FROM THE HOOD TO THE HILL: AN URBAN DREAM
Wayne Ford was born in Washington, D.C., and raised in the northeast and southeast areas of Washington's inner city. He was involved in various juvenile crimes during his teenage years and voted "most likely not to succeed" by his classmates at Ballou High School in 1969.
His skill as a football player led to a football scholarship to Rochester Junior College in Minnesota; and he credits that move with saving him from the negative lifestyle he'd been living. He continued his education at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, on a football scholarship, graduating in 1974 with a Bachelor's degree in Education.
In 1984, he founded and organized the Brown & Black Presidential Forum, the only minority presidential forum in America. 2000's forum featured presidential candidates Vice President Al Gore and Senator Bill Bradley and was carried live globally on MSNBC. (www.bbpresforum.org)
In 1985, Ford founded Urban Dreams, a United Way Agency that serves the needs of Des Moines' inner-city residents. Ford has served as Urban Dreams executive director since its inception. In addition, Good Morning America profiled Urban Dreams in 1995. (www.urbandreams.org)
In 1996, Ford was elected an Iowa State Representative for House District 71, which includes some of the wealthiest and poorest neighborhoods in Iowa. Ford is currently the only minority in the state's legislature and only the tenth African-American elected to the legislature in the history of the state. (www.repwayneford.com)
Ford has been profiled in numerous national publications including The Washington Times, The Washington Post, The Source and Parade about his rise from Washington, D.C.'s inner city to the Iowa Statehouse. Award winning journalist Dan Rather also personally selected Ford and his unique life story for his best selling book, The American Dream. The book profiles individuals who Rather felt exemplified the American Dream.
Because Iowa's rate of incarceration of minority males is second highest nationally behind Washington, D.C., Ford was appointed by Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack to co-chair a commission to study this issue, report its findings and make recommendations for actions to be taken to alleviate the situation.
Recently, Ford has been actively involved in efforts to preserve a part of old Fort Des Moines as a national historic landmark and serves as a member of the Fort Des Moines Black Officers Memorial advisory board with other state and national leaders. Fort Des Moines was the only place in the U.S. to train black U.S. Army officers during World War I and training of black women to become WAAC's during World War II.
Ford's consulting firm, Wayne Ford & Associates, works with businesses in the areas of minority employment facilitation, social mediation, life skills training for college athletes, community consulting for professional sports teams and other human service needs. Ford consulted Iowa Public Television in the development and production of Changing the Odds in Iowa, a show that profiled some positive minority role models including him. Ford has consulted Iowa State University and the University of Georgia since 1995 on the Family and Community Health Study, the largest longitudinal study of African-American families currently being conducted in the country. (www.waynefordassoc.com)
Ford was called "the voice of urban Iowans" when he had his own talk show for six years on Des Moines' WHO Radio, one of few 50,000 watt, clear channel stations.
Ford is currently working on his autobiography, From the Hood to the Hill: An Urban Dream.