Dr. Charles “Chuck” Ford papers

MS 597
Black and white portrait of Dr. Charles "Chuck" Ford, the first Black Tucson city council member. He looks to his left with his suit jacket slung over his shoulder.

Dr. Charles "Chuck" Ford was the first African American elected to the Tucson City Council, serving from 1979-1987.

Collection dates: 1979-1991 bulk (bulk 1979-1987) 1980-1983

About this collection

The Dr. Charles “Chuck” Ford papers document his political career, from his two terms as Ward IV City Council Member in Tucson (1979-1987), to his 1991 mayoral campaign. The collection contains newspaper clippings and scrapbooks of photographs, correspondence, and more. In particular, there is political correspondence between Dr. Ford and Morris K. Udall, Bruce E. Babbitt, and Evan Mecham. These materials document the efforts and impact of Tucson’s first African American city council member.

It should be noted that the first two scrapbooks were physically removed from collection because of water damage but that the scrapbooks are digitized.

Historical background

Dr. Charles “Chuck” Ford was the first African American elected to the Tucson City Council. He served two terms from 1979-1987 for Ward IV, part of which time he also served as Tucson Vice Mayor.

Born in a segregated southern town in Louisiana, Ford worked menial labor jobs before winning an athletic scholarship to Dillard University for basketball. After earning his undergraduate degree, Ford moved to Tucson, where he worked for a year as a substitute teacher before being hired as a full-time teacher by Tucson Unified School District (TUSD). Ford went on to earn both his master’s and doctorate degrees, as well as to serve as principal for several TUSD elementary schools.

In 1979, he was elected as a Democrat to the Tucson City Council, where he served both terms while still working as principal. Ford decided not to run for reelection in 1987. Instead, he chose to accept a position as associate director of the master's in public administration program at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government from 1987 to 1989. Ford moved back to Tucson and unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 1991. Upon his retirement, Ford became an active board member of the Dunbar Coalition.

Ford passed away on November 1, 2019 due to complications of Alzheimer’s disease at his home in North Las Vegas, Nevada.

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