The path to success has changed over the years for Patton Ford. When he graduated from St. Andrew’s episcopal school his G.P.A. was among the highest in his class. When he received a business degree from Ole Miss he was again at the top of his class. He planned to go to law school and join the ranks of the Mississippi Bar Association.
That was his plan, anyway. But Ford knew that plans don’t always follow a straight path. The summer after graduation, Patton was working at a liquor store to pay the bills for a place in Oxford. He was studying for the LSAT (law school entrance exam) when he realized how serious the commitment he was about to take. Three more years of studying weighed heavy on his shoulders. He was 22.
Perhaps, the prospect of law school made Ford consider what the purpose of his life was. He wanted to amend his plan. The idea of peace of mind, reflection on what god’s purpose was for him, made him think of the faraway places in this world.
“I thought before I start down this path of being a lawyer or law school, I’d like to get a little bit of perspective alignment. I’d like to see the world from an angle I’ve never been exposed too.”
He soon came home to the northside to visit his parents, Mike and Jill Ford, for Father’s Day. That Sunday, he went to a Sunday school class. The person teaching that class was a man named Stan Buckley.
“He used to be the pastor at First Baptist Jackson. He left to start a parent church organization called ‘But God,’ ministries. There, he created a program to motivate his congregation to go to Haiti and begin opening ministries and medical facilities right after the earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010.”
He spoke with Stan that day about going to live in Haiti for around three months. He decided to go. When he arrived, he began helping construct a building; his first job was to install the plumbing.
He began by helping people move out of their destroyed communities daily.
“About an hour out of Port au Prince, there were literally grove tents with families living in them.”
Soon after his trip in Haiti began, he befriended Mike and Jann Kenny, a couple from Belhaven who were also on the retreat. After a few conversations with them, he learned they owned a company, Quality Plumbing, back home.
“We started talking about what the world needs, and where I was in my life…”
After the time spent in Haiti, watching people who were forced to illegally burn trash because of a lack of a waste
management system, after all of the conversations with the Kennys, after hours on end spent in prayer and selfless actions, he felt a certain attraction towards a career in plumbing.
“In Haiti, I really felt a calling from the Lord. What I perceived was happening in the legal fields and lots of other fields were that jobs were just disappearing.”
“I’m a firm believer in the passage of scripture that says a man plans his ways, but the Lord directs his steps, and you know, there’s a lot of different people in the process. The short answer is that the way I became a plumber is the same way that I became a father and a son.
Ford’s trip to Haiti was a humbling one to say the least. When he came and told his parents about his plans to follow his feelings, they were immediately concerned.
“My mom will be the first to tell you—she was all kinds of confused and worried and anxious, and a little taken aback, when I came home and told her I wanted to be a plumber.”
But this did not stop Ford. Changes in plans do not necessarily mean you are going to arrive at a different place. Sometimes two paths can both lead to success, but often, it is which one you pick that determines if you will succeed.
Ford went into action, enrolling in night school for plumbing at Hinds Community College, and working with his friends he met in Haiti, Mike and Jann Kenny, at their plumbing business.
That went smoothly for two years. During those two years Patton Ford met his wife, Elizabeth. They had a child together, Taft, and Ford decided to open his own company.
“I finished up the program at Hinds, and I had a completed apprenticeship with Mike and Jann Kenny at Quality Plumbing. And, from there I went and started my own business.”
Ford Plumbing and Gas, LLC. was founded in 2018. Since then, he has experienced a moderate amount of success. He even ran for mayor in Ridgeland before moving out to Madison.
During his trip to Haiti, Ford felt that the Lord helped him reach a true discernment of vocation. In the face of a drastic change in his plans with his life, he did not falter from what he felt was a calling.
“Seeing people burning their trash illegally, in the wake of that terrible earthquake, on my trip to Haiti, I gained a deep appreciation and respect for trash workers and waste management. I realized that you take waste management for granted, especially solid waste like food and trash.”
For Patton Ford, the path to success changed over the years. But that change didn’t stop him from reaching his goal.