Commissioner Napoleon "Nap" Ford
Throughout his life, Napoleon “Nap” Ford found ways to succeed and contribute to the wellbeing of the City of Orlando. In a time when segregation, racist zoning codes, lack of opportunity and “the way things were” kept Black people at a profound disadvantage.
During the 1940’s a young and athletic Ford played for the Orlando All-Stars, the city’s premiere Negro Leagues baseball team. In November 1950, at age 23, Ford and his teammates hosted and one of four competed against Jackie Robinson’s All-Stars in a post-season exhibition game before a standing-room-only crowd. Due to segregation, the teams played at Carter Street Park (now the John H. Jackson Neighborhood Center) instead of Tinker Field.
In a time when opportunity was limited, Ford found a way to the playing field – living his dream among the legends: Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Don Newombe and Larry Doby, bringing life, goodness and spirited competition to our city.
Ford went on to teach and coach and impact the lives of countless young men and women – the next generation of leaders coming through Jones High School, Winter Park High School and the University of Central Florida (UCF) where he taught.
Though racial integration in Orlando began in earnest in 1963, in the early 1970’s, Orlando politics had always been a whites-only affair. Ford believed in equity and fair representation and so he campaigned for Arthur "Pappy" Kennedy who became Orlando’s first Black Commissioner in 1973.
It had never been done before, but Ford was already there, living into the dream of equity for Orlando.
Eight years later in 1980, Ford would himself take the oath of office as the first Commissioner of District 5. Commissioner Ford was re-elected four times and served a total of 18 years, until his retirement in 1998.
During his tenure in public service, Commissioner Ford dreamed of a community school for Parramore in a time when there was none. Commissioner Ford imagined a place where young children were afforded a quality education with all the necessary provisions to become both scholars and leaders in a community riddled with specific challenges distinct to poverty: lack of opportunity, violence, crime and inequality.
Though he wouldn’t live to see it, Commissioner Ford’s dream of a community school in Parramore became reality when a group of community leaders secured the charter for The Nap Ford Community School in 2001. The Nap Ford Community School served as an educational beachhead for two decades and is a testament to Commissioner Ford's legacy, determination and commitment to the city.