth and its people. Carolyn and I extend our condolences to his wife Jean and the entire Ford Family. They are in are thoughts and prayers at this time of bereavement."
From Kentucky gubernatorial candidate Hal Heiner:
"Wendell Ford was one of Kentucky's most influential and colorful statesmen. I join my fellow Kentuckians in celebrating his service and mourning his passing."
From Kentucky Senator Julian M. Carroll:
"My heart is heavy today at the loss of my fellow governor, Senator Wendell Ford. He was a true public servant, who always put the people first, and was a mentor to so many young politicians. I had known Wendell since he ran for the State Senate, having been elected to the House that same year, 1962. Later I managed his campaign in McCracken County for his race as lieutenant governor and secured a margin of victory for him equal to more than three times the amount he won by. In 1971, I ran for lieutenant governor on a ticket with former Governor Bert T. Combs and joined Wendell in the fall campaign at which time we were both elected as governor and lieutenant governor. Wendell encouraged me to run for the U.S. Senate, but after several weeks of discussion, he decided to run himself. My relationship with Wendell Ford has been long standing and his passing is indeed a powerful moment for me and for Kentucky, but he had a good life. I offer my deepest condolences to his wife Jean, all his family and his many, many friends. Today is a sad day for all Kentuckians. We truly lost one of our greatest sons."
From Ky. Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes:
"Senator Wendell Ford was not only a close friend, but a mentor to me. He was one of the best Kentuckians I've ever known, and he deeply loved our Commonwealth and all of its people.
Sen. Ford was a true statesman. On every stage, he represented Kentucky with dignity and honor, embracing compromise to achieve results that benefitted the Commonwealth. His service has provided an extraordinary example for others who wish to serve Kentucky, and especially for me.
I will miss Sen. Ford's friendship and, most of all, his incredible support and counsel. Andrew and I send our warmest thoughts and prayers to his wife Jean and their family."
From Andy Beshear, candidate for Attorney General:
"Senator Wendell Ford dedicated his life to making Kentucky a better place to live for everyone and today, our Commonwealth has lost a true leader and public servant. Britainy and I are saddened by this great loss and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends. Senator Ford and his entire family have been close friends and although we will miss him greatly, we feel blessed for knowing him so well and for his thoughtful advice and friendship. Senator Ford fought everyday for the most vulnerable among us and Kentucky is undoubtedly stronger and better because of his service."
From Ky. House Speaker Greg Stumbo:
"Senator Ford was one of the Commonwealth's greatest statesmen, and his many contributions rank him among the most influential and well-respected Kentuckians ever to live. I don't want to imagine what Kentucky would have been like without his service, and I'm finding it difficult to believe we now have to move forward without him. He leaves behind an unmatched legacy, and will be deeply missed."
From Eli Capilouto, president of the University of Kentucky:
"If history's chroniclers hope to draw a character sketch of the archetypal Kentuckian, they need look no further than Wendell Hampton Ford. He worked in hallowed halls of power, but his voice was always that of the authentic Kentucky experience — the bone-tired tobacco farmer, the weary but resolute coal miner, the resilient factory worker in south Louisville. They trusted Wendell Ford because he was who they were — hard-working, honest, proud, resilient. A Kentuckian. Senator Ford's love and pride extended to his university, the University of Kentucky. He worked with presidents from Otis Singletary to me, greatly assisting our rise and progress as a nationally prominent research institution and a leader in the development of public policy discussion and discourse. He was rightfully proud of The Martin School for Public Policy and Administration in which he was so involved for decades as well as the public policy center in UK Libraries that bears his name. UK is the proud home of his voluminous correspondence, papers, and oral histories documenting his life and career. That's appropriate since Kentucky was always home to his heart. And we are immeasurably better as a state and people for this Kentuckian's life."
From Ky. State Senate President Robert Stivers:
"Today Kentucky mourns the loss of an icon in the passing of former U.S. Senator Wendell Ford. As a lieutenant governor, governor and senator of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, Senator Ford devoted his life to public service, fought hard for Kentucky, and was a statesman in the truest sense of the word. Even though we were on different sides of the political spectrum, I respect and celebrate his lifetime of service to our state and our people.
"It is a little known fact that Senator Ford's sister, B.J. Sharpe, was a longtime Legislative Research Commission employee. On behalf of the LRC and the members of the Senate, I send my sympathies and condolences to Ms. Sharpe and all the family and friends of Senator Wendell Ford."
From Congressman Andy Barr:
"As a Governor and U.S. Senator, Wendell Ford always upheld the highest ideals of public service. His love of the Commonwealth was evident in his life's work and he leaves a proud legacy of service to its people.
"Today, Carol and I honor the many years of service of Wendell Ford to the people of Kentucky, and we extend our sincere condolences to the Ford family."