By Clunis Devaney
NASSAU, Bahamas – Joseph Russell Ford, M.B.E., J.P., a former Member of Parliament for the Inagua constituency, died early Saturday afternoon January 19 at his Nassau-East Boulevard home following a year-long battle with cancer. He was 82.
His son, Joseph “Joey” Ford said the former parliamentarian died with family members at his bedside, and that he was “peaceful” and in a “jovial mood” to the end.
Mr. Ford spent 14 years in the House of Assembly as the representative for the two easternmost islands of The Bahamas, namely, Inagua and Mayaguana. He was first elected in the April 10, 1968 general election, defeating Bernard Dupuch of the United Bahamian Party.
He was returned to Parliament in the 1972 general election but lost to the Free National Movement’s Vernon Symonette in the general election of 1982.
Mr. Ford, the youngest of seven children, was born at Matthew Town, Inagua on August 15, 1929 to Joseph and Lillian Ford.
Affectionately called “T-Joe” or “Lil Joe” he entered frontline politics in the 1960s during the struggle for Majority Rule.
During his time in the House, he championed the cause of the underprivileged and working class. Among his most noted accomplishments was the securing of improved wages and conditions for Morton Salt workers.
Following the passing of the Fair Labour Standards Act in 1971, Mr. Ford took exception to Morton Salt’s method of paying the workers, which he felt was not right.
He challenged Morton Salt to conform to the provisions of the Fair Labour Standards Act, but the company fired back by saying they were exempted from the Act as they were registered under the old Animal Husbandry Act, which equated salt manufacturing to seasonal crops like onions.
Mr. Ford accused Morton Salt of exploiting the workers and tabled a motion in the House of Assembly for a Select Committee to investigate the operations of the company.
In an effort to have the matter settled quietly, Mr. Ford was invited to the company’s main office in the United States to discuss the matter.
The issue was resolved and the workers at Inagua were eventually paid wages under the Fair Labour Standards Act.
In 1967, Mr. Ford was appointed to the Board of the then Bahamas Telecommunications Corporation (BaTelCo) and became the Deputy Chairman the same year.
In 1968, he was appointed the Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors of BaTelCo, where he served in that capacity for 10 years.
In 1974, he led a delegation to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) Conference in Sri Lanka, where he was elected to the Executive Committee of the CPA and served two years.
He was the first Bahamian to hold the post and was warmly congratulated by then Prime Minister, the Rt. Honourable Sir Lynden Pindling, who commended Mr. Ford on attaining “this signal honour” for his country.
Mr. Ford was elected along with former Barbados Prime Minister Tom Adams as the CPA’s representatives for South and Central America. He was Mr. Adams’ junior.
In 1980, Mr. Ford again led a Bahamian CPA delegation to New Zealand.
That same year, he was appointed the Executive Chairman of the Broadcasting Corporation of the Bahamas, a post he held until 1982.
Mr. Ford’s accomplishments in public life were notably recognized in 1982 when he was awarded a Member of the Most Distinguished Order of the British Empire (MBE). The following year, he was appointed a Justice of the Peace.
Mr. Ford’s professional career was in the Insurance industry.
He spent a number of years with Imperial Life Financial, and following that company’s merger with Colina Insurance, he was made a senior consultant with Colina Imperial.
Mr. Ford is survived by his wife of 52 years, Thelma (nee Gomez); sons, Gaylen, Joseph “Joey” and Sean, daughters Glendina Ford and Terry Ann Deveaux; 18 grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and a sister, Mrs. Vera Cartwright.