Presidents: Gerald Ford

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Gerald R. Ford is the only president to never have been elected to the office of the presidency or vice president. He also had the shortest term in office with 895 days of

Gerald Ford

any president to not die in office.

Gerald Ford was born as Leslie Lynch King, Jr on July 14, 1913 in Omaha, Nebraska. He was the son of Leslie Lynch and Martha Alice Porter King, Sr.

When he was sixteen days old, his mother would separate from his father and divorce before the end of the year. When he was two and a half, she would marry Gerald Rudolff Ford. Her son inherited his new stepfather’s name and was known as Gerald Rudolff Ford, Jr. However he was never formally adopted. He did not legally change his name until December 3, 1935. He gained three step-brothers with his mother’s second marriage.

Ford said, “My stepfather was a magnificent person and my mother equally wonderful. So I couldn’t have written a better prescription for a superb family upbringing.”

Gerald Ford

As a child Ford was in the Boy Scouts and became an Eagle Scout, the only U.S. President to be an Eagle Scout. He also played football in high school.

Ford played football for the University of Michigan and joined the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity.
He graduated from the school in 1935 and went on to Yale Law School. He also was a boxing coach and assistant varsity football coach while at Yale. He graduated from Yale in 1941 and was admitted to the Michigan bar. He went on to open a law practice.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he joined the Navy. With in a year he was promoted to Lieutenant and served as an instructor. He served on the USS Monterey and saw action in the Pacific Theater. He received several military medals before being discharged from service in 1946.

Upon leaving service, he began running for House of Representatives. He would serve in the House for the next 25 years. He refused offers during this time to run for the Senate or Michigan governorship.

On October 15, 1948, he married Elizabeth Bloomer Warre, a divorcee. The couple would go on to have four children, three sons and a daughter.

On September 30, 1949, he was initiated as a Freemason.

Gerald Ford

Upon the assassination of John F. Kennedy, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Ford to the Warren Commission, a special task force set up to investigate the assassination. He wrote a biography of the accused assassin.

In 1965, Ford became House Minority Leader. However, he angered President Johnson when he spoke out on the Vietnam War.

After President Nixon was elected in November 1968, Ford’s role shifted to being an advocate for the White House agenda. Congress passed several of Nixon’s proposals, including the National Environmental Policy Act and the Tax Reform Act of 1969.

During the eight years that Ford served as Minority Leader, he won many friends in the House because of his fair leadership and inoffensive personality.

On October 10, 1973, Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned and then pleaded no contest to criminal charges of tax evasion and money laundering. According to The New York Times, Nixon “sought advice from senior Congressional leaders about a replacement. The advice was unanimous. ‘We gave Nixon no choice but Ford,’ House Speaker Carl Albert recalled later”.

Ford was nominated to become Vice President on October 12. This was the first time the vice-presidential vacancy provision of the 25th Amendment had been implemented. An hour after the House confirmed his nomination he took the oath for the Vice Presidency on December 6, 1973.

Gerald Ford

By the time Ford became Vice President the Watergate Scandal was unfolding for President Richard Nixon.

On Thursday, August 1, 1974, Chief of Staff Alexander Haig contacted Ford to tell him that “smoking gun” evidence had been found. The evidence left little doubt that President Nixon had been a part of the Watergate cover-up. Ford later said,Haig came “to tell me that there would be a new tape released on a Monday, and he said the evidence in there was devastating and there would probably be either an impeachment or a resignation. And he said, ‘I’m just warning you that you’ve got to be prepared, that things might change dramatically and you could become President.’ And I said, ‘Betty, I don’t think we’re ever going to live in the vice president’s house.'”

Richard Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974 and Gerald Ford took the oath of the presidency. This made him the only person to assume the presidency without having been previously voted into either the presidential or vice presidential office.

Ford noted the peculiarity of his position: “I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your president by your ballots, and so I ask you to confirm me as your president with your prayers.”

He went on to state: I have not sought this enormous responsibility, but I will not shirk it. Those who nominated and confirmed me as Vice President were my friends and are my friends. They were of both parties, elected by all the people and acting under the Constitution in their name. It is only fitting then that I should pledge to them and to you that I will be the President of all the people.

