Early Life and Education
Ward was born in Conway on July 24, 1939, to David H. "Dave" Ward and Bertha Ward. He received his undergraduate education from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville where he pledged with the Phi Kappa Alpha fraternity.
Ownership of Ward School Bus Manufacturing
In 1959 Ward began working for his father's school bus manufacturing business, Ward Body Works. He was first assigned to the company's Austin, Texas, manufacturing plant. He became president and CEO of the Ward Industries holding company in January 1968. By 1973 it was the largest school bus manufacturer in the world, with a twenty-five percent market share.
Ward was known for his innovative program of computer-aided manufacturing and inventory control, as well as his leadership in formulating national specifications for school bus safety issued in 1970.
Founding of Demographics Inc.
Ward founded Demographics Inc. with his brother Stephen Ward in 1969 to meet the needs of the Young Leadership Council for the Democratic Party, of which he was a member, which wanted to create political mailing lists that were competitive with a data processing system set up by Winthrop Rockefeller and the Arkansas Republican Party.
In 1970 the system was used in the successful gubernatorial election campaign of Dale Bumpers. Ward's leadership as Arkansas' Democratic National Committeeman, also helped in the failed draft movement to elect Wilbur D. Mills to the Presidency of the United States in 1972.
Demographics, which relied on an IBM 370/135 computer, soon expanded to cover other data processing needs. More than fifty businesses contracted services by 1974. One client was the bus company itself. The company originally occupied a 6,000 square foot building housing a computer and press.
Revenue by the middle of the 1970s had increased to $1.2 million. The company had over thirty-five full time employees, some still card-carrying UAW members. The board of directors for the company matched the names of board members for the umbrella corporation Ward Industries.
Financial Troubles and Sale of Demographics
Ward opened a second plant opened in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, which failed in 1975. The company, then known as Ward School Bus Manufacturing, went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1979. The plant in Conway is now owned by the IC Corporation.
Ward divested himself of Demographics in 1975 in the midst of these difficult economic times for the company. Charles D. Morgan, a company manager since 1972, became the new president and CEO.
Ward died on March 28, 2007. His body was entombed at CedarVale Mausoleum in Hot Springs Village. He was survived by his wife Barbara Ward, sons Douglas Ward and David Ward, daughters Erin Hekmatpour and Kris Panagopolous, sister Wanda Jean Stephens, and brother Steve Ward.
- Barry Beck, "Ward Industries, Inc.: A Historical Study," Faulkner Facts and Fiddlings 16.4 (Winter 1974): 67-83.
- Harold B. Johnson, "A History of Dave Ward and His Company," M.S.E. thesis, Arkansas State Teachers College, 1960.
- Toby Manthey, "Maker of School Buses Lays Off 170 in Conway," Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 27, 2009.