Senator Ford comes from a family with a long political heritage in Memphis -- dating back to the late 1800s and deeply rooted in the civil rights movement.
Her late parents, N.J. and Vera Ford founded the N.J. Ford Funeral Home in 1932, where Senator Ford works today as a certified funeral service practitioner.
The Tennessean in Nashville once called the Ford funeral home “a community-centered outfit that lent ambulances and limousines to the civil rights movement and helped out those who could not afford to bury their loved ones.”
Senator Ford grew up in South Memphis, attending Jeter and Walker Elementary Schools and graduating in 1968 from Mitchell High School. She received her bachelor’s degree in business administration from Tennessee State University.
Following a brief marriage, she was a single working mother for many years, raising a daughter. That daughter, Sophia Ford McBride, and her husband, Earl, have given Senator Ford three grandchildren, Kaylavera, Earl III and Jackson.
Senator Ford’s family has a rich chapter in Shelby County political history.
Her brother, Harold Sr., served Memphis for many years as a member of the U.S. House, where he was succeeded by his son, Harold Ford Jr.
Her brothers, Joe and Edmund Sr., and her nephew Edmund Jr., have served on the Shelby County and Memphis City Commissions. Senator Ford’s late brother, James, also served as a commissioner. Her father was a delegate to the State Constitutional Convention.
Another brother, John, served for many years in the Tennessee Senate. Ophelia won his seat in 2006 when she defeated a Republican challenger by 18,000 votes, winning by a margin of 72%-28%.
Her years in the family business have brought her into close contact with countless Shelby County families. As a professional, Senator Ford has gained trust across the Memphis community.