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Max Ford passes away

Posted: August 10, 2017 5:54 p.m.
Updated: August 11, 2017 1:00 a.m.

Max Ford

Well-respected businessman and public servant Max Ford has died after a long and courageous battle with cancer. He was 75.

Ford, who served this community in many roles, both public and private, was remembered by friends and colleagues for many qualities, including a strong devotion to family, savvy business acumen, easy going, friendly, honest demeanor, deep faith and love of life.

“He was a good friend and he was a good man,” Tom Cooper said. “I will miss him very much.” 

“I’m sure Camden enriched Max, but he enriched the town and all of us even more, adding his vibrant personality and his own grace and good humor day after day,” Glenn Tucker said.  “We have all lost a great friend.”

Robert Maxwell Ford was born on Nov. 28, 1941 in Greensboro, N.C., the only son of Clarence Maxwell and Margaret Starr Clegg Ford. His family moved to Camden in 1949. He was educated in the Camden public schools and graduated from Carlisle Military School, Bamberg, in 1961. He studied journalism at the University of South Carolina from 1961 to 1965 and was inducted into the USC chapter of Sigma Delta Chi, a professional journalistic society in 1965. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve in 1965, served with the 89th Rifle Company and was honorably discharged in 1969. 

He married Judith Sill Rhame of Birmingham, AL, a fellow USC student, on Sept. 3, 1965.

Ford worked in journalism for a number of years, with stints as a reporter and staff writer with The State, United Press International, and later as the editor of the North Charleston Banner. He would go on to work as a speechwriter and media contact for U.S. Rep. Mendel J. Davis, then in 1975 joined the staff of U.S. Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, as a press assistant, in Washington D.C.

Ford returned to Camden with his family in 1979 where he became president of Midlands Printing, Inc., from which he would retire as CEO in 2006. During those years, Ford would serve in a variety of roles in the community, both public and private, all the while building Midlands Printing into a thriving company. Some of his many activities included serving  on the board of the Santee-Lynches Council of Governments; as vice president of the Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce; as inaugural president of the Kershaw County Human Relations Committee; as a member of the board of KershawHealth; as a member and past president of the Rotary Club of Camden and three time Paul Harris Fellow; as a member and former deacon of Bethesda Presbyterian Church, and in various capacities for the United Way of Kershaw County. 

“Max was a terrific guy who contributed so much to Camden and Kershaw County in a variety of ways,” Tucker noted.  “Moving here in 1978 after working on Capitol Hill, he jumped head-first into life in Camden. He was a savvy businessman who grew Midlands Printing from the ground up; he was active in more civic affairs than we can count; and  later he became involved in politics, serving on Kershaw County Council and championing industrial development to benefit the area. Sometimes I think we overuse the term ‘people person,’ but that is an absolutely appropriate description of Max. He was at ease with everyone; sharing his sense of humor and making all of us feel valued.”

In 2000, Ford ran for the District 6 seat on Kershaw County Council to fill the unexpired term of his friend Tom Cooper, who had stepped down when he was appointed as a S.C. Circuit Court judge. Ford won that election and then was again. He would serve on council until 2006, but would later return when he was appointed as interim council chairman by Gov. Mark Sanford in 2010. 

It was during those times Ford’s leadership skills and ability to build consensus especially shined, say friends and colleagues.

“Max was what makes Kershaw County ‘the Great Place,”’ Kershaw County Council Chairman and long-time friend Julian Burns said. “Businessman, family man, civic leader, church man, patriot, unselfish, forward-looking, totally devoted to building a better future in this, his home, for his children and his county. He stepped up to serve on Kershaw County Council at a time of great change and then advanced on to lead as chairman.    Upon leaving public service, he was always ready to help the current council and was unstinting in helping me, personally. Friend and mentor, he is a credit to his family and exemplar to future generations.”  

Former KCC Chairman Steve S. Kelly, Jr. said he will always remember Ford as a very capable and dedicated public servant but more importantly, as a staunch, loyal and honest friend.

“Max was such a super guy, a great friend, and I will really miss him,” Kelly said. “I really enjoyed serving with him on county council. You just couldn’t ask for anyone more civil, honorable, respectful or insightful. He had the courage of his convictions and was always about doing the right things. He certainly always had the public’s best interest at heart. He had no private agenda; he took his public service very seriously. He was a great communicator – he worked very hard on building good relationships with other entities – and he was such an honorable and straightforward person. You always knew where he stood on things – if he disagreed with you, he’d let you know it!  But I loved and respected him for that.”

That Ford was a hard working individual of great honesty, insight, acumen and energies, he nonetheless never let “all work and no play turn Max into a dull boy,” say friends and colleagues. Indeed, all remarked on his devotion to his family, his pride and joy in his children and grandchildren, his love of good times with friends.

A member of Springdale Hall, Camden Country Club and Snipe Club, Ford enjoyed good times with friends and family and made the most of them. 

“He was a devoted husband and loved his family. I think especially in his last years, he really enjoyed living at Lake Wateree and having his family and grandchildren around, seeing friends, enjoying the lake,” Kelly said.

An avid golfer, he played some of the world’s most famous venues, among them Augusta National, Pinehurst No. 2, the Old Course and Troon in Scotland and Ballybunion and Lahinch in Ireland.

Cooper and Tucker both noted Ford’s love of golf – and especially the camaraderie that was so much a part of it.

“He was a lot of fun to play golf with – he had a good sense of humor and loved a good practical joke,” Cooper said. “We played golf for many years – even traveled the world together.”

“I played golf with Max for nearly 40 years, and while he liked the game itself, it was the camaraderie that appealed most to him – spending a few hours on the course with close friends and, of course, sharing a cold beverage after the round,” Tucker said. “As time passed, our abilities faded but he retained his enthusiasm for being on the golf course, and all the game stood for, right up until the end.”

Ford’s fighting spirit was a quality of character people respected, but his courage, faith and grace was just as inspirational, if not more, friends noted.

“He certainly embodied the Marine Corps tradition with his fight against his illnesses,” Cooper said. “He left his children a very wonderful legacy.”

Kelly remembered his last visit with Ford, a couple of weeks ago, during which Ford told him his diagnosis was grim. Rather than undergo treatments that would not be significantly helpful, Ford chose to come home and spend the time he had left where he loved with whom he loved.

“Max told me he had lived a wonderful life, that he felt like God had reached out His hand to him and he was reaching his hand to God, and when it was time, he was ready to go with God,” Kelly said. “That really resonated with me.”


















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