FORD, JON CHARLES (1920 ~ 2013)
Jon Ford was a Texas news-writer, columnist and editor for nearly 40 years and a media spokesman for two Texas governors.
He was best known for intensive coverage of four decades of state and national government and politics.
Before reaching the age of 30, he served four years of wartime military duty and was managing editor of two daily newspapers—the Odessa American and the old San Antonio Evening News.
He was press secretary to Gov. Price Daniel during 1960-62 and Gov. Bill Clements during 1979-83.
Born in Cushing (Nacogdoches County) Tex. on November 27, 1920, he was the only son of J.C. and Monterie Swearingen Ford. He attended public schools in Dayton, Tex. and was valedictorian of his 1938 graduating high school class. He earned a bachelor of arts in journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1942, then immediately enlisted in the U.S. Air Force.
Service as a military journalist and photographer took him from many U.S. Air Force bases to the Pacific theater, where he was a staff writer for the Strategic Air Force magazine BRIEF, which covered the climactic air warfare of World War II.
While he was still in uniform awaiting discharge from the Air Force, Ford worked briefly as a reporter and copy editor for the Honolulu Advertiser. His assignments included coverage of what is now the Hawaii statehouse.
After completing military service, Ford’s first job was managing editor of the Odessa American (1946-48). He moved to the San Antonio Express in late 1948 as a staff reporter, and a year later was named managing editor of the San Antonio Evening News, a sister publication at the time. Three years later, he was named associate editor of both the Express and News. In1954, his request for a “temporary” assignment as the newspapers’ capitol bureau chief in Austin led to a 20-year tenure in that job before joining the staff of the Austin American Statesman and Cox Newspapers of Texas as political editor.
Although the last quarter century of his journalism career was devoted to political and government writing, Ford’s experience as a younger reporter ran the spectrum of news coverage. His wartime military writing chronicled the exploits of military heroes and mostly unsung G.I. soldiers and airmen. He later covered the aftermath of tornadoes, hurricanes, industrial fires, floods, explosions, train wrecks and aircraft catastrophes. His crime reporting ranged from tales of colorful misdemeanors to grisly murders, a courtroom suicide and antics of many elected officials. He dutifully reported on investigations of a variety of state government “scandals,” including veterans’ land programs, real estate speculation and a smorgasbord of legislative hanky-panky.
He was recognized with numerous awards for distinguished column and news writing, including four Headliners Club citations. Ford’s political columns, which appeared in more than a dozen Texas newspapers, gained the respect of not only his peers but also most political and government leaders. He was known for his thoughtful and even-handed analysis, no-nonsense calling to account and commanding perceptive from decades of close acquaintance with government. His folksy, conversational style captured readers’ attention and helped them quickly cut through political maneuvering to grasp complex public policy issues. He was the “ghost writer” of a state capitol news summary column for 500 small daily and weekly newspapers for 20 years.
A frequent panelist on television news programs, Ford was a senior interviewer for the long-running, widely distributed television/radio press panel program “Capitol Eye.”
Through most of the 1970s, he was a “string” correspondent for TIME magazine and a frequent contributor to other national news publications. He was a state delegation reporter for NBC News at both 1968 Democratic and Republican presidential nominating conventions.
He covered a dozen regular sessions of the Texas legislature and eight presidential nominating conventions. His news career spanned the administrations of five governors, and he “lost count” of the number of statewide and national campaigns he covered. He interviewed half-dozen presidents at some point in their careers.
Ford co-authored one of the early, widely reviewed books on campaign finance issues, “Campaign Money, Reform and Reality in the States,” published in 1976.
Ford’s special assignments took him to many countries including Russia, Germany, Mexico and several South American nations.
His family includes sons Jon Michael Ford (and wife Marjorie) of Palo Alto, Calif., and Charles C. Ford (and wife Debbie) of Austin; daughters Mary Jane Ford and Ann Ford (and husband Iain Gillies) of Austin; grandchildren Zephyr Carroll, Colby Ford, Michael Ford, Maya Ford and Kyle M. Ford; and great-grandchildren Johnny Canyon Ford, Elijah S. Ford, and Tahlia Iris Ford.