Ford Philpot: A Brief Bio
Fishhook International has its roots in the Ford Philpot Evangelistic Association, founded in 1955 by Ford Philpot. The heartbeat of Fishhook is to continue Ford’s legacy of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with every person encountered.
Ford Philpot was born in Clay County, Kentucky, on June 16, 1917. Just before graduating from high school, he moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, to find a job. Later while working at Renfro Valley in Kentucky, he met Virginia Robinson. They were married in 1940. Ford joined the United States Marine Corp in 1942 and served in World War II for three years.
When Ford returned from the war, he was deep into a struggle with alcoholism. However, while he was away from home serving in the Marines, Virginia had given her life to Jesus Christ. So she began to pray for her husband as she saw his life being ruined by alcohol. Finally at his wife’s urging, Ford met with the Methodist pastor of the church she was attending. The pastor recommended a change of scenery to help Ford overcome his addiction to alcohol; specifically, he recommended that Ford enroll as a student at Asbury College. So September of 1947 found Ford as a 30-year old freshman at Asbury in Wilmore, Kentucky.
After about six weeks at Asbury, Ford cried out for help and received the Lord’s forgiveness and new life in Christ in a student prayer meeting. The next day his classmate Herbert Bowdoin asked Ford if he was a preacher. Ford said, “Sure.” So Bowdoin invited him to help him at his church that Sunday where he was a student pastor. Thus began Ford’s preaching career. He had a God-given gift of preaching that won countless people into God’s Kingdom.
Ford Philpot was widely recognized as a revival preacher. During his lifetime he preached thousands of crusades in cities across the U.S. and in Africa and Japan. He also produced a 30-minute radio program with his friend and former classmate, Herb Bowdoin, called "The Waves of Truth", which was broadcast throughout central Kentucky. In 1959 Bowdoin and Philpot began producing the first ever religious television show to be broadcast in color. The program was called "The Story". The show, which included musical performances from well-known artists, a testimony or “story” of God’s work in a person’s life and a Gospel message from Ford, reached an estimated five million people every week. The program ran for 30 years with more than 900 segments taped. In 1966 "The Story" became the first religious television program to air in Japan. “The Story” was a top quality production with a cutting edge format for religious programming.
After more than ten years of marriage, the Lord blessed Ford and Virginia with two sons, Tim and Danny, born 18 months apart. At various times both Tim and Danny participated in their dad’s ministry. Tim continues to be involved with Fishhook International, the name taken on by the organization after Ford Philpot’s death.
It may seem curious that the name of Ford’s organization was changed to Fishhook International. But there is actually a very good reason for the name that emerged after Ford’s passing. One unique item that became a trademark of Ford Philpot was the Fishhook, a small brass lapel pin in the shape of a fishhook. Ford gave away thousands of these fishhooks and encouraged people to use them as he used his. When someone would see Ford’s fishhook pin on his lapel and ask him if he was a fisherman, he would look them in the eye and say, “No, but Jesus said, ‘follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.’” That fishhook pin was, and still is, a creative and ingenious way to open up a conversation about Jesus, even with complete strangers.
In the brochure Ford gave away along with the fishhook pin was this statement: “When you fish for fish, you catch them alive and bring them home dead. When you fish for men, you catch them dead and bring them home alive.” Ford believed that followers of Jesus needed to get the Gospel message out from behind the stained glass and into the streets. The fishhook pin was a clever way to help that happen.
And so we at Fishhook International hope to continue Ford’s vision of bringing people to Christ by reaching into a lost world with any and all the means the Lord provides to us. Ford went home to be with the Lord on March 9, 1992, and the Ford Philpot Evangelistic Association became Fishhook International. But the heart of the ministry is still the same: Follow Jesus, and He will make you a fisher of men and women.
You can watch an episode of "The Story" by clicking on the Play button for each of the three segments below: