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Vince Ford, longtime leader in Columbia community, passes away at age 64

Ford served in both public office and on private boards.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Vince Ford, a leader in the Columbia community who spearheaded efforts to improve community health and education, as well as serving for over two decades as a school board member, has passed away. 

Prisma Health, where he worked for more than 25 years, confirmed his passing. Ford was 64 years old. 

Ford had served at Prisma Health as a Senior Vice President of Community Affairs. 

"Vince was well known across South Carolina and the country for operating programs and forging partnerships that delivered medical and social health services to historically underserved population," Prisma Health said in a statement. "His legacy will live on as we continue to build on the strong community health platform that he created. Our condolences go to his family, friends, and the entire community on the loss of this beloved servant-leader."

Ford grew up in Columbia and was a graduate of Benedict College. 

During his career, he was the executive director of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Midlands and the James R. Clark Memorial Sickle Cell Foundation. He was on the South Carolina Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, where his alcohol school intervention program received the Outstanding Student Assistance Program Award.

Ford was elected to the Richland One School Board in 1992 and served there for 24 years, including as board chair. He was named Outstanding School Board Member for the Sixth Congressional District and All-State School Board Member by the South Carolina School Boards Association.  The district said when he was inducted into its Hall of Fame he advocated for many district policies, including making school lunches healthier. 

"Always asking “Is it good for children?” in considering matters before the Board, Mr. Ford was instrumental in advocating for several key district policies, programs and initiatives," Richland One said in a statement. "He rallied the Board to hold two bond referendums to build and renovate schools, one in 1996 and one in 2002, which were the large school construction bond issues passed in state history at the times."

"Under Mr. Ford’s leadership as chairman, the Richland One Board of School Commissioners was the first school board in South Carolina to vote to approve a tax increment financing district (TIF) to help spur local economic development and revitalization. That pivotal vote led to the building of the Three Rivers Greenway, EdVenture Children’s Museum and the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center."

In 1997, Prisma Health hired him to create the Office off Community Health. In 2021, the state legislature honored his work there, saying in a resolution that he helped to improve "community health through preventive, early interventional, and educational services."  During his time there, the office delivered cancer, dental, maternal-child health, teen health, and vision services to thousands of people in the Midlands of South Carolina.

He was honored during his lifetime with numerous awards for his service. He also served on the board of trustees of his alma mater, Benedict College. 

News of his passing spread throughout the community late Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, with some taking to social media to express their condolences. 

"Our community has lost some major giants this year but this one was more than a giant, he was my big brother," said former Columbia City
Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine. "A mentor in life, politics and faith. He will truly be missed."

"It has been just an absolutely tragic past few days," said State Representative Jermaine Johnson, who represents part of Richland County.  #RIP to a GREAT transformational leader Vince Ford. He will be missed by all who knew him."

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