Tireless Advocate and Champion
Underserved, uninsured, underutilized, and unemployed. If you fit in one or more of these categories, then on December 6, 2022, you joined the entire state of South Carolina, the southeast, indeed the nation, in mourning the loss of your tireless advocate and champion, Vincent Ford.
Anyone who worked with him at Prisma Health for over twenty-five years, or during his twenty-four-year (1992 to 2016) tenure on the Richland One school board, agrees that he has left giant shoes to fill. Not content to simply represent the housing projects where he grew up, Ford worked to make a difference creating new initiatives to benefit the community wherever he was.
During one of his eight stints, as Richland 1 Board Chair, Ford insisted on Majority-minority joint venture partnerships to serve as Construction Managers for bond referendum projects. The Special Option local sales tax, in the late 1990s, that both renovated and built new schools in the District not only created jobs, but opportunities for four minority firms: Construction Dynamics, DESA Inc., and Enviro Ag to gain the experience to become prime contractors in subsequent years.
When I think of Vince Ford, I do so in reverence. Vince was an outstanding human being who devoted his life to serving others. I cannot think of anything negative regarding Vince. I used to tell him he was the man that I aspired to be. He was a solid and beloved brother. He promoted Minority Business Participation on the Richland One Projects, which was a Godsend to my business. He also helped me in recommending CDI to other potential customers. Wherever there was a need, you would find Vince there. He spent a significant amount of time educating the community regarding Covid and encouraging people to seek protection. Every Wednesday you would find him at noon on the Urban Scene discussing health related issues. He will be missed. There was only one Vince Ford.Nate Spell, Sr.
Spells words are seconded by Diane Sumpter of DESA, whose firm has provided management and technical assistance for developing minority businesses for 36 years. “When it came to standing up and voting for spending money with firms, who had historically been underutilized in public and private procurement, we could always count on Vince Ford,” Sumpter said. “He would stand up and he didn’t mind if he had to stand alone, but he knew how to play politics and get the votes before he came in the door,” she added.
However more important than his advocacy for business, Sumpter notes, was his absolute commitment to children. “He always asked, ‘is it good for children?’”
One of the programs Ford will be remembered for is, Eye Clinic Services in Richland One. This initiative not only tested the children’s eyesight but made sure they got glasses when needed.
As usual with the things, Vince Ford did it was a two-fer. Not only taking care of children in need but providing business to minority providers of eyecare services as well.
With a demanding job and his work on the school board, it hardly seemed feasible that Ford also found time to be actively involved in 100 Black Men of Columbia and in the Omega Psi Fraternity, but he was. He also became known as “little brother,” to Lonnie Randolph, while serving as a lifetime member of the NAACP.
A relationship that began when his mother and Lonnie’s Dad worked for Blue Ribbon cab company and lived in public housing, the two remained close, until Ford died. Friends note that even as he lay dying, Ford wanted them to look after Lonnie. A $5,000 love gift in Ford’s name has been raised and given to Lonnie and Pat Randolph, as Lonnie convalesces in a nursing facility.
Ford was also a loving and devoted husband and father, leaving behind two grown children. His loss which was noted from the Columbia Mayor, to the Richland School Board to organizations both local and national is probably best summed up by Maya Angelou in her poem, When Great Trees Fall.