Just like B. J. Honeycutt on the long running TV series, M.A.S.H., J.T. Ford of Bridge City never had a name. “Initials only,” he said. Ford said they were the initials of both his grandfathers. “They named me J.T. and I’ve been that way ever since.”

Ford turns 90 on March 26. He was baptized in the Winfree Baptist Church on Dec.13, 1939 and just received his 45-year pin for the Independent Order of Oddfellows. “I’ve been here awhile,” he said.

While most parents in their 90s are being looked after by their children, Ford not only tends to himself, but is also looking after one of his offspring. He has a daughter that lives not far from him that has a broken knee.
“I pick up stuff for her all the time,” he said. “I stopped at Market Basket for her and got her some bread and mayonnaise and stuff she needed.”

Ford is living in another daughter’s home, since Hurricane Ike made his home inhabitable. He maintains the home while his daughter and son-in-law are in Albuquerque, N.M. Ford mows the grass, but he can no longer weed eat due to a shoulder injury he sustained many years ago.

“We moved here in the Winfree Community in the fall of 1937 and I’ve been here in this area ever since,” said Ford.

“When we moved over here, there wasn’t no Bridge City. It was Prairie View,” he said.

“My daddy rented 22 acres, and a house and a barn for $7 a month.” Ford said they used to sell eggs for eight cents a dozen. “You can’t hardly by one egg for eight cents no more,” said Ford. They also sat on the side of the road and sold cantaloupes, five for a quarter, and watermelons for 10 cents each.

“My mother died when I was 7 and my stepmother raised me. She raised three of us boys, Louis, myself and Bill. I’m the only one left.” Ford also has a half-brother, retired Precinct 3 Constable John Ford and a half-sister Evelyn Ford Bernard that are both still living.

“I’ve worked since I was 14 years old,” said Ford. His first job was bailing hay for 50 cents a day and lunch. “You didn’t stay for supper either, you went home for supper.”

“My wife was a McGuire, Willis McGuire’s daughter. We married and we built a little house up there in 1947. We were married 58 years. I lost her in 2001. I’ve been a widower ever since.”

Ford said he helped build MacArthur Drive and the traffic circle in Orange in the 1940s.That was just one of many jobs.

“I worked for Lawrence Winfree and “Buckshot,” his son, for 18 years hauling cattle.” Ford said he has hauled cattle from Florida to California.

He also worked for C & B Truck Service, starting in 1968. “I worked for them in the mornings,” Ford said. “I bought an old truck from them in ’71. I drove it for three and a half years and I sold it.” Ford said he then went to work for C & B in their shop burning and welding and doing mechanic work until 1984.
“I had a little accident and my collarbone won’t stay in and pulled a muscle loose from my collarbone. So I left them, I quit,” said Ford. “Well they quit me I guess you’d say.” Ford said he went on light duty and manned a crew to build a shop for the company on Texas 62. After the job was finished, C & B told him they had no more light duty work for him to do.

He then went to work for Jesse Wheeler, who co-owned Burton Shipbuilding. Ford hauled cattle five loads a week from here to Beeville. “I lacked 27 days working for them 20 years,” said Ford.

He also worked for contractor Will Hearne and R and R Shipyard.

He then spent two years clearing property in front of his daughter’s house for Joey Beard. “I worked on it till I was 88 I guess, and he’s tried to keep it mowed ever since.”

I’ve been blessed with my family. My wife and I raised eight kids, five boys and three girls. I lost one five years ago.” Ford said his son had a massive heart attack while at work at Motiva one day.

Sunday Ford will be attending the wedding of one of his great-grandsons in Brookeland. There are plans to take a five generation picture that day. Ford has 22 or 23 grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandson. “I think I’m right,” said Ford.

Ford’s lady friend, Pearl, is supposed to go to the wedding with him. “We’ve been going together nine years in August I guess or the first of September.” She went with him on a trip to Branson, Mo.a few years ago. That was one of two places Ford has always wanted to go. The other is Nashville, Tenn. “I haven’t made it to Nashville. I probably won’t make it now,” said Ford.

He’s not aware of any celebration planned for his birthday. “I plan on getting up that morning, maybe that will be my party,” he said.

What are Ford’s plans for the future? “I’m thinking about going back to work.”

About Penny LeLeux

Penny has worked at The Record Newspapers since 2006. A member of the editorial staff, she has "done everything but print it." Most frequently she writes entertainment reviews and human interest stories, with a little paranormal thrown in from time to time.She has been a lifelong member of the Orangefield community.