Beginning A Dynasty

November 7, 1974

Because of a half-dozen misplaced precinct vote tallies, it was not until a day after the election that it became clear Memphis voters were the first in Tennessee to send an African-American to Congress.

By the time it had all been sorted out, the eventual winner, Democrat Harold Ford, had accused election officials of tossing the missing ballots into “a garbage can in the basement.”

Ford, 29, ruffled feathers with his comments — just another day in Memphis politics — but all’s well that ends well. He went on to be one of the generation’s most dominant political figures, elected to 11 terms in Congress.

He was indicted in 1987 on federal conspiracy, bank and wire fraud charges but after a long, bitter and racially charged legal battle was acquitted.

Harold Ford on election night Nov. 5, 1974. Ford won the democratic primary and, running as an underdog, defeated Republican representative Dan Kuykendall. (Fred Griffith / The Commercial Appeal)