As commissioner of the Arkansas Department of Education from 1953 to 1978, Arch Ford served under five governors. His vision was to expand educational opportunities because he believed education was the foundation for improving people’s lives. Throughout his career, he campaigned for increased educational funding, better-qualified teachers, and higher teachers’ salaries. Ford helped lead the state in peacefully integrating its schools and established twenty-three vocational-technical schools across the state. During Ford’s tenure, the Arkansas Children’s Colony was established to provide educational services to the developmentally disabled, and the Arkansas Educational Television Network was set up to provide instructional programming across the state.
In the early 1960s, Arkansas developed one of the best economics education programs in the country. The Arkansas Council on Economic Education (now Economics Arkansas) was formed in 1962 and was soon recognized as one of the top programs in the nation. The organization would provide training in economics education to thousands of elementary and secondary teachers in the state. Arkansas’s teachers swept national awards for teaching excellence in the area of economics, and other states modeled their programs after the one in Arkansas.
The state also expanded educational opportunities to include kindergarten, special education, community colleges, and adult education. His leadership left Arkansas with a strong educational system that continued to advance. This was his legacy.