Six years after state lawmaker Robert Ford of Charleston resigned his office amid a campaign spending scandal, another state lawmaker says it's time to forgive Ford and give him the positive recognition he deserves.
State Rep. Wendell Gilliard wants South Carolina State University to name its new building in Charleston after the 70-year-old Ford.
In a note Tuesday to S.C. State Board Chairman Milton Irvin, Gilliard said Charleston has the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge and the Strom Thurmond Research Building at the Medical University of South Carolina, and it's time to name something after "another great person that has done so much for South Carolina."
"Tirelessly and selflessly Senator Ford has given of himself to make Charleston and the whole State of South Carolina a better place for all residents," wrote Gilliard, D-Charleston. "Senator Ford is a man with a true servant's heart and now is the precise time to show him exactly how much Charleston and the state of South Carolina appreciate all he has done."
Nothing in Gilliard's letter mentions the legal troubles that drove Ford from office.
Gilliard told The Post and Courier on Tuesday that the good that Ford did as a lawmaker outweighs the bad.
He said he didn't mention Ford's conviction in his note to S.C. State because "everybody knows about it."
"Everybody needs to be forgiven," Gilliard added.
Of his positive works, "We should never take that away from him," Gilliard said.
Ford, who like Gilliard first served on Charleston City Council, eventually became a state senator and Democratic candidate for governor. Ford was sentenced to probation in 2015 after pleading guilty to several misdemeanor ethics violations tied to spending his campaign money on himself.
He used the funds for such things as car payments, department store purchases, restaurants, sex toys he said were gag gifts and other expenses.
He resigned from his Statehouse seat that covered much of Charleston and North Charleston during a Senate Ethics Committee investigation into his spending habits. He later was indicted.
His guilty plea did not preclude him from running for office again, and he tried an unsuccessful comeback for his former Senate seat in 2016, losing to incumbent Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston, in the June Democratic Party primary.
Ford could not be reached Tuesday for comment. S.C. State officials plan an Aug. 28 groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the start of construction on a new 1890 Research and Extension building in Charleston at 35 Lee St.
The practice of naming roads, building or other things after living people in South Carolina received heightened new scrutiny earlier this month. State transportation commissioners have agreed to consider removing John Hardee’s name from the Columbia airport connector following their former colleague’s guilty plea on an obstruction charge and subsequent arrest on a prostitute solicitation charge.
The John N. Hardee Expressway to the Columbia Metropolitan Airport was named in 1999 and opened in 2004, during Hardee’s first stint as a state Department of Transportation commissioner.
It is among more than 1,000 bridges, interchanges and stretches of highway statewide that bear the names of local VIPs.