Fallen Hero: Lt. Col (Ret) Charleigh Dowling Ford, Jr

Columbus, MS

Funeral Home

Memorial Gunter Peel Funeral Home

903 College Street Columbus, MS 39701




A graveside service officiated was held at Friendship Cemetery on Tuesday, June 30, 2020


Lt. Col (Ret) Charleigh Ford

MSANG, 172d AW

Columbus, MS



Another great Airman and Fallen Hero have been released from duty, passed from our ranks on June 27, 2020 and moved on to his heavenly home.  Lt. Col (Ret) Charleigh Ford, age 78, a retired member of the MS Air National Guard who had served within the 172d AW has departed and gone to a better place with our good Lord.

It takes a special person to serve within the military for their country giving up their family time, comfort and safety for their country ultimately for all Americans to enjoy their freedoms, safety, and way of life.  We now applaud you for your service to our country.  A special message from General Douglas McArthur still remains applicable today for our servicemen that have passed:  “Old Soldiers never die; they just fade away”.

Rest in Peace Airmen.  We applaud your patriotism and brave efforts in serving our country and your family for their support of your service.  We thank you for your service.   Without your efforts and your families’ support, this country would not stand so boldly, shine so bright and live so free.

You now have earned a rest, so go fly with the Angels, go rest high on that mountain, your work on earth is done.  Go to heaven a-shoutin’ Love for the Father and the Son.

May God continue to look over you and your family.  “Stand At Rest Airman”


Obituary Link

Charleigh Dowling Ford, Jr., 78, died June 27, 2020, at The Windsor Place in Columbus, Mississippi. A graveside service officiated by Rev. Anne Russell Bradley was held at Friendship Cemetery on Tuesday, June 30, 2020, with Memorial Gunter Peel Funeral Home and Crematory in charge of the arrangements.

Charleigh was born in Columbus, Mississippi on October 20, 1941. He graduated from S.D. Lee High School in 1959 and enrolled at Mississippi State University. While at MSU, he was member and officer of Sigma Alpha Epsilon social fraternity. After four years of ROTC, Charleigh was commissioned a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force (USAF). He graduated Navigator Training School at James Connally Air Force Base in Waco, Texas and also served at Patrick Air Force Base in Cocoa Beach, Florida; England Air Force Base in Alexandria, Louisiana; and South Vietnam. During his year in Vietnam, Charleigh received the Distinguished Flying Cross and six air medals.  After six years of active duty, Charleigh joined the Air National Guard. He retired as a lieutenant colonel after twenty-two years in service to his country. During his years of military service, he graduated from the United States Air Force Command and Staff School and the National Security Forum. He continued his support of the USAF through his association with the Columbus Air Force Base and was given the coveted Wingman designation, which is awarded only to a few civilians for their contribution to the successful operation to the 14th Flying Training Wing.

In his civilian career, Charleigh worked as an economic developer in Newton, Brookhaven, and Columbus, Mississippi.  He completed post graduate work at the University of Oklahoma and the University of Georgia.  He was both a Certified Economic and Community Developer and a Certified Chamber Executive and was the first in his field to hold both designations in the state of Mississippi.

Charleigh served as president of the Mississippi Economic Development Council, the Mississippi Association of Chamber of Commerce executives, and the North Mississippi Contract Procurement Center. He served as a regional director of the Southern Economic Development Council and held memberships in the Mississippi Manufactures Association, the Mississippi Economic Council, the Columbus-Lowndes Association of Manufacturers, North Mississippi Industrial Development Association, and the CAFB Community Council. Awarded the Soapbox Award in Brookhaven for his community service, Charleigh was later the impetus for the founding of the Center for Manufacturing Technology Excellence and the East Central Economic Council and was awarded the Mississippi Economic Developer of the Year in 2007.

Upon his retirement in 2007 from thirty-nine years of service in economic development work, Charleigh was honored with lifetime memberships in the MS Economic Development Council, the Southern Economic Development Council, and the International Economic Development Council.

Charleigh was active in First United Methodist Church ministries and helped found the Early Learning Center, served on the usher team, and was an active member of the Ivy Bible Class. He was also active in the Emmaus Community and served as president of the local group. Charleigh was a member and former president of the Kiwanis Club of Columbus and served on the boards of the YMCA, Bethany Christian Services, the United Way, and the American Heart Association.  He belonged to the MSU Alumni Association and the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Alumni Association and was chosen as the 2008 Junior Auxiliary of Columbus Charity Ball King.

He is preceded in death by his parents Charleigh Dowling and Frances Augusta Sudduth Ford. He leaves behind his wife of fifty-seven years Lillian Joe “Lillajo” Hixon Ford; son and daughter-in-law Charleigh Dowling “Dow” Ford III and Heather McAnally Ford of Columbus, Mississippi; his son and daughter-in-law Mark Hixon Ford and Kirstin Boyd Ford of Germantown, Tennessee; his granddaughter Hannah Frances Ford of Columbus, MS; his