FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) - Wendell Ford served Kentucky for 30 years. On Sunday, colleagues and co-workers honored the democratic powerhouse at the State Capitol in Frankfort.

The service started with stringed instruments playing Amazing Grace.

More than 300 guests honored the former U.S. Senator inside the Capitol Rotunda, where it was standing room only. The honor guard kept watch over his casket.

"He spoke up for those who couldn't speak for themselves," Gov. Steve Beshear said during opening remarks. "He judged fairly and he defended the rights of the poor and needy. He listened, he cared and he brought people together."

Ford died Thursday of lung cancer. Those who knew the 90-year-old say he was a dedicated Democrat and a passionate politician who served his state for three decades.

"He had the respect of democrats and republicans," former Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton said.

Patton worked with Ford on several major issues, including coal mining and tobacco farming.

"He never really lost that hometown touch,” Patton said. “He was just as friendly off the camera as he was on camera."

Ford spent more than 30 years in public office, retiring in 1999 after four terms in the U.S. Senate.

He's the only Kentuckian elected consecutively to Lieutenant Governor, Governor and U.S. Senator.

Several state lawmakers were at Sunday's memorial including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Congressman John Yarmuth, Attorney General Jack Conway and Secretary of State Allison Lundergan Grimes.

Not many people have had the honor of lying in state at the Capitol. In fact, Wendell Ford is only the 21st person in state history.

"The capitol rotunda is just a beautiful place," said Betty McDonald, who was just 16 when Ford hired her through a co-op.

“I'll never forget this until the day I die,” McDonald said. “He just leaned over and he said ‘Honey, I'm going to run for governor and I want you to go to headquarters with us and politics will get in your blood.' And it did, and I had 24 years of state government."

Ford fought for his Commonwealth and his country, serving the Army during World War II.

"May you rest in peace now Senator. You gave us all you had to give," Lt. Gov. Crit Luallen said.

Ford's service ended with the singing of My Old Kentucky Home.

Ford's visitation is Monday at Glenn Funeral Home and Crematory in Owensboro from 2-7 p.m. and after 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday at the church. A private service of committal will be in Elmwood Cemetery.

His funeral service is 11 a.m. Tuesday at First Baptist Church in Owensboro.

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