Gertrude Castellow Ford

With an ever-inquisitive mind, Gertrude Castellow Ford fully embraced the arts. As a patron, an observer and a practitioner, Mrs. Ford engaged in a lifelong exploration of all things of beauty and inspiration. Not afraid to raise challenging concepts in literature, especially in researching the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays, Mrs. Ford held true to classic traditions in the fine arts. Fluent in French, Latin and Spanish, Mrs. Ford was an accomplished flautist, violinist and pianist. Exceedingly well-read in poetry and classic literature, Mrs. Ford was often at the center of spirited discussions about the merits of all manner of literary works. Always at the very foundation of her spirit was a great and sincere love of the arts and letters.

Raised in a generations-old tradition of philanthropy, which began more than 150 years ago with a $25 donation from her family to the Andrew Female College Building Fund in Randolph County, Georgia, Mrs. Ford established the Gertrude C. Ford Foundation in Jackson, Mississippi, with a very generous gift in 1991. In 1998, the Ford Foundation awarded The University of Mississippi $20 million to design and build the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts on the Oxford campus. At six stories tall and 88,000 square feet, the Ford Center features two performance spaces, state-of-the-art theatrical production facilities, excellent acoustic qualities, well-appointed lobbies and comfortable seating for 1,177 in the main hall. This regal facility is a physical testament to a life well lived.

Mrs. Ford died in September of 1996. She and her husband, Aaron Lane Ford, who was an Ackerman attorney and U.S. congressman representing what was Mississippi’s 4th District, are buried in Cuthbert, a small town in southwest Georgia.