Dec. 07--Who is Harold Ford Jr., the man at the center of the latest case of alleged sexual misconduct? Here are five things to know.
1. He's from a political dynasty
Harold Ford Jr. is a 47-year-old member of the prominent Ford family of Memphis and became a well-known figure on the national stage through his terms in Congress and his TV appearances. At one point he was considered one of Washington's most eligible bachelors. In 2001, People magazine listed Ford as one of the 50 most beautiful people in the world.
The Ford family originally rose to prominence within Memphis'African-American community through its successful operation of funeral businesses. Some local funeral homes still bear the Ford name, among them N.J. Ford and Sons Funeral Home and E.H. Ford Mortuary.
Many members of the Ford family have been elected to city, county, state and federal offices. Among the most prominent was Harold Ford Sr., who used his charisma, campaign skills and funeral home connections to win a congressional seat in 1974 representing Memphis.
Harold Ford Sr. was only 29, and at the time, and his election was "the biggest political victory in modern history for a black man in the Bluff City," author and journalist Otis Sanford wrote in his book, "From Boss Crump to King Willie."
The Ford family has seen its share of scandals. In 2007, for instance, John Ford, a former state senator and an uncle of Harold Ford Jr., was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison in a corruption case.
2. He won his father's spot in Congress
By 1996, Harold Ford Sr. had been elected to Congress many times and was approaching retirement from the legislative body. He began touring the district with his then-25-year-old son, Harold Jr., who was a law student. "If you like me, you're gonna love him," the elder Ford said at one point.
Voters did seem to love him. At age 26, Ford Jr. overwhelmingly won the Democratic primary in August 1996 against future Congressman Steve Cohen and other opponents, then in November beat Republican nominee Rod DeBerry.
His campaign supporters wore T-shirts that simply said "Jr."
3.He almost won a Senate seat
In 2005, Ford Jr. had been re-elected to Congress several times and sought to become the first African-American elected to the U.S. Senate from the South since Reconstruction.
"I prayed on this months ago and concluded this was the right thing to do," he said shortly after filing paperwork.
In 2005 and 2006, Ford Jr. crisscrossed Tennessee in an expensive and often vicious contest with former Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker, a Republican.
The race drew national attention and one notorious attack ad illustrated the bitterness of the contest. The ad, paid for by the Republican National Committee, included a blond, bare-shouldered white woman saying "I met Harold at the Playboy party!" She ends the spot by winking and saying, "Harold, call me!"
The ad played on Ford's image as a sexy, stylish bachelor Congressman. He was married in 2008. Democrats and the NAACP condemned this and other ads in the Senate race as racist.
Ford Jr. lost by a narrow margin -- he took about 48 percent of the vote to Corker's 51 percent.
4. He stayed in the public eye
After the election, Ford Jr. quickly took a variety of roles, including teaching at Vanderbilt University, as chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council, and as vice chairman and senior policy adviser at investment bank Merrill Lynch and Co. Inc.
He also published a 2010 book entitled "More Davids Than Goliaths: A Political Education."
5. He became a cable pundit
More recently, he taught at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan and contributed analysis to cable outlets including MSNBC. He was also working for investment bank Morgan Stanley, which Thursday announced his termination for what the firm called "conduct inconsistent with our values."
Reach reporter Daniel Connolly at 529-5296, [email protected], or on Twitter at @danielconnolly.
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