Auctioneer. Real estate agent. State representative. And now winner of the highest honor awarded by the Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce.
It’s Danny Ford.
On Thursday evening, Ford received the Distinguished Community Service Award, at the 2022 Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet and Awards Ceremony to cap off the evening.
The award, which always surprises the recipient, honors people who have dedicated a lifetime of service to the community, serving as an inspiration both in their profession and in their efforts to make the region a better place to live, work, and play.
It’s the first time since 2020 that the award has been presented in person at the ceremony, as the 2021 banquet has gone “virtual” online due to COVID-19 concerns.
“I appreciate this honor tonight,” Ford said at Thursday’s banquet, after being the surprise recipient of the award, presented to him by his son, Matt Ford, the outgoing House Speaker. “It’s really an honor.
“I had no idea,” he added of the surprise, though he added to a big laugh from the crowd, “I noticed my whole family was here.”
Ford has 47 years of real estate experience and 30 years in the Kentucky Legislature. He partnered with his brother Sam in 1968 and over the years has seen their family business, Ford Brothers Inc. grow from one office in Mt. Vernon to six offices including Mt. Vernon, London, Monticello, Russell Springs and Richmond, and of course here in Somerset. It’s the no. 1 auction house in Southern Kentucky specializing in commercial real estate, farms, residential lots, estates and personal property as listed on their website, fordbrothersinc.com.
A native of Rockcastle County, Ford is the youngest son of Robert and Dicie Ford. When he was a child, his parents ran a restaurant, grocery store and laundromat.
“Even as a small child, Danny never met a stranger,” said Bobby Clue, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce. “He would start talking to customers and the next thing you knew he was going home with them to play with their kids or entertain the elderly with his ‘great’ stories.”
At age 13, Ford opened his first business, a small store where he sold items found in his parents’ basement or items he won playing checkers. The business was closed after other shopkeepers in the town appeared before the city council and complained that Ford did not have a business license to operate his store – and that he was not old enough to apply for this permit.
Still, Ford kept busy in his youth, shining shoes in the barber shop, selling catalog seeds, assembling wagons, and running a car wash in the summer.
“A member of the local community said she couldn’t rest one day because of that ‘damn’ Ford kid selling stuff door to door,” Clue noted. “…He took vocational courses to learn how to do electrical work. His first job as an electrician was wiring an old barn for a local doctor. The barn soon caught fire. It was because of the lightning, others weren’t so sure.”
Where Ford has really found its spark is in the world of auctions. He attended Reppert’s School of Auctioneering between his junior and senior year of high school before joining his brother in business.
Ford’s spirit for hard work served him well in his political career. The grandson of a former Rockcastle County judge, Ford represented the House’s 80th District for three decades, first being elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives in 1982, just years after Hal Rogers was inducted. first elected to the United States House. For most of his time in Frankfurt, he represented Rockcastle, Pulaski and Lincoln counties.
“Ford’s political acumen and communication skills were evident early in his political career,” Clue said. “He was already established in his home county of Rockcastle. If he wanted to win the seat in his first run for political office, Ford figured he had to get out of his comfort zone. He spent little time campaigning in Rockcastle and Pulaski, focusing his efforts almost entirely on Lincoln County, where he was virtually unknown.
“Danny credits his first campaign victory to a gentleman named Daly Reed, a soil conservator who greased Ford’s path in Lincoln County,” he continued. “The two men had met only briefly the previous year at a Republican reception, but had formed an alliance that Ford credits with launching his political career. During that first campaign, they would go door-to-door door from eight a.m. to eight p.m. His campaign ally, Daly Reed, knew everyone and when he introduced Ford he would say, ‘This is Danny Ford, my foster son.'”
Ford was successful, winning Lincoln County that year, and went nearly unchallenged in the years that followed: out of 30 primaries and general elections, Ford faced opposition only four times.
“Danny said that most of his job in the Legislative Assembly was to help his constituents find their way through the maze of state government. And that’s exactly what Danny did,” said Key. “He believed in the philosophy of being responsive and approachable. Either way, you could always count on Danny to be ready and willing to listen to any concerns his constituents might have.”
While in the Kentucky House of Representatives, Ford served as Republican Leader from 1995 to 1998, Republican Minority Whip from 1993 to 1994, and again in 2011. He was the longest-serving Republican in the House of Representatives. ‘state since 1900. as a leader on both sides of the aisle.
“His opinion was highly respected by the right and the left,” Clue said. “And you can bet when Danny Ford stood up to deliver a speech, all ears were tuned not to miss a single word of his eloquent preacher-style speech.”
Some of Ford’s notable accomplishments during his tenure in the legislature include promoting legislation to build freeways, repair infrastructure, and make police cars safer for the officer by adding cages separating the front seats and back. He also played a key role in establishing the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame in Mt. Vernon.
But it was another achievement that showed how much Ford “really cared about the people of Kentucky,” as Clue put it.
“One of his proudest moments in the Legislative Assembly was when he was able to help a family get a cochlear implant for their son,” Clue said. “They were repeatedly turned down and with Danny’s help they finally got approved.”
At Thursday’s banquet, Ford recalled this boy and noted that today he is an engineer.
“Isn’t it great to have these kinds of things that can happen with the government?” Ford asked.
After retiring from the legislature, Ford served as director of the state’s surplus property division. Under his leadership, the division was able to reverse its losses and begin to see a profit.
The next generation of the Ford family is now running the family business, but Danny Ford still enjoys coming to work every day and making sure things run smoothly, Clue noted.
“We thank you all, we appreciate it,” Ford said Thursday. “We love the Somerset-Pulaski County community.”
The other winners of Thursday night’s Chamber Banquet are listed in Saturday’s edition of the Commonwealth Journal.
Other highlights of the evening included a standing ovation for Lisa Evans, who posthumously won the “Women in Business Award”, – Lisa’s husband Jack Evans and daughter Olivia Brown accepted the award in her name – and the words of incoming House Speaker Tiffany Finley, who announced plans to create a program called Rise to help women advance in business.