OKLAHOMA CITY – Longtime legislator Charles Ford, who served 38 years in the House and Senate. died Wednesday. He was 90.
Ford is the longest-serving Republican state legislator in Oklahoma history. He served as a Tulsa-area representative in the House from 1967 to 1981 and then as a senator until 2004 when he was among the first group of senators to be term limited.
“Charles Ford was a respected, committed legislator whose public service continued well after his 38-year legislative career,” said House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka. “His extensive contributions to the Capitol art collection are well known, as are his many legislative accomplishments. His voice is still heard at the Capitol. His legacy is unmatched. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time, even as we remember his illustrious service.”
Rep. Ross Ford, R-Broken Arrow, is Charles Ford’s nephew. The senior Ford was present for Rep. Ford’s swearing-in ceremony in 2017 when Ross Ford was elected to fill the House District 76 seat.
“My uncle was an absolute legend at the State Capitol, fighting for many important pieces of legislation during his long career” Ford said. “He had to work even harder to get his voice heard as he was in the minority party in state government during the years he served. Growing up watching him serve the people of Oklahoma made me want to follow in his footsteps. His legacy of public service will live on in the memory of those who served with him and the people who benefitted from his devotion.”
Charles Ford was born in Tulsa on Aug. 2, 1931. In addition to his time in the Legislature, he was a veteran of the U.S. Naval Reserved. He also was a successful businessman, a pilot, a published author and an art collector.
His family expressed that most of all, he was a beloved husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather.
In public life, he is perhaps best known for founding and serving as president of the Oklahoma State Senate Historical Fund Inc. In this role, he helped restore the Senate Chamber and other areas of the Capitol to their original architectural design, as well as raised $2.5 million in private donations to commission works from Oklahoma artists to fill the Capitol.
In 2003, the Senate art collection was featured in the book “Art Treasures of the Oklahoma State Capitol.” Ford co-authored the book “The Oklahoma State Capitol: A History of Our Seat of Government,” published in 2011, with noted author Bob Burke.
During his time in the House, Ford served as House minority whip from 1969 to 1970 and as House minority floor leader from 1971 to 1972. He later served as House assistant minority floor leader from 1979 to 1981. He served as minority leader in the Senate from 1991 to 1992.
He’s noted for writing Oklahoma’s “Make My Day” law, which ensured the rights of citizens to protect themselves from intruders. He also championed a legislative referendum creating the Legislative Compensation Board to determine legislative salaries, and he pushed for ethics laws.
Ford also authored legislation allowing for the concurrent enrollment of high school students in college, as well as a number of bills advancing higher education, particularly in the Tulsa area.
Ford was preceded in death by his parents, Juell and Marzee Ford, and his brother, Beryl Ford, all of Tulsa. He’s survived by his wife of over 70 years, Patricia; son Chris Ford and his wife. Jennifer. of Tulsa; son Roger Ford and his wife, Gabi, of Claremore; daughter Karin Ford, of Norman; daughter Robyn Turner and her husband, Mike, of Sand Springs; 13 grandchildren, and 17 great-grandchildren.