Wendell Hampton Ford was born in Thruston, near Owensboro, Daviess County, KY, on September 8, 1924. He graduated from Daviess County High School in Owensboro and later attended the University of Kentucky in 1942-1943.
Photo of Ford in Uniform from a 1972 issue of the Kentucky Guardsman
Ford joined the U.S. Army on 22 July 1944 and trained as an administrative NCO and was promoted to Technical Sergeant on 17 November 1945. Ford's Awards and decorations from his World War II service include: Expert Infantryman Badge, American Theater Campaign Medal, Good Conduct Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal. Ford was honorably discharged 28 June 1946. Ford graduated from the Maryland School of Insurance 1947 and worked in the insurance business.
Ford enlisted in the Kentucky Army National Guard on 7 June 1949, joining Company I, 149th Infantry Regimental Combat Team in Owensboro as a Technical Sergeant. He held that rank until 7 August 1949, when he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant of Infantry. During a reorganization of the Kentucky Guard in 1949 his infantry company was converted to tanks and Ford served as Company Commander of HH&S Company, 240th Tank Battalion until he transferred to the inactive Guard in 1956 as a First Lieutenant of Armor because of his responsibilities. Ford was discharged from the Kentucky National Guard in 1962.
Governor Wendell Ford Portrait Courtesy KHS and KDLA
Ford served as the chief assistant to Kentucky Governor Bert T. Combs 1959-1961. Ford served in the Kentucky state senate 1965-1967 and was elected Lieutenant Governor 1967-1971 under Governor Louie B. Nunn. Ford was elected Governor of Kentucky 1971-1974.
Ford was elected to the United States Senate in November 1974 for the term commencing January 3, 1975; subsequently appointed by the Governor, December 28, 1974, to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Marlow W. Cook for the term ending January 3, 1975; reelected in 1980, 1986, and again in 1992 for the term ending January 3, 1999.
On November 14, 1996, Ford broke Alben W. Barkley's record for the longest consecutive service in the U.S. Senate as a Senator from the Commonwealth. He became the overall longest serving Senator from Kentucky in March of 1998.
As United States Senator, Ford was instrumental in funding the construction of facilities at the Weekend Training Site in Greenville. The facility was named in his honor, the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center, on October 17, 1997.
[Submitted by COL Al Alfaro December 15, 2003]