Born in Pink Hill, Texas, Ford studied physics and literature at the North Texas State Teachers College (now the University of North Texas) but was forced to abandon his studies due to financial difficulties in the wake of his father’s early death. He later earned an architectural certificate by mail from the International Correspondence Schools of Scranton, Pennsylvania. In 1926 Ford began an apprenticeship in the Dallas offices of architect David R. Williams. Many of his early projects were residential commissions, including a home on St. Joseph's Island for oil magnate Sid Richardson and the low-slung, rectangular Murchison home in San Antonio, showing the influence of architects Richard Neutra and Irving Gill.
From 1937 to 1941, Ford collaborated with Arch B. Swank, Jr., on the design of The Little Chapel in the Woods at the Texas Women's University Garden in Denton. After arriving in San Antonio, Texas, in 1939, he served as the architect for the National Youth Administration and eventually established the firm Ford, Powell & Carson. A lifelong obsession with historic preservation and the beauty of San Antonio’s Spanish architecture led to involvement in several projects in the city, including the La Villita Historic Arts Village, Casa Villita, and Villa Finale (with all three projects eventually listed in the National Register of Historic Places).
Ford collaborated with landscape architects Arthur and Marie Berger on an array of institutional projects, including Trinity University in 1948 and several buildings on the Texas Instruments campus in Richardson, Texas, in 1958. The university design would stand as one of his greatest achievements. The Tower of the Americas for the San Antonio Hemisfair was completed with his technically gifted partner Richard Colley in 1968. The National Council on the Arts declared Ford himself to be a National Historic Landmark, and he is still the only person to be so honored. Ford died at the age of 76 and is buried beside the San Antonio River, near Mission Espada.