This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996
Leslie Hunter Ford (1915-1964), rural entrepreneur and politician, was born on 19 January 1915 at Molong, New South Wales, second son of Australian-born parents George Ford (d.1936), farmer, and his wife Lena Olga, née Hunter. Educated at Amaroo Public and Orange High schools, Les ran a Golden Fleece fuel agency at Orange from 1936 and worked as a share-farmer. On 11 January 1941 he married Rhoda May ('Peggy') Hawke at the Methodist Church, Orange. Having been rejected as medically unfit for aircrew in 1940, he enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force on 19 July 1941. He served as a mechanical transport fitter, completed a tour with No.1 Repair and Salvage Unit at Daly Waters, Northern Territory, then transferred to the stores depot at Dubbo, New South Wales, where his family joined him.
Following his demobilization on 14 November 1944, Ford purchased Skerman's Motors, a General-Motors' dealership at Dubbo, which he developed into a prosperous business. He was also chairman of Ganarrin Meat Service Pty Ltd, a wholesale meat and butchery undertaking. Later he bought land for fattening sheep, including Hazelgrove, a 432-acre (175 ha) property on the Macquarie River.
In 1946 Ford learned to fly a Tiger Moth, journeyed to the United States of America and bought a light aircraft which he used in attending to his diversified business interests. He installed two-way radio equipment in his plane and insisted on landing at Mascot, like the international traffic. In 1960 he bought a Piper Apache and flew it extensively while touring the U.S.A. He became president of the Aircraft Owners & Pilots' Association of Australia in January 1962 and was vice-president for the Pacific region.
An alderman (from 1947) on Dubbo Municipal Council, Ford was elected mayor in 1950 and held the position until 1964. Under his guidance, the city grew as a regional centre with the opening of the abattoir complex in 1954 and the design of the War Memorial Civic Centre. In November 1955 he was appointed O.B.E. for his work and leadership during the floods in March that year. A 'man of vision and infectious enthusiasm', Ford was so completely identified with the progress of the area 'that he was known widely and affectionately throughout the State as ''Mr. Dubbo"'. He was elected to the Legislative Assembly for Dubbo in 1959 as a Liberal, but spent his time in Opposition. J. B. Renshaw believed that 'being a backbencher must have been tiresome for such an irrepressible man'.
Generous and hospitable, Ford had played representative cricket and tennis for western New South Wales, and was subsequently a council-member for the western division on the New South Wales Lawn Tennis Association. He was a member of the Dubbo Methodist Church trust and a Rotarian. Survived by his wife and four sons, he died of coronary disease on 17 December 1964 at Kurrajong and was cremated. The L. H. Ford Bridge, spanning the Macquarie River, is a monument to him.
Rosslyn Finn, 'Ford, Leslie Hunter (1915–1964)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/ford-leslie-hunter-10219/text18065, published in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 22 July 2014.
This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996