Reaction to the death of former U.S. Sen. Wendell Ford:
Former President Bill Clinton: "Hillary and I mourn the loss of our friend Wendell Ford. He was a fine man and a great Senator who knew how to get things done for Kentucky families, often by reaching across the aisle.
"We worked together for many years. I relied heavily on his advice and support, especially when the outcome was unclear, the stakes were high, and the vote was close. I'll always be grateful that Wendell walked me out to my second inauguration.
"He was a devout believer in the power of good government to bring opportunity and prosperity to everyone. He had just the right balance of toughness and compassion, good humor and serious purpose. He leaves a legion of friends who wish every Congress had a few more members like him. Our hearts go out to Jean and his entire family.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: "Wendell Ford first came to the Senate in the 1970s, calling himself just 'a dumb country boy with dirt between his toes.' But, over a distinguished two-decade career, this workhorse of the Senate would prove he was anything but. I had the opportunity to watch my Senate colleague up close as he ascended to leadership in his party and established himself as a leader on issues of importance to my state.
"A proud Kentuckian who rose from page in the state House to governor of the state, Ford shaped the history of the commonwealth in ways few others had before him. He never forgot the lessons about hard work he learned while milking cows or tending to chores on the family farm. And this World War II veteran never backed down from a fight either.
"We imagine he approached his final battle with the same spirit. Elaine and I, and I'm certain I speak for the entire Senate, send our condolences to his wife, Jean — Mrs. Ford, as Wendell often called her — and the rest of the Ford family at this difficult time."
Gov. Steve Beshear: "Kentucky has lost one of its great statesmen, and we all have lost a friend. Jane and I join with all of Kentucky to mourn the loss of Senator Wendell Ford. As I began my career in public service, I watched and learned from Senator Ford, who was the epitome of principled leadership.
"In every office in which he served, his methods were simple: Wendell Ford listened, he cared, and he got the job done. Our state and our nation are better places for his decades of thoughtful, cooperative work to help people. We are grateful for his legacy of service, and our prayers are with his wife, Jean, their children, Steve and Shirley, and their families."
President Barack Obama: "Michelle and I were saddened to learn of the passing of former Senator Wendell Ford. A veteran, businessman, governor and four-term Senator, Wendell dedicated his life to the people of Kentucky. He believed deeply in fairness — everyone doing their part, everyone getting a fair shot. A formidable political strategist, he fought to make sure all Americans had equal access to the polls, championed paying workers a decent wage and extending a helping hand to those looking for work, and mentored scores of young people who entered public service with Wendell's advice and support.
"Few in politics were as admired as he, and few have had as great an impact on his beloved Kentucky. Wendell leaves behind an extraordinary legacy of service, and a commonwealth and country that are stronger and fairer thanks to him. Michelle and I send our condolences to his wife Jean and all the members of the Ford family."
Vice President Joe Biden: "Jill and I were very sorry to hear of the passing of Senator Wendell Ford. He was one of the most effective legislative leaders I've ever worked with throughout my entire career. His philosophy was summed up when he said, 'Why make a speech when you can sit down with your colleagues and work something out?" He always took care of Kentucky, but never lost sight of the fact that he represented all of America. "During Wendell’s time in the Senate, he helped bring greater transparency to government, greater safety to the airlines, and greater access to the polls. ... Wendell was an extremely effective senator and a great personal friend whose advice I sought long after he had left the Senate. I will miss him."
Former Gov. Paul Patton: "Senator Wendell Ford was Kentucky's last great statesman. Respected by Democrats and Republicans alike, Senator Ford was, as his campaigns emphasized, a fighter for the people. As governor, he left the commonwealth financially strong and socially optimistic. As Kentucky senator he wielded influence second only to Senator Alban Barkley. As a friend he was my first political mentor. His support made possible my election as a delegate to the 1972 Democratic National Convention in Miami and sparked my interest in elective public service.
"Governor Ford was the architect of the modern Kentucky Democratic Party, a cross between the natural conservatism of the people of Kentucky and the need for government services of a poor and under-educated population.
"We may never see another leader who can so well represent the unique dichotomy of the people of the commonwealth."
Lt. Gov. Crit Luallen: "I'm deeply saddened by the loss of Sen. Wendell Ford, who was one of Kentucky's great leaders. He was a true voice for the people of Kentucky throughout his remarkable career in public service, and so many Kentuckians are better off today because of his leadership and willingness to always put Kentucky first.
"I got my first job in politics in the mailroom of his Senate campaign, and he continued to mentor and guide me throughout my career, just as he did so many other Kentucky leaders. My thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Jean, and his entire family during this time of mourning and remembrance of this iconic Kentucky statesman."
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul: "I wish to extend my sincerest condolences to the Ford family. Wendell Ford loved Kentucky deeply. He served the commonwealth and its people for decades with honor and purpose. I am honored to sit behind the same desk and serve in the same seat as Sen. Ford, a man so dedicated to his party, our state and this country."
