BRISTOL, Va. — Postage stamps bearing the likeness of Tennessee Ernie Ford are now available, and local organizers are planning to celebrate his birthday.

Ford — a recording, TV and radio star from the 1950s and 1960s — was born and grew up on the Tennessee side of town. Sheets of the unique stamps are available from former Bristol Virginia Mayor Don Ashley, who sought to honor Ford in advance of the 100th anniversary of his birth, Feb. 13, 1919.

“Several of us have been trying to get a Tennessee Ernie Ford ‘forever’ stamp,” Ashley said. “We didn’t get an approval for the ‘forever’ stamp, so we went to plan B, which is a photo stamp. USPS allows you to pay a fee, go through an approval process and see if we could get a Tennessee Ernie Ford photo stamp produced.”

Working with Ford’s family, Ashley received the approval earlier this year after months of work, and he is now the sole source for the stamps, which have a face value of 50 cents apiece and are available only in sheets of 20. The sheets cost $21, which covers the production cost, Ashley said.

“People can use them on their Christmas cards, keep them, frame them, whatever they want to do,” he said.

Ashley said he has sold more than half of the 70 sheets of stamps.

Postal rates are scheduled to increase to 55 cents on Jan. 26, so Ashley has 5-cent stamps he will give to purchasers who plan to actually apply the stamps to mail something.

Ashley plans to order more stamps next year with the 55-cent face value.

In addition, the Bristol post office will offer a unique Tennessee Ernie Ford cancellation postmark on Feb. 13.

“It will be a hand stamp cancellation available, so, if a person had a Tennessee Ernie Ford stamp on an envelope and got the cancellation, they would have a nice collectible,” he said. “That approval also took several months. We’ve been working on this since February.”

To commemorate Ford’s birthday, Ashley has been working with several local agencies, including the Birthplace of Country Music, Believe in Bristol, the Bristol Historical Association, Anderson Street United Methodist Church, local schools and other groups, to plan events.

They are currently developing a series of events expected to begin Feb. 10 and continue through Feb. 13

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