Kemba Ford enters political arena with family's history in mind - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Kemba Ford enters political arena with family's history in mind

Posted: Updated:

(WMC-TV) - In her first television interview, the daughter of former Tennessee State Senator John Ford opened up about her decision to enter politics.

Kemba Ford said her decision to run for Memphis City Council hinged on her father's blessing.  She broke the news to the former state senator by phone.

"I said, 'well Dad, I'm thinking about running for Memphis City Council, and I pulled a petition,'" said Kemba Ford.  "And there was silence."

Her father is in Yazoo City Prison on a bribery conviction.  She said he told her to follow her dream.

"What made me want to get into politics, despite all of the pain and having lived through my uncle's trials, my dad's trials," said Kemba Ford.  "It's because I love Memphis."

The year Kemba Ford was born, her father became a state senator and her uncle, Harold Ford, became Tennessee's first African American congressman.

Kemba Ford grew up with political figures all around, but made her living up to now as a theatre and commercial actress.

She said she held off from politics because she lives in District 7, where former Councilwoman Barbara Swearengen Ware had a 16-year stronghold.

"I didn't want to run against anyone that has given so much service, so much of her life to helping this district," said Kemba Ford.

The seat opened when Ware resigned amid public corruption charges.  Now, the candidate of just three weeks is already tackling big issues, like the upcoming Pyramid Arena redevelopment.

"If we're using Memphis money, let's hire Memphians," she said.  "Let's employ Memphians."

She said there is more to Memphis than the Pyramid.

"If the city can find $200 million to entice Bass Pro to come to the Pyramid, then they can spend $4 million to put computers on the desk of every student in North Memphis," said Kemba Ford.

She blasted political insiders who are circulating a letter supporting her opponent.

"Power brokers who live in million dollar homes in East Memphis and they believe that they can choose, they believe that they have the right to choose for the people of District 7, which is by and large, 75% African American," said Kemba Ford.

As she jumps into the political arena, her past has taught her it will not all be rosy.

"To know that I have to be open, it's refreshing and freeing, but it also leaves you very vulnerable," she said.

District 7 covers the majority of the Downtown Memphis area, Mud Island, North Memphis, and segments of Raleigh and Frayser.

Scroll down to read the letter circulated by political insiders that was blasted by Kemba Ford.


Memphis faces one of its most important elections October 6.  There's little doubt that Mayor A C Wharton will be reelected for a full four-year term, and after two years of triage in city government, he is prepared to implement his vision for Memphis as a city of choice.
But he cannot do it alone.  He needs capable and full partners on Memphis City Council.  Fortunately, several of these kinds of Council members will return.  Without opposition in the election, Councilmen Harold Collins, Jim Strickland, Myron Lowery, and Reid Hedgepeth will take the oath of office for four more years of steady leadership.  In addition, several Council incumbents are strongly favored for reelection.
There are two races that will determine the tone, tenor, and track record of the next City Council: the race for District 8 where Bill Morrison is the incumbent and the race for District 7 where Lee Harris is campaigning for the vacant seat.
First, Councilman Morrison.  Bill is the quintessential public servant: unselfish, committed, fair, and wise.  He is guided by the best principle of public leadership: Just do what's right.  He has been an important key vote for fiscal responsibility, public integrity, and urban redevelopment.  His opponent is being liberally funded by labor unions that attack him for his key votes for budgetary common sense and reasonable employee benefits.  A vote for fiscal insolvency is in the long run not only bad for labor unions but for every Memphian as our city fights to compete in today's economy and to keep from loading more tax increases on the backs of our citizens.  Put simply, we cannot afford to lose Bill Morrison on Memphis City Council.
Second, Lee Harris, who is running for the seat left vacant by the resignation of Barbara Swearingen Holt.  This district includes parts of downtown and much of North Memphis and there are 13 candidates vying for this open seat, including Ms. Holt's son and former State Senator John Ford's daughter.  Lee is considered the front runner for this position and with good reason.  He is a graduate of Overton High School, attended Morehead College, and then Yale Law School.  He lives in Harbor Town and he and his wife, who he met at Yale, both teach at University of Memphis Law School.    He is exactly the kind of leader we need on City Council at this critical point in our history.  In the next four years, city government will confront some tough, complex issues, including budgetary discipline, blight and crime, and neighborhood-based economic development.  There is no one better to serve District 7.
The opportunity to elect two people of this caliber would be crucial at any time, but particularly now as Memphis deals with the after-effects of the economic downturn, declining revenues, and lingering structural problems like poverty.  Memphis deserves leaders who are courageous enough to tackle these issues and to shape a successful future for our city.
The stakes are high.  Without them, Mayor Wharton will not have the partners that he needs to keep the city's financial house in order while creating jobs and improving our city.  Please consider contributing with us to the campaigns of Councilman Morrison and Mr. Harris.  If you already have given, we ask that you consider giving more.
Checks for Bill Morrison should be made payable to Friends of Bill Morrison and checks for Lee Harris should be made payable to Harris for Council.  Please send the checks to Karl at 930 White Station Road, Memphis, TN 38117, and we will make sure your investment in the future is spent wisely and effectively.  Any contribution is appreciated, but we ask for you to consider $250, $500 or $1,000 for each candidate.  We know this seems like a lot, but please consider this as an investment in responsible government for the next four years, and consider the alternative.  We have budgets of over $50,000 per candidate and are $40,000 short, so we need your help.
We cannot overemphasize how important this is for a well-run, wisely-managed city government over the next four years.
Thank you for your support.
Karl A. Schledwitz
Jack Sammons


Copyright 2011 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.

Powered by WorldNow