Henry E. Ford, who founded New Braunfels MLK Association seven years ago after learning Comal ISD counted a student absent for attending a Martin Luther King Jr. march in San Antonio, died Sunday at the age of 73.
His passing was announced on social media by Bishop Michael Franklin, the group’s president.
Ford, who arrived in New Braunfels in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina devastated his New Orleans home, passed away peacefully at home. No further details about his death were released. Visitation is scheduled from 3 to 6 p.m. Friday at Zoeller Funeral Home, 615 Landa St. A memorial begins at 11 a.m. Saturday at Oakwood Church, 2154 Loop 337 in New Braunfels.
“Henry’s service in our community heralded a change that will be celebrated for years to come,” Franklin said. “We are offering our heartfelt condolences and prayers to his wife Gloria and the entire family.”
Ford founded the New Braunfels MLK Association seven years ago when he lived in New Braunfels’ Northwest Crossing subdivision and learned that Martin Luther King Jr. Day was listed simply as a student holiday at a nearby school.
“That kind of upset me that they wouldn’t give him recognition for that day,” he told MyCanyonLake.com in an interview in June 2020.
When Ford and wife Gloria returned from an out-of-town trip shortly afterward, he saw a newspaper article about Jon Michael Franklin, then a freshman at Comal ISD’s Canyon High School, who was challenging trustees for not observing Martin Luther King Day.
Franklin was counted absent for attending an MLK march in San Antonio.
Ford said the whole situation bothered him.
“‘If you don’t like it, why don’t you do something about it,’” he recalls Gloria Ford asking. “So I said, ‘ok, I will.’”
Ford formed the MLK Association with the help of then-New Braunfels City Councilman George Green.
Franklin went on to be honored by then-President Obama, who wrote to him: “Each of us has a role to play in creating a better world for future generations. I trust you take pride in your contributions, and I hope your service moves others to serve as well.”
Ford also was behind a June 11, 2020 Unity in the Community Prayer Vigil at Main Plaza, saying there is more power in prayer than in protests, even though protests are necessary.
“I wanted to bring the community together in a peaceful way,” he said. “Communication is the key. We need communication, to be willing to talk, and listen, and sit. A lot of time we hear what people are saying but we don’t listen.”
New Braunfels did, with Mayor Rusty Brockman, New Braunfels Police Chief Tom Wilbert, New Braunfels City Manager Robert Camareno, Comal County Judge Sherman Krause and Comal County Sheriff Mark Reynolds in attendance at that prayer vigil.
Brockman remembered Ford on Facebook today, citing his belief that inclusion of diverse backgrounds helps build equity and acceptance among all people.
“I, along with many others in the community, was saddened to hear of the passing of Henry Ford, who made significant contributions to the New Braunfels community over many years, including his work to create the New Braunfels MLK Association,” he said.
“I had the pleasure of working directly with Mr. Ford on a number of occasions, most recently during the creation of the IDEA Forum with the goal of examining racial, economic and social inequities as well as citizen-access issues within the New Braunfels community,” Brockman said. “Working together is the best way to see differences and understand one another.”
(Editor’s Note: This story will be updated as more information becomes available.)