SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — She’s one of the most influential women in our area.

Meet Kay Ford, a leader whose name and reputation precede her.

“When I first moved from Atlanta to Savannah… I was still working for a bank in Atlanta… and anytime I would tell anybody in Savannah that I was a banker, they would immediately say, ‘Do you know Kay Ford?’,” said Savannah President for Bank South, Laura Moore. 

If anyone knows Kay Ford, they know Kay Ford from banking. That’s how I met her. But then, I started seeing her. I’m involved in the community. She’s involved in the community. And she’s involved with things that really do— they help people— but she has a special place for women,” said friend Tammie Mosley. 

If you ask Kay how she feels about being named the 2023 United Way Woman Of The Year, she’ll tell you she’s not deserving.

“First of all, I’m very excited—very humbled to be honored by United away. With all of the hard work that everyone does in our community every year… but I think mostly, there are other women in our community who have been through what I’ve been through,” said Ford. “I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve had a strong husband who’s willing to let me go and do all the things I’ve wanted to do.”

She continued, “When my mom and dad were alive, they were very supportive of helping me with the children when they were young. And there are so many people in our community that don’t have that support. And then I think of the ones that are behind the scenes all the time— that aren’t comfortable doing this— but they work just as hard and just as diligently to make United Way successful as well as other areas of our community with so many needs.”

“She is a very, very humble person. And being in the spotlight is not what she truly wants to do and enjoy. But she deserves it,” Laura Moore Savannah President of BankSouth. 

Kay isn’t ordinary by any means.

In fact, it’s her extraordinary gift of being a giver that sets her apart and her desire to want the best for everyone she encounters.

CEO of BankSouth, Harold Reynolds said, “As you all know, Kay is full of energy, she’s full of enthusiasm, and intangible leadership she brings to any organization she’s involved with.”

From raising money for Savannah Chatham CASA—to running for Komen and a cure for breast cancer—Kay always puts her best foot forward.

For Kay, there is no such thing as a glass ceiling.

She’s shattered everyone in her path. 

And she used the pieces to pave the way for others to follow.

“When she first started in banking as a teller, when she was pregnant with her children, they took her off the teller line. Can you believe that,” Moore said. “Most people in this day and time don’t understand that. I wouldn’t be sitting here today if it hadn’t been for what she had done and the courage that she had.”

Believe it or not, Kay has spent the past five decades of her life in banking—starting as a teller and working her way up the corporate ladder to become the first female president and CEO of Suntrust Bank.

She’s now the current chair of the BankSouth advisory board for the Savannah market.

To her family, she’s the glue that holds them together.

“My mom is my role model and my hero. She is both. There is not a day that I wouldn’t say… if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be the person that I am today, said Kay’s oldest daughter, Poppy Brown”

“People have told her, ‘No, you can’t do that.’ And she breaks that every single time and she comes out on top every time. I think I take that to heart and use that in every aspect of life. I hope I’m instilling that in my kids, too. She has big shoes to fill,” Kay’s other daughter told News 3. 

Her son, MSgt. Robert Ford said, “She’s a tough lady… but she’s also fair. She recognizes talent in anyone she meets and also challenges them on a personal and professional level to make them better as a person.”

Kay Ford is community at its core, a guiding light, a glimmer of hope that there are people in the world who continue to make it a better place. 

She has a long record of service on community-driven boards, including United Way Of The Coastal Empire, where she was the 2016 campaign chair and still actively serves on the strategic plan committee and on a community investments panel.

“When I look at the billboard with 206,873 lives that were touched in one year, it’s unbelievable to me the impact that United Way has on our community,” Ford said. 

So, if you don’t know Kay Ford personally, chances are, you’ve benefited from what she’s done. 

And we are forever grateful for her tireless contributions.

“She’s already been Woman of the Year all along,” Mosley explained. “That’s her walk. She’s a woman that walks her talk. She’s loyal. She’s direct. She is firm. She’s caring. She’s supportive. She’s loving. She’s competitive. She’s all those things that just make a stellar person. But you put it into a 5’3 blonde little package and she’s just as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. But she’s not a shrinking violet. She’s solid. What you see is what you get. But what you get is quality.”

You can see a photo gallery of the United Way’s event here.