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Innocent Or Guilty, Robert Ford Merits Black Community Support
12/10/2014 2:47:28 PM

Robert Ford
By Barney Blakeney

Last week former Charleston Sen. Robert Ford pled not guilty to allegations he violated state ethics rules about campaign fund spending. Ford is charged with six counts related to ethics violations. While Ford remains optimistic about the outcome, many observing the proceedings are concerned the controversial former politician could fall victim to political posturing. They say those who have benefitted from Ford’s outspoken advocacy in the S.C. Senate now should come to his aide.

Ford has mounted a legal defense campaign. Charleston public schools advocate and community activist Arthur Lawrence noted that he has received a request from Ford for financial assistance to mount his legal defense. Lawrence said he thinks that support is merited, but was dismayed seeing that when entering Richland County Courthouse a week ago Ford only was accompanied by his attorney, William Runyon.

“He went into court with nobody behind him except Runyon,” Lawrence noted.

Some of Ford’s constituents, even those who didn’t always agree with him, say that picture shouldn’t be a precursor of the community support Ford receives.

Charleston NAACP President Dot Scott refused to comment about Ford’s frequent conflicts with NAACP initiatives like the removal of the Confederate Flag from the S.C. Statehouse grounds. Instead she said, “I hope people remember all the good Ford’s done. He spoke up for poor people and Black people when nobody else would. I will support him because of those things he’s done in the past. What’s happening now should not define him.”

Hollywood Rep. Robert Brown also pledged his support to Ford. “Despite his shortcomings, Ford’s overall career warrants the community coming to his financial aide,” Brown said.

As a legislator, Ford often was among the first to advocate for minority business participation in economic development initiatives, Brown said. Minority businesses benefitted from Ford’s advocacy. They should reciprocate that support, he said.

“Ford’s vigilance and persistence helped many minority businesses get in the door and remain in the door.

That should mandate the community’s support regardless of Ford’s guilt or innocence,” Brown said. “Over his career, Ford’s done a lot more good than bad.”

Brown noted most of the allegations against Ford concern spending Ford says was done to reward or recognize his constituents. It’s common knowledge that Ford often sends greeting, holiday and birthday cards to thousands of constituents on a consistent basis. Brown said the act is an effective campaign tool.

South Carolina NAACP President Dr. Lonnie Randolph was less forgiving of Ford’s support for issues such as Confederate heritage.

“I respect Ford, but he’s been involved in some political matters that have not had a positive impact in some communities. If he’s been effective as an advocate for the community as a whole, then the entire community should support him. This is where the rubber meets the road. I hope many in the white community will support him. He did them a lot of favors. This is the time when he’ll find out who his true friends are,” Randoph said.

Randolph added that Ford should not expect mercy from the court system. “Our system of justice is not a fair one. If a person of color thinks he can do what whites do and feels the same barometer will be used, I hate to imagine what happens to them,” he said.

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