It has been five years since the Tennessee Waltz investigation swept up state and local officials and their associates in a federal sting. Bribery charges were handed down, along with prison sentences for caught-on-tape participants. Then-State Sen. John Ford was among them.
That was then. This is now. A released from prison and jubilant Ford was whisked into a waiting car to take him to the Diersen Charities halfway house in South Memphis where he stayed this week, preparing for a return to his residence next week.
Ford, now 70, wore a huge grin when he told media that "great things" were ahead for him. Grayer, with a few more lines and wrinkles, Ford was, nonetheless, hopeful and optimistic. He reported to prison on April 28, 2008 following his 2007 bribery conviction in Memphis.
"I haven't spoken with him since we picked him up," said Edgar Miller, chief of operations at N.J. Ford and Sons. "But he was understandably glad to be back home, and we were happy to see him back."
Ford was housed in the federal correctional facility in Yazoo City, Miss., approximately 181 miles from Memphis.
Edmund Ford, proprietor of E.H. Ford Mortuary and brother of the former senator, said the family was "obviously elated to have him home."
"I don't really want to make a statement, per se, but we are all very thankful that John is back home," he said. "He will be coming back home in a few days, and obviously, he'll have no trouble getting a job. Next week, he'll probably be giving interviews.
"But for now, we should let what he has already said speak for him when he said that great things are ahead for him and that he has a story to tell. None of us can tell that story for him. He will speak for himself," said Ford. "I guess the most important thing is to look ahead and leave all that has happened back there in the past."
When Ford was told that some of the former state senator's one-constituents expressed loyalty and hoped he returns to politics, Ford laughed and remarked, "I'm sure he'll be happy to hear that. Yes, he will sure love to hear that. Who knows what lies ahead for him? We'll all just have to wait and see."
"I'm glad to see Senator Ford back home, myself. That's just me. He's paid for his actions, and I believe he deserves another chance. Anybody deserves another chance. We all need forgiveness at one time or another. And I'll tell you something else. I hope he runs for office again. I believe he will be a better elected official because he's learned some valuable lessons. I've always voted for him, and I would vote for him again.
– Charles J. Simpson, South Memphis
"It's not that I wish any misfortune on John Ford. I believe that he has a future in some area, but politics should not be it. My personal feeling is that I would not vote for him again. I have supported him in past state races, but I don't think I would again. Now, that's just the way I feel right now. If he runs for office and I hear him speak, I may change my mind. But the arrogance was just too much, in my opinion. Maybe he's a different person. I would just have to see. But the way I feel now, he would not get my vote.
– Sharon F. Harris, Midtown Memphis
"I saw Mr. Ford Monday on the news. I know an experience like that would change anybody. We can all relate because we have loved ones or people we know who have been incarcerated. Some of us have been guilty but never got caught. So we can all be compassionate. I wish Mr. Ford well. I believe, as he said, there are 'great things' ahead for him. And I believe he will do well, whatever enterprise he pursues. Would I vote for him if he ran for office? Yes, I would. Public office is what he knows best. I think he should re-enter politics.
– Pauline McConnell, Hickory Hill