Allied had sixty-five employees and served five thousand customers in Arkansas when Ford joined the company in 1959 and that year had a net loss of $12,000. He became a Director the next year when Allied would report a net income of $12,000. He became Vice President and Treasurer in 1963 and President in 1977. Ford would lead little Allied through more than 250 mergers and acquisitions far beyond the state’s borders, to Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Kentucky, Tennessee, California, Ohio and other states, and he expanded the company into wireless communications and information technology. By 1974, Allied had 142,000 telephones, compared with Bell’s 119 million, but its stock was selling at earnings multiple nearly twice that of AT&T’s, and it had become the eleventh largest independent company in the country. In 1983, Ford negotiated a merger with another national technology leader, Mid-Continent Telephone Company of Ohio, which was more than four times Allied’s size. Ford became President of the new company, Alltel Corporation, and altered the Little Rock skyline with a tree-lined tier of office buildings along the southern vista of the Arkansas River. Alltel’s home cities of Little Rock and North Little Rock built a giant arena across the northern side of the river and named it Alltel Arena.
Ford was one of the first to see the potential of wireless and entered some of the first bidding for cellular markets. Alltel’s first big venture into wireless was launched in 1985 in Charlotte, North Carolina, where it won seventy percent ownership. It opened its first wireless retail store in 1993 at Jonesboro, Arkansas. By 1974, Allied had 142,000 telephones, compared with Bell’s 119 million, but its stock was selling at earning multiple nearly twice that of AT&T’s, and it had become the eleventh largest independent company in the country. In 1977, Allied became the first phone company in the country to offer local digital telephone service. At Little Rock, he contributed by serving as President of the Greater Little Rock Chamber of Commerce and trustee of the development group Fifty for the Future, the Baptist Medical System, The City Education Trust and the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce. The wider community he served so well did not stint with recognition of his work. He received a citation as Distinguished Alumni from the University of Arkansas in 1987, was named Rotary Club of Little Rock Business Leader of the Year in 1992, was the Sales and Marketing Executives Association Manager of the Year in 1993, received the William F. Rector Memorial Award for Distinguished Civic Achievement from Fifty for the Future for his contributions to the development of Central Arkansas, was inducted into the University of Arkansas Business Hall of Fame in 2000, was awarded the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity Order of West Range in 2000, and received the Economics Arkansas Leadership in Free Enterprise Award in 2014.