CHARLESTON, S.C. — A South Carolina lawmaker said it's time to forgive a former state senator who resigned amid a campaign spending scandal and give him the recognition he deserves.
State Rep. Wendell Gilliard wants South Carolina State University to name its new building in Charleston after former Sen. Robert Ford, The Post and Courier reported.
In a note Tuesday to SC State Board Chairman Milton Irvin, Gilliard said Charleston has the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge and the Strom Thurmond Research Building at the Medical University of South Carolina, and it's time to name something after "another great person that has done so much for South Carolina."
Nothing in Gilliard's letter mentions the legal troubles that drove Ford from office six years ago, saying "everybody knows about it" and that "everybody needs to be forgiven."
Of his positive works, "We should never take that away from him," Gilliard said.
Gilliard, D-Charleston, told the newspaper the good Ford did as a lawmaker outweighs the bad.
"Tirelessly and selflessly Senator Ford has given of himself to make Charleston and the whole State of South Carolina a better place for all residents," Gilliard said.
"Senator Ford is a man with a true servant's heart and now is the precise time to show him exactly how much Charleston and the state of South Carolina appreciate all he has done," he wrote.
Ford, a former Charleston city councilman, state senator and Democratic candidate for governor, was sentenced to probation in 2015 after pleading guilty to several misdemeanor ethics violations tied to his spending of political campaign money on himself.
He used the funds for such things as car payments, department store purchases, restaurants, and other expenses.
He resigned from his Statehouse seat that covered much of Charleston and North Charleston during a Senate Ethics Committee investigation into his spending habits. That was prior to be being indicted.
His guilty plea did not preclude him from running for office again and he tried an unsuccessful comeback for his former Senate seat in 2016, losing to incumbent Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston.
The practice of naming roads, building or other things after living people in South Carolina received heightened new scrutiny earlier this month. State transportation commissioners have agreed to consider removing John Hardee's name from the Columbia airport connector following their former colleague's guilty plea on an obstruction charge and subsequent arrest on a prostitute solicitation charge.
The John N. Hardee Expressway to the Columbia Metropolitan Airport was named in 1999 and opened in 2004, during Hardee's first of two stints as a state Department of Transportation commissioner. It is among more than 1,000 bridges, interchanges and stretches of highway statewide that bear the names of local VIPs.