U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth: "Wendell Ford was a legend. For decades, he served our commonwealth and nation with a level of dignity, respect and common sense not commonly found in so many in politics. As great of a leader as he was, he was an even better person, never losing his one-of-a-kind sense of humor and kindness throughout his life. My thoughts and prayers are with Mrs. Ford and their entire family."
University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto: "If history's chroniclers hope to draw a character sketch of the archetypal Kentuckian, they need look no further than Wendell Hampton Ford. He worked in hallowed halls of power, but his voice was always that of the authentic Kentucky experience — the bone-tired tobacco farmer, the weary but resolute coal miner, the resilient factory worker in south Louisville.
"They trusted Wendell Ford because he was who they were — hard-working, honest, proud, resilient. A Kentuckian. Senator Ford's love and pride extended to his university, the University of Kentucky. He worked with presidents from Otis Singletary to me, greatly assisting our rise and progress as a nationally prominent research institution and a leader in the development of public policy discussion and discourse.
"He was rightfully proud of The Martin School for Public Policy and Administration, in which he was so involved for decades, as well as the public policy center in UK Libraries that bears his name. UK is the proud home of his voluminous correspondence, papers, and oral histories documenting his life and career. That's appropriate since Kentucky was always home to his heart.
"And we are immeasurably better as a state and people for this Kentuckian's life."
Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes: "Senator Wendell Ford was not only a close friend, but a mentor to me. He was one of the best Kentuckians I've ever known, and he deeply loved our commonwealth and all of its people.
"Sen. Ford was a true statesman. On every stage, he represented Kentucky with dignity and honor, embracing compromise to achieve results that benefitted the Commonwealth. His service has provided an extraordinary example for others who wish to serve Kentucky, and especially for me.
"I will miss Sen. Ford's friendship and, most of all, his incredible support and counsel. Andrew and I send our warmest thoughts and prayers to his wife Jean and their family."
State Sen. and former Gov. Julian Carroll: "My heart is heavy today at the loss of my fellow governor, Senator Wendell Ford. He was a true public servant, who always put the people first, and was a mentor to so many young politicians.
"I had known Wendell since he ran for the state Senate, having been elected to the House that same year, 1962. ... "My relationship with Wendell Ford has been longstanding, and his passing is indeed a powerful moment for me and for Kentucky, but he had a good life. I offer my deepest condolences to his wife Jean, all his family and his many, many friends. Today is a sad day for all Kentuckians. We truly lost one of our greatest sons."
Attorney General Jack Conway: "This is a sad day for all of Kentucky. Wendell Ford was a lion of a public servant for Kentucky and the nation, but he had the heart and kindness of a lamb. He was my dear friend, and one of the largest influences on my professional life.
"Since I was 18 years old, I have kept a picture of the two of us, signed by him, from the day we first met in his office in Washington, D.C. I keep it because I recall how extraordinarily kind and attentive he was to a high school kid, and it serves as a reminder to me of how people should be treated.
"Wendell Ford fought for Kentucky — its schools, its towns, its farmers, and its airports. But most of all, he fought for the people of the commonwealth he loved so dearly. What a public servant. What a man. What a life. Rest in peace, my dear friend."
U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers: "Kentucky has lost one of its greatest defenders, the honorable Wendell Ford. The people of the commonwealth chose to have Ford in the foxhole with them time and again, electing him to consecutive terms as lieutenant governor, governor and senator.
"Although he was a staunch Democrat, Senator Ford never hesitated to reach across the aisle for issues that benefitted Kentucky the most, from promoting the development of coal-based synthetic fuels to protecting tobacco farmers.
"He shed a new light on Kentucky country boys in Frankfort and Washington, proving that we always keep our word, we never back down from a challenge, and showing a little kindness goes a long way.
"He was a true statesman for Kentucky who not only impacted change for today, but for tomorrow and generations to follow. My wife, Cynthia, and I offer our deepest condolences to his wife, Jean and the host of family and friends who stood steady by his side through the years."
House Speaker Greg Stumbo: "Senator Ford was one of the commonwealth's greatest statesmen, and his many contributions rank him among the most influential and well-respected Kentuckians ever to live. I don't want to imagine what Kentucky would have been like without his service, and I'm finding it difficult to believe we now have to move forward without him. He leaves behind an unmatched legacy, and will be deeply missed."
U.S. Rep. Andy Barr: "As a governor and U.S. Senator, Wendell Ford always upheld the highest ideals of public service. His love of the commonwealth was evident in his life's work, and he leaves a proud legacy of service to its people. Today, Carol and I honor the many years of service of Wendell Ford to the people of Kentucky, and we extend our sincere condolences to the Ford family."
Lexington Mayor Jim Gray: "When they say politics are the damnedest in Kentucky, one of the people they're talking about is Wendell Ford, and people loved him for it because they knew he fought for them. His fiery rhetoric was always the highlight of the Fancy Farm picnics. He was an original. And we are all going to miss him."
State Auditor Adam Edelen: "I am heartbroken at the loss of Wendell Ford, Kentucky's great statesman of the last half century. As his youth chairman for re-election in 1992, I traveled all across Kentucky with him and learned the reason that Kentuckians loved him so much is because he loved Kentucky so much. His enduring legacy is that true public servants put people above politics."