f/8 and Be There
Fred Lynch

Mayor Walter H. Ford

Posted Friday, July 30, 2010, at 7:30 AM

Walter H. Ford was mayor of Cape Girardeau for three terms. He was elected in 1948, appointed in 1956 and re-elected in 1960.

G.D. Fronabarger took this picture Sept. 24, 1956 on Kids' Day sponsored by the Kiwanis Club, of which Ford was also a member.

The pupils, from left: Carolyn Barks of Trinity Lutheran, Nancy Drury of Catholic High, Sharon Griffin and Barbara Chaplin of Central High, and Stephen Oldfield of Catholic High.

The Southeast Missourian published this editorial on July 30, 1968, the day after Ford's death.

Walter H. Ford

Time will not erase the good that Walter H. Ford did for his community. His death at the untimely age of 58 leaves a void in public life that cannot be filled.

Cape Girardeau can cite more progress during his three terms as its mayor than under any man who held the office.

He came into municipal politics at a crucial time in the city's development. The war had been fought. Some of the controls were still in effect.

Cape Girardeau, the depression and recession 30s behind it, had made sacrifices through the period of conflict. But the war and pre-war restrictions had stalemated any major community development.

The standstill had continued afterward, but events were beginning to stir in that year of 1948. Two and one-half years had passed since war's end and the economy was starting to move.

As mayor, Walter Ford had to gear the municipal government for the resurgence just starting to show itself. He did just this, spurring a new and revitalized City Council into action on many fronts.

It was his leadership that made a cohesive unit out of the council, something that had not always been the case. He was a strong mayor who could persuade, and who used his powers of persuasion for municipal progress.

This did not apply only to the council. There were conservative elements of the community to be won over if Cape Girardeau was to grow as he felt it should. He used his ability to encourage their support.

It was perhaps his very success that brought him defeat after his first term in office, for in moving the city forward, he encountered opposition and this solidified at the polls, encouraged by promises impossible of attainment and unaccomplished afterward.

It was a mark of the high regard in which his first term was held, however, when the City Council in 1956, its mayor resigned, selected Mr. Ford to lead the city another four years. He followed that with an elected four-year term before defeat in 1964.

While he had served only the one term on the County Court, his knowledge of budgeting and accounting practices, of streets and roads and of public matters played an important part in decisions reached at Jackson.

Everyone knew him as "Doc," a natural nickname from boyhood since his father was a respected country doctor at Gordonville where the future mayor was reared.

His influence was not alone in municipal progress. It was measured in terms of devoted hours in the classroom, and many will be the pupils he taught here and elsewhere who will pause at his passing and remember him as a coach and confidant who always had a willing ear for their problems.

His contemporaries in college recall his athletic prowess with respect, for he was one of the more brilliant stars on the State College campus. Others will remember him as one of the top basketball officials in the state and for his work as an official in southeast Missouri football games.

Walter Henry Ford will be missed in Cape Girardeau. The city he helped to build can always look back on the small and large monuments of progress he left in his 12 years in office.


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