The Tenacious Angela Ford

2011 A&S Alumni Fellow exposed one the biggest legal scandals in U.S history

At 5-foot-3 and “just north of 100 pounds,” Angela Ford, the 2011 Alumni Fellow from the College of Arts and Sciences, might not be an imposing physical presence. But she’s more than capable of making a strong impression.

As a UofL political science student in the early 1980s, Ford was elected the first female president of the Student Government Association where she immediately impressed members of the university’s board of trustees with her tenacity. This included then-chairman and chief executive of Humana David Jones, who was on the UofL board at the time.

“She was tiny but had a big brain and a big heart, and a lot of moxie,” Jones recalls.

Those qualities have served the 51-year-old Lexington lawyer well beyond UofL during a sterling legal career recently highlighted by her successful 5-year fight to expose one of the biggest legal scandals in U.S. history—the theft of tens of millions of dollars from Kentuckians injured by the diet drug fen-phen.

The case culminated with the sentencing of disbarred lawyers William Gallion and Shirley Cunningham Jr. to long prison terms and a court order of $127 million in restitution to her 423 clients, who previously were represented by those same lawyers.

Advocate for What’s Right

Ford grew up in Louisville’s Audubon Park neighborhood, one of eight children of John H. Ford, now 87, and Gladys Ford, 80. “She became a strong advocate for what she thinks is the right thing to do,” said her mother, who is a former assistant to the UofL dean of music.

After earning her political science degree at UofL in 1982, Ford attended the University of Kentucky before earning her law degree at Northern Kentucky University and then eventually setting up her law practice in Lexington.

Fellow lawyers applaud Ford’s perseverance in the fen-phen case, one that many say was a long-shot challenge against targets that included a judge once named Kentucky's co-judge of the year.

“If somebody had come into my office with this case, I would have said, ‘You've got to be kidding,’ ” says Louisville trial lawyer Gary Weiss. “She took a difficult case and spent a fortune of time and money, and (has) done a service to her clients and society.

“She ought to get the lawyer of the year award, maybe lawyer of the decade.”

Ford will be honored as the A&S Alumni Fellow along with alumni fellows from other UofL schools and colleges at the 2011 Alumni Awards Banquet and Ceremony, Oct. 27, at the Galt House in Louisville. The reception starts at 6 p.m.; dinner and ceremony at 7 p.m. For information on how to attend, call (502) 852-6186.