Memphis’s Ford family financial base

One of the significant African-American Memphis landmarks that ought to be on tourism maps is the N. J. Ford & Sons Funeral Home, at 12 S Parkway West. In the days of segregation, the funeral business was one of the ways of accumulating wealth in black communities, and few families have made as much of a funerary enterprise as the Fords.


N. J. Ford, the founder of the firm, had close ties to E. H. “Boss” Crump, the mayor of Memphis whose political machine extended across the state. N. J. Ford had five sons who became active in politics. Among them were Harold, Sr., who became the first African-American elected to Congress from the South since Reconstruction, and John Ford, who was a Tennessee state senator–and quite a character–for over 30 years.

Harold Ford, Jr. was the Democratic candidate for the Tennessee Senate seat up for election in 2006. He lost to Bob Corker by only three percentage points, and made a good impression on Democrats across the country.

Visitors are not encouraged at the funeral home–unless you know one of the deceased or have some politics to discuss.

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