Born on February 13, 1919 in Bristol, Tennessee, to Clarence Thomas Ford and Maud Long, Ford began his radio career as an announcer at WOPI-AM in Bristol, Tennessee.
In 1939, the young bass-baritone left the station to study classical singing at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music in Ohio. First Lieutenant Ford served in World War II as the bombardier on a B-29 Superfortress flying missions over Japan.
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