OXFORD, Miss. – A reception honoring Tim Ford, former speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives, is set for 5-6 p.m. March 21 at Balch & Bingham law firm in Jackson.
The reception also supports a scholarship in Ford’s name at the University of Mississippi, where he was awarded the 2011 Distinguished Alumni Award in Public Service.
“We are proud to recognize Tim Ford,” said Richard Forgette, senior associate dean of the UM College of Liberal Arts. “Tim has had a long, distinguished career in state government. He served as speaker of the Mississippi House for 16 years.
“Tim is greatly respected on both sides of the aisle, Republican and Democrat. His public service has made a great difference, not only in terms of his community, but to the state of Mississippi and the University of Mississippi.”
Ford earned a bachelor’s degree in 1973 and a J.D. in 1977, both from UM. After obtaining his law degree, he served as a law clerk for the presiding justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court and then as an assistant district attorney. He was elected to the state House of Representatives in 1980 and became speaker of the house in 1988, serving in that role until his retirement in 2004. He is the second-longest-serving speaker in Mississippi history.
“Tim deserves this award because of his long-time tenure as a leader in Mississippi politics and his undying support for the University of Mississippi,” said Andy Mullins, chief of staff to the chancellor and associate professor of education. “So much of the good change that has occurred at this university has come through the support of people like Tim Ford.
“He has been a friend to the university and a friend to those of us in the administration who have advocated for various changes to make the university a more international university rather than just a regional one.”
During his tenure as speaker, Ford was known for his ability to hold the House together, despite partisanship pressures and a newly diverse chamber. He was recognized as a powerful leader who left the Legislature stronger than when he arrived.
He is the first House speaker in the nation to receive the William M. Bulger Excellence in State Legislative Leadership Award. The honor is conferred every other year on a state legislative leader who has helped preserve and build public trust in the legislature and whose career embodies the principles of leadership. Ford was also given the Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Award in 2003.
He is a partner with Balch & Bingham LLP and serves as general counsel to the Mississippi Home Corp., the Mississippi Business Finance Corp., the Mississippi Development Bank and Momentum Mississippi.
Ford credits the university for helping him in his career.
“At Ole Miss you meet the future leaders of the state,” he said. “The friends and contacts that you make at Ole Miss will determine how successful you are in your future because you are literally going to meet everyone who runs the state.”
Balch & Bingham recently made a pledge to the political science department. This donation will create a scholarship designed to allow students to participate in a legislative internship.
“The Tim Ford Public Service Scholarship will help University of Mississippi undergraduates learn about their state and about the state Legislature, a befitting recognition of Tim Ford’s career,” Forgette said. “This scholarship, once endowed, will contribute to the academic experience of future undergraduates at the university.”
The scholarship also allows the political science department to improve its curriculum, he said.
“As part of this state legislative internship program, we created a service learning class piloted last fall in which students role-played as state legislators,” Forgette said. “A series of state senators spoke to students about issues facing the state of Mississippi. From that experience, we selected legislative interns. So this is not only recognition of Tim and his career, but this is how we are changing and improving our curriculum.”
Ford said he hopes the internship will provide insight into the inner workings of the legislative process.
“I hope that the internship will help students better understand how the state Legislature works,” he said. “It is a complex set of rules and committee work that – I’ll be honest – before I went, I had no idea how it operated. It is difficult to teach it in a classroom setting without the exposure that the internship will provide.”
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