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Member Profile: Wayne Ford

0525807rep-ford-2007reducedIowa State Representative Wayne Ford’s rise from Washington, D.C.’s inner city to the Iowa Capitol is truly an urban dream, and it has been chronicled many times by media such as The Des Moines Register, The Washington Times, The Washington Post, The Washington Afro, Source Magazine, Parade Magazine, BET and HDNet. Emmy Award-winning journalist Dan Rather personally selected Ford’s unique life story for his best-selling book in 2001, The American Dream.

Representative Ford began Concerned Citizens for Minority Affairs and hosted his first U.S. Presidential Forum in 1976. Surrogates for U.S. Presidential candidates like Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter were sent to the forum in Des Moines, Iowa. Ford later served as Governor Carter’s Iowa State Minority Education Coordinator. In 1984, Ford and Latino community leader Mary Campos co-founded the Iowa Brown & Black Presiden­tial Forum (bbpresforum.org), the nation’s oldest, ongoing minority U.S. presidential forum. The event annually precedes the Iowa Caucuses, and was televised in 2000 and 2004 globally by MSNBC featuring nearly all of the Democratic presidential candidates. The Forum was telecast regionally and nationally by HDNet and Mediacom in December 2007 and was broadcast globally by Sirius Satellite Radio. This was the first time that both HDNet and Sirius had carried a U.S. presidential forum. Ford was appointed as the African American Advisor to the Iowa Obama for President Campaign.

In 1996, Ford was elected Iowa State Representative (repwayneford.com) and became only the 10th African-American legislator in the state’s history. Ford is today the longest-serving African-American in Iowa’s history and ran unopposed his first six terms. He is credited with inspiring other Black legislators to run, and now Iowa will have six African-Americans serving this legislative season in the House of Representatives, the highest number to ever serve in the state’s history.

Iowa’s first in the nation status’ with respect to disproportionate incarceration of Black males inspired Ford to author landmark legislation during the 2008 legislative session, which made Iowa the first state in the nation to require a minority impact statement with respect to both new criminal laws and state contracts. This was passed by both houses of the Iowa legislature and signed into law by Iowa Governor Chet Culver. This landmark legislation was profiled by The Sentencing Project of Washington, D.C., and The National Law Journal.

Originally from Wilson, NC, Ford grew up in Washington, D.C.’s inner-city in the early 1950’s. Although he was a success on the football field and named All-Conference Defensive Tackle for Ballou High School, he also earned the title “Most Likely Not to Succeed” due to his involvement in various juvenile crimes. Upon graduation in 1969, however, Ford received a scho­lar­ship to play football at Rochester Junior College in Minnesota. It’s a move he credits with sa­ving his life. He continued his education and football career at Drake University in Des Moines, IA, where he graduated on the Dean’s List in 1974 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Education. Ford also earned credits at the University of Iowa Graduate School for MSW and Drake University Graduate School for Public Adminstration.

Since 1985, Wayne Ford has served as the Executive Director of the non-profit Urban Dreams (www.urbandreams.org), a United Way agency he founded and created to serve the needs of Des Moines’ inner-city re­si­dents. It has since become statewide and regional. This year, Urban Dreams plans to expand to Los Angeles, CA, Raleigh, NC and Washington, D.C. Urban Dreams has a working relationship with George Washington Carver’s alma mater Simpson College in Indianola, IA, and this collaboration has created one of the nation’s newest urban institutes. In addition, Urban Dreams will be opening an office in the spring of 2009 on the campus of the University of Iowa, one of the first ventures of this type in the nation. Between 1995 and 2006, Ford worked with Iowa State University and the University of Georgia on the Family and Com­mu­nity Health Study, the largest longitudinal study of African-American families conducted in the country at this time.

In 1992, Ford began his own consulting firm, Wayne Ford & Associates (waynefordassoc.com). WFA helps businesses throughout the Midwest to recruit and retain minority employees. WFA works to empower non-profit community organizations through development of high-risk youth projects and fundraising. In addition, the firm collaborates with universities and colleges regarding the issues that face urban athletes who plan to make the transition to a rural collegiate setting.

For six years beginning in 1990, Ford was called the “Voice of Ur­ban Iowans” while hosting his own weekly talk show on Des Moines’ WHO-AM radio, one of the few 50,000-watt Clear Channel radio stations in America. He served as President of Des Moines community radio station KUCB in 1987. In 2003 he began writing a weekly column for media giant Gannett’s Des Moines Press Citizen Shopper. He currently contributes a weekly article to Gannett’s Des Moines Register.

Ford has been inducted into numerous halls of fame, including Rochester Community College’s Alumni Hall of Fame in 1994, Drake University’s Double-D award for athletics and civic involvement in 1995, Des Moines B’nai Brith Sports’ Hall of Fame in 2002, and the Iowa State African-American Hall of Fame in 2004. The Iowa Commission on the Status of African-Americans made Ford the first recipient of its Harold Washington, Jr., Pinnacle Award in 2008 in recognition of his impact on the African-American community. Also in 2008, he received the Shining Star Award from the National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women, an affiliate of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL). Since 2007, Ford held the position of First Vice-Chair of the NBCSL’s Business, Finance, and Insurance Committee and the NBCSL’s Sports and Entertainment Committee. In 2006, Ford was the Chair of Region XI, which encompasses Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas, and he also chaired the NBCSL’s Insurance Committee.

Ford and his wife, Romonda, an Assistant Polk County Attorney, reside in Des Moines. They attend Union Baptist Church. Aside from his work in the community and at the capitol, Ford is currently working on his autobiography, From the Hood to the Hill: An Urban Dream.

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