Hester Ford was born on 15 August 1905 in Lancaster, Lancaster County, South Carolina, United States to Peter and Frances McCardell. She worked on a farm where she not only planted and picked cotton but plowed the field and cut wood. As her mother died when she was just 8, Hester and her siblings were without a mother figure for some time before their father remarried, although his second wife would also die a few years later in childbirth. She married John Ford on 12 March 1921, when she was 15, and they had 12 children (eight girls and four boys, including Hattie Thomas).
Ford moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1953 where she worked for more than 20 years as a nanny. Her husband died in 1963 at the age of 57. She was a devout Christian and spent many years volunteering at her local church.
At the age of 109, she attributed her longevity to faith in God and thanking him for what he gave, saying “I thank him for everything”. She could no longer attend church due to failing health in her centenarian years but was still able to watch televised church services frequently.
Ford suffered from dementia, but she was still able to remember Bible verses. On her 112th birthday in 2017, she was able to recite the 23rd Psalm. The number of descendants she has is unclear; she has been reported to have up to 68 grandchildren, 120 great-grandchildren, and 126 great-great-grandchildren. However, sources vary as to the precise numbers.
Ford died in Charlotte, North Carolina on 17 April 2021, at the age of 115 years, 245 days.
Dispute over year of birth
For much of her life, Hester Ford believed she was born on 15 August 1908; in 2012, she celebrated what was thought to be her 104th birthday. However, census records found by her granddaughter around 2013 would later reveal that she was likely three years older, so the family would celebrate her 109th birthday in 2014. Since her April 1910 census entry lists her as being 5 years old, relatives once again began to question her year of birth, leading to her family claiming she was born in 1904, instead of 1905. As South Carolina did not record births in the 1900s, her exact date of birth remains unproven, and her age was officially validated with the more conservative date of birth of 15 August 1905.