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Journalist Jack Ford Finds Inspiration, ‘Second Home’ at Ole Miss

CBS News legal analyst Jack Ford
CBS News legal analyst Jack Ford

CBS News legal analyst’s new novel, “Walls of Jericho,” inspired by trips to area

CBS News legal analyst and award-winning journalist Jack Ford’s many trips to the University of Mississippi and Oxford over the years have made the area feel like his second home.

The visits also inspired his latest novel, “The Walls of Jericho,” which is set in the area.

Ford spoke Thursday (Oct. 10) at the UM School of Law in an event co-sponsored by the law school and the Meek School of Journalism. Ford talked about cases he’s covered in his nearly three-decade news career, including the O.J. Simpson trial, the Trayvon Martin case and the Casey Anthony murder case, among others. But he also talked his new book, which is set in Mississippi.

Ford draws inspiration from the area for “Walls of Jericho,” which deals with an unsolved murder from the 1960s.

“Coming down to Ole Miss is always one of my favorite trips,” Ford said. “I’ve been coming down here for probably about 17 or 18 years. … It was one of those places where I felt comfortable visiting. I enjoy being enveloped by the history and the tradition, wandering over to Rowan Oak. There’s also good football.”

Ford, who has won two Emmys and a Peabody award, holds a law degree from Fordham University School of Law. He also served as an adjunct professor. He was a prosecutor in New Jersey, where he lives, for three years before he started his own law practice.

His connection to Ole Miss goes back several years and includes multiple visits to speak at the law school and also attend football games. He’s made friends with Chancellor Emeritus Robert Khayat and legendary Ole Miss quarterback Archie Manning, among many other notable UM figures.

“There’s always something about it that felt like a second home to me,” Ford said. “I’ve made it a point to come down as often as I can.”

In his new novel, an Ole Miss law professor and a New York Times investigative reporter stumble upon new information about an unsolved murder from the 1960s. The murder case of a civil rights activist reopens, leading to a sensational trial of a politically connected local figure.

Ford paints a picture of the area in the book, which he signed Friday at Square Books. He’s long been an admirer of the Lafayette County Courthouse, just across the street from the bookstore.

“It’s one of my favorite courthouses,” Ford said. “This one courtroom in Oxford is just magnificent. Setting scenes in there was delightful. It’s one of my favorite places.”

He also is a big fan of the game day experience in the Grove. He attended a game at Ole Miss about 18 years ago with his son, who was then a young boy. The journalist met many friendly people on that first trip and wound up at a tailgate party that year’s homecoming queen and her court were attending.

“Here’s 10-year-old Colin Ford in the center of all these gorgeous Ole Miss women,” Ford said. “I said, ‘Colin, come on. We have to head to the stadium.’ He looked back at me and he looked back at the women. He looked back at me and said, ‘Dad, I’m busy. I’ll catch up to you.”

These days, Colin Ford proudly displays the photo of himself with the homecoming court, along with a photo of him playing basketball with Michael Jordan and another of him with President George Bush.

Jack Ford said he plans to be in the Grove for the Ole Miss-Texas A&M football game day experience Saturday.

“Every time I come here, the first place I visit is the Grove,” Ford said. “I just wander around. It’s such a marvelous experience. I’ve met so many wonderful people that I bumped into and see them again when I’m down here.”

Michael Newsom, Ole Miss News Desk

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