State Sen. Robert Ford is being honored by the General Assembly with a congratulatory resolution for his more than 50 years of work as a civil rights leader.

“The General Assembly of the State of South Carolina are grateful for the outstanding efforts of Senator Robert Ford in the struggle for racial equality and civil rights, spanning more than a half century,” the resolution states.

Ford, who represents parts of Charleston and Dorchester counties, said he did not expect to be recognized.

“They really got me this time. It was a big surprise,” Ford said.

State Sen. Paul Campbell, who represents parts of Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties, said it was important to honor Ford, who he has worked with for about 20 years, because he sometimes “gets jumped on. Robert tries to do what’s right. Sometimes if you do what’s right, you’re going to upset both sides,” Campbell said. “The resolution will tell people that you can criticize him if you want to, but he’s an effective senator. He stood up for what he believed in.”

Ford began his activism at age 13, when he became a student leader in the New Orleans branch of the NAACP.

He said he got involved with civil rights efforts in his hometown because his “mother always encouraged us to do what we could to help our neighbors and other people.”

He also said being a Boy Scout “led me from childhood to manhood.”

Ford worked for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. under the guidance of James E. Orange and James L. Bevel on voter registration with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Ford helped organize and attended the Louisiana Caravan to Washington, D.C., for the March on Washington, where King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. At 19, Ford was in Memphis, Tenn., with the SCLC to support striking sanitation workers when King was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

Ford was a Charleston City Council member 1974-92 and has served in the state Senate since 1993.

He said his constituents motivate him to continue to strive for equal rights.

“I have to hang in there because I know a lot of people count on me,” he said.

Reach Jade McDuffie at 937-5560 or