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John Elijah Ford
*John E. Ford was born on this date in 1862. He was a Black minister and businessman.
From Owensboro, KY., John Elijah Ford was the eldest of fifteen children of Isom and Anne Helm Ford. Nine of his siblings died at birth or of childhood diseases, and he was the only one born in Kentucky. His family moved to Chicago when he was a child, where he grew up near 33rd and Dearborn Street. His brothers and sister were Georgie, Dotie, Lola, Vertel (Bud), and Milton. Ford graduated from high school as the only Black in his class and was proficient in Latin with good grades.
He attended Fisk University in 1889 and Beloit College (Wisconsin), graduating in 1891. From there, Ford attended the Divinity School of Chicago, where he finished as its first African American graduate in 1894. His first ministry was at the Bethany Church in Chicago. During this time, he married Justina Warren. In 1900 he and his wife moved west, where he began his Post Graduate studies at the University of Denver. During this time he was, he called to minister at Denver’s Zion Baptist Church. Under the leadership of Rev. John E. Ford and Dr. Justina L. Ford, Colorado’s first black woman doctor, Zion's membership grew to over 400. The debt on the church was retired, and the property's value increased.
Rev. Ford traveled to Europe in 1907, taking in the great capital cities of the Old World and visiting libraries and museums. He returned to America in late 1907 to take the post of pastorate at Bethel Baptist International Church in Jacksonville, Florida. Ford later became a Trustee and instructor of Theology at Florida Baptist College while he served Bethel for over thirty years. John Ford died on August 9, 1943, and is buried in Chicago’s Graceland Cemetery next to his parents. His grand-nephew Benjamin Mchie became the founder of African American Registry®