He attended Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin, taught history and economics, then moved to Chicago, where he worked on the Chicago Tribune.
He was on the editorial board of Popular Mechanics. In 1920 he came to Los Angeles and entered the advertising and publicity business. Ford represented District 3 on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors from 1934 to 1958.
He was active in Democratic Party politics, serving on the state Central Committee, as chair of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, as delegate to Democratic National Conventions from California, Democratic candidate for United States. Senator from California, 1940, and as chairman of the Southern California Citizens for Kennedy Committee.
On his motion, in 1944, the Board of Supervisors established the Joint Committee for Interracial Progress that later became the Human Relations Commission. After retiring, Ford "wrote regular newspaper columns and continued to give service to the community at large." The John Anson Ford Human Relations Award is named for him, as are the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre in Los Angeles, and John Anson Ford Park in Bell Gardens, California.
John Anson Ford died at Midway Hospital in Los Los Angeles He is buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale.