Owensboro native and legendary Kentucky political leader Wendell Ford has passed away Thursday at the age of 90.
Ford was the first person in state history to serve as lieutenant governor, governor, and U.S. Senator. During his 24 years in the Senate, Ford was a vocal defender of the tobacco industry and Kentucky farmers.
The Democrat is cited by many as one of the most influential leaders of his party during the second half of the 20th century.
Ford announced in July that he was undergoing chemotherapy for lung cancer.
Term limits at the time prevented Ford from serving only four years as Governor, from 1971 to 1974. But in a 2010 interview with WKU Public Radio, Ford said he appreciated the fact that a Governor had the ability to be much more “hands on” than a U.S. Senator.
“You had the ability to start a project, or stop it. If people wouldn’t do what you wanted them to do, you could fire them and get someone that would. Not that I did that, but you had that opportunity and I guess people knew that.”
While he eventually gained the reputation as a lawmaker who worked behind the scenes to get things done in Washington, Ford initially had a hard time with the slow, deliberative process of the Senate. The Owensboro Democrat told WKU Public Radio he thought about quitting early on when he couldn’t get projects important to Kentucky passed.