WHAT do Carlow and the Superbowl have in
common? Joe T Ford, a Carlow man.
The Irish-American maintains strong links with
his home county through the Carlow Heritage Society.
The rags to riches businessman bought the
rights to name a stadium in Arkansas for his cell phone company, Alltel
for $6.2m. Seven years later they play hosts to one of the world’s most
extravagant sporting events.
Joe’s family, the Watsons, emigrated to the
States from Carlow in 1850. They landed in New Orleans and moved up the
Mississippi to a place called Little Rock.
Ford began life in the commercial world
selling ads for the yellow pages. In time he became involved with a
telephone company losing money at a rate of $12,000 a year when he took
over and turned the wheel.
He began buying telephone companies all over
the USA until last months acquisition of Western Wireless for $6billion.
It included Irish mobile phone company, Meteor and made Alltel the fifth
largest US wireless carrier. Not bad for a company on its last legs when
he joined it.
Always fond of his Carlow heritage he returned
home in 1990 with his wife Jo and was impressed. He contacted well-known
historian Michael Purcell to trace his family tree and they became
His second visit to his home county came in
1999 on the day he handed his company over to son Scott, who is also proud
of his heritage.
Somehow, Joe manages to fit in his role as
Chairman of the Augusta Golf Course in Georgia. Golf enthusiasts will know
him as the man who presents the infamous green blazer to the winner of the
“He really keeps this part of the world close
to his heart,” said his friend, Michael Purcell.
Mr Ford is expected to visit Carlow again in
the near future.
Source: Wednesday, February 09, 2005 By: Terry Reilly
The Nationalist Archives
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