In Memoriam: Richard Ford
We first met Richard Ford of Texas back in the early days of the modern conservative movement. The 1960s and 70s were exciting times in conservative politics and Richard was a fixture of the movement that grew from the defeat of Barry Goldwater in 1964 to the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.
Among Richard’s many contributions to the cause of liberty under God’s laws was the founding of several effective conservative organizations, including the Free Market Committee, the Free Market Foundation (now Texas Values), the Liberty Legal Institute (now First Liberty) and iVoter Guide. To learn more about Richard Ford’s many contributions to the growth and effectiveness of the modern conservative movement click this link.
We repost this memorial tribute to Richard Ford with the kind permission of Debbie Wuthnow, President, iVoterGuide.
On April 15, 2022—Good Friday—a dear servant of Christ passed from this life into the next and is now dancing and singing with our risen savior. Hailed by some as “The Godfather of conservative politics in Texas,” Richard Ford was not just the founder of iVoterGuide and a leader in the conservative political realm, but also a man whose vision was rooted in a deep love of God and commitment to see the America he loved remain a bastion for those seeking God and preaching the Gospel.
During the 80s, Richard formed the Free Market Committee, whose initial act was to recruit the legislators to form the Texas Conservative Coalition, a bipartisan group of “pro-family” legislators. Free Market Committee scored other successes in the 80s and were among those who persuaded Democratic Governor Bob Bullock to rescind his call for a state income tax in 1991 and to call for licensing of abortion clinics in 1985 . . . closing half of the abortion facilities in Texas.
In 1987, the Free Market Foundation was formed to focus on research and education for free enterprise, limited government, and traditional family values and became the model for the state Family Policy Councils of Focus on the Family. Today, Free Market Foundation is known as Texas Values.
Richard hired Kelly Shackelford and began their powerful legal arm, Liberty Legal Institute. As Richard turned his attention more ‘behind the scenes’, Shackelford was put in charge of Liberty Legal Institute—which is now First Liberty.
A recurring theme to Richard’s vision was to empower Christians to use their God-ordained authority to vote wisely. From the first voter guides released by Free Market Foundation all the way to the formation of iVoterGuide decades later, Richard knew that we all have a civic responsibility to vote, yet too many lack information to be good stewards of their citizenship. He dedicated his life to serving God by stepping in to fill that void.
If you didn’t know Richard well, you might not know that a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis in 1981 caused him to pull back from national politics and focus on Texas. And you might not know that he had been confined to a wheelchair for almost thirty-five years. But physical infirmity didn’t slow him down. Richard frequently paraphrased 1 Cor 1:27 to say that “God uses the foolish to confound the wise and the weak to confound the strong.” His trust in God’s power working through him was greater than human strength, and through God’s strength Richard accomplished much!
As impactful as Richard was politically, his greater legacy is spiritual. Richard Ford was a man after God’s own heart, with a passion for sharing the love of Jesus and discipling others to learn the hope that is in Christ. He was known for his love for the Lord and his love of his family and friends. But he wasn’t always that way.
Richard credits his real estate business partner, John Maisel, as being a model for Christ-like living and for teaching him to share Jesus with everyone . . . even with strangers on elevators, whom he’d ask, “Do you have a relationship with Jesus or are you still in the process?”
It was Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, who helped Richard see the intersection between working for God’s kingdom and becoming active in civic engagement. His activism was always motivated to do all things for God’s glory. He would say that he learned to trust Jesus more as he became physically weaker.
Richard saw God as working through all situations and challenged my faith as he always responded to crises with “Thank you, Jesus!” because he knew God had a better plan. And He always did!
Even though he could not physically stand, Richard stood for what he believed in and was a stalwart example of Christian, conservative leadership. Richard was like a father to me, and made me a better servant of Christ. The legacy he left for his loved ones, his state, and his country will endure, and we are all better for having walked alongside him.
It has been a remarkable privilege to work with such a dear man of God who, fittingly, went home on Good Friday, a day of mourning and hope. May we all strive to do everything to God’s glory, as Richard certainly did, and—like we know he did on April 15—one day hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
P.S. To join us and beloved family in celebrating his life, you may view his memorial service online until May 25, 2022. To leave memories, condolences, or encouragement for his family and all who love him, click here.
Richard asked that memorial gifts be made to American Family Association.
Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, the mind has not conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him. 1 Corinthians 2:9
Free Market Committee
Free Market Foundation (now Texas Values)
Liberty Legal Institute (now First Liberty)