Harold Ford, retired executive director of what was then Southeastern Poultry & Egg Association (now U.S. Poultry & Egg Association), died Friday, December 14, 2012. Visitation will be Sunday, December, 16, from 4 – 6 p.m. at A.S. Turner Funeral Home in Decatur, Ga. The funeral will be held at 11 a.m. on Monday, December 17, at Smoke Rise Baptist Church in Stone Mountain, Ga.

In 1954, Ford, a Kentucky native, originally joined the Association staff at its headquarters in Richmond, Va. He had previously served as assistant commissioner of agriculture in Kentucky.  In 1957, he was named executive secretary of the Association, commonly called SOUTHEASTERN. The headquarters was moved to Decatur, Ga.

In 1961, Ford left the Association to join Mar-Jac Poultry Company in Gainesville, GA. In 1967, after several years with Mar-Jac and Sanderson Farms in Mississippi, he was asked by the SOUTHEASTERN board of directors to return as executive secretary. He guided the Association to prominence as one of the most effective and influential trade associations, not only in the poultry industry, but throughout the United States. He grew the organization’s signature event, the International Poultry Expo, still held annually in Atlanta, to become the largest, preeminent poultry industry convention and trade show in the world.  He retired in 1992. The Association’s foundation is named after him, along with the organization’s highest recognition, the Harold E. Ford Lifetime Achievement Award. Ford also was inducted into the Poultry Industry Hall of Fame.

Following his retirement from SOUTHEASTERN, Ford was active in volunteer work with organizations such as Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Prevent Blindness Georgia, the Paralympics, and the Atlanta Community Food Bank. He served as a deacon in the Baptist faith most of his adult life. During World War II, he was a U.S. Marine in the South Pacific. He also was an avid golfer. He was preceded in death by his wife Wanda. He is survived by three daughters: Karen, Debbie, and Anita, along with grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Current U.S. Poultry & Egg Association president John Starkey, praised Ford for his work with the organization and industry:  “When Harold returned to our organization in 1967, it was in such dire straits that he actually had to borrow money to make staff payroll,” Starkey said. “But from that point, he built the foundation for our long-term success.  He touched, and his legacy continues to touch, so many affiliated with our Association and industry, from $25 million funding our research program over the years, to thousands of industry members attending our seminars and the IPE, to the thousands of bright young students interviewed in our College Student Career Program, just a few of the many Association programs he developed.  Harold was passionate about our industry and about our organization, and we will be forever grateful for his leadership and the example he set for service to the poultry industry.”

Retired Association president Don Dalton also lauded him: “Harold Ford was a great mentor to me and a wonderful personal friend. He had an exceptional ability of looking at an issue and getting right to the matter. He was a wonderful man of integrity who will be greatly missed.”