A young man grieving his dead fiancée was arrested this week at the request of her father Tom Ford III, a conservative Baptist preacher, who didn’t want him putting flowers on her gravesite.
That bizarre story began unfolding in January of 2021, after Hannah Ford, a 26-year-old conservative activist who worked on various Republican campaigns, died in a car crash. Compounding that already horrific tragedy was the fact that she had just gotten engaged the previous month. The accident occurred shortly after she was driving home from visiting a possible wedding venue, where she was planning to marry Winchester Hagans, the son of an evangelist.
One of the ways Hagans has been grieving is by putting flowers on her gravesite, including on the one-year anniversary of her death. While one-off flowers are permitted in the city of Auburn, Alabama, Hagans said Hannah always preferred something different:
Hagans says Hannah didn’t like cut flowers from a florist, she preferred living flowers. So, that’s why he says he made this planter box and left it on her grave.
“Even though she is gone I promised her I would never bring her cut flowers again. She was the love of my life the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with,” he said.
Hagans built a flower box filled with her favorite flowers and decorated it with pictures of the two of them to put by her grave. He spoke with the city to ask if he was able to place his flower box by her grave.
“The people of the city told me they don’t enforce that unless a family member asked for it to be removed,” said Hagans.
It’s a beautiful love story coming out of a very real tragedy. And who could possibly object to that gesture?
Rev. Tom Ford III, apparently. Hannah’s father and a local Baptist preacher at Grace Baptist Church in Montgomery.
Ford called on Auburn police to have Hagans arrested for littering (!) and even signed the warrant (!!):
Last month, Hagans was arrested for littering after putting the box of flowers on her grave. Hannah’s father, Tom Ford, signed the warrant for his arrest. Hagans says he was never contacted by Ford before he was arrested.
“The officer came over and said, ‘Hey Mr. Hagans can you step out of the car there is a warrant for your arrest.’ I said, ‘No, that’s impossible there’s no way.”
There’s that Christian love we’ve come to expect…
This wouldn’t be the first time, however, that he’s showing the world that he doesn’t care about people who are struggling.
A few years ago, when (disgraced former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court) Roy Moore was running for senator, dozens of pastors signed a letter expressing support for a man whose sought to impose his theocratic Christian views on the rest of the country. Tom Ford wasn’t just one of those pastors; his name was at the top of the list.
When it became public knowledge that Moore had made sexual advances on a 14-year-old girl when he was 32, and other women also spoke out about Moore’s unwanted behavior, some of those pastors asked to have their names removed from the letter since Moore’s wife was recirculating it in the hopes of maintaining support from the base. Ford, as far as I can tell, wasn’t one of them. (That could be because Hannah worked as Moore’s deputy campaign manager. She didn’t leave the campaign after the revelations, either.)
But none of that explains why Ford wanted Hagans arrested for what appeared to be a kind act by a grief-stricken man who lost the love of his life… who also happens to be Ford’s daughter.
Ford, of all people, should understand the importance of a gravesite visit. On October 22 (months after the accident!), he posted a sermon in which he referred to missing his deceased father. It’s around the 0:40 mark of that link.
… I think of the times I visited my father’s grave. I’d stand there and… wish I could to talk to it. And express my gratefulness, my appreciation, my love. The words that he has spoke to me that are in me, and have molded me and shaped me and made me who I am. His love for me when I was unlovable…
Those are lovely sentiments. In that same sermon, he talks about visiting his daughter’s gravesite and grieving in much the same way. And yet when his once-future son-in-law attempted to do the same thing after Hannah’s death, Ford chose to have him arrested.
Ford has yet to make any public statements about his reasoning here.
Interestingly enough, Hagans shared a photo on Instagram last July in which he showed a picture of the flower box. He said it was the fourth time he had placed the flowers on her grave… but “someone she knew keeps trashing them. Someone keeps throwing away the flowers I plant.”
Hagans vowed to keep planting more flowers. And then, this most recent time, he was arrested. It raises the question of whether Ford was destroying those flower boxes earlier, too.