Gerald Ford

New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller became his vice president.

On September 8, 1974, Ford issued Proclamation 4311, which gave Nixon a full and unconditional pardon for any crimes he might have committed against the United States while President. In a televised broadcast to the nation, Ford explained that he felt the pardon was in the best interests of the country, and that the Nixon family’s situation “is a tragedy in which we all have played a part. It could go on and on and on, or someone must write the end to it. I have concluded that only I can do that, and if I can, I must.”

The Nixon pardon was highly controversial. On October 17, 1974, Ford testified before Congress on the pardon. He was the first sitting President since Abraham Lincoln to testify before the House of Representatives.

The economy and inflation were a great concern and on September 30, 1974, Ford created the Economic Policy Board.

One of Ford’s greatest challenges was dealing with the continued Vietnam War. American offensive operations against North Vietnam had ended with the Paris Peace Accords, signed on January 27, 1973. The accords declared a cease fire across both North and South Vietnam, and required the release of American prisoners of war. The Paris Peace Accords stipulated a sixty-day period for the total withdrawal of U.S. forces.

Gerald Ford

On September 5, 1975, Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, a follower of Charles Manson, attempted to assassinated President Ford in Sacramento, California. She was sentenced to life in prison and paroled in 2009.

The secret service began keeping him a greater distance from the crowd after this attempt. Seventeen days after the assassination attempt by Fromme, Sara Jane Moore tried to shoot the president at the Francis Hotel in downtown San Francisco. She was also sentenced to life in prison and paroled in 2007.

In 1976, Ford reluctantly agreed to run for the office of president. Televised presidential debates were reintroduced for the first time since the 1960 election. As such, Ford became the first incumbent president to participate in one. Governor Jimmy Carter from Georgia won the election.

Jimmy Carter, opened his 1977 inaugural address by praising the outgoing President, saying, “For myself and for our Nation, I want to thank my predecessor for all he has done to heal our land.”

Upon leaving the presidency, Ford remained active in politics, memorial services, inaugurations and other events of historical and c

Gerald Ford

eremonial significance.

In 1979, Ford published his autobiography, A Time to Heal. He developed a close friendship with his successor, Jimmy Carter.

In his retirement, Ford loved to play golf. He often played with his long time friend, the comedian Bob Hope.

Upon leaving the White House, the Ford’s moved to Denver, Colorado and successfully invested in oil. He also served as a member on several corporate boards.

In 1977, Ford established the Gerald R. Ford Institute of Public Policy at Albion College in Albion, Michigan, to give undergraduates training in public policy. In April 1981, he opened the Gerald R. Ford Library in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on the north campus of his alma mater, the University of Michigan, followed in September by the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids.

Gerald Ford

In 2001, the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation awarded the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award to Ford for his pardon of Nixon. In presenting the award to Ford, Senator Edward Kennedy said that he had initially been opposed to the pardon of Nixon, but later decided that history had proved Ford to have made the correct decision.

He made his last public appearance when President George W. Bush visited with him in his Rancho Mirage, California home in April 2006.

Gerald R. Ford died on December 26, 2006 at his home in California. He was 93 years old and the oldest living president to date. He died on the 34th anniversary of the death of President Harry S. Truman.

Gerald Ford lied in state before being laid to rest at his Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Betty Ford outlived her husband by five years, dying in 2011.

Ford was the only person to hold the presidential office without being elected as either president or vice-president. The choice of Ford to fulfill Spiro Agnew’s vacated role as vice president was based on Ford’s reputation for openness and honesty.

“In all the years I sat in the House, I never knew Mr. Ford to make a dishonest statement nor a statement part-true and part-false. He never attempted to shade a statement, and I never heard him utter an unkind word,” said Martha Griffiths.

The trust the American people had in him was rapidly and severely tarnished by his pardon of Nixon. Nonetheless, many grant in hindsight that he had respectably discharged with considerable dignity a great responsibility that he had not sought. His subsequent loss to Carter in 1976 has come to be seen as an honorable sacrifice he made for the nation.

 

38th President of the United States
(August 9, 1974 to January 20, 1977)Nickname: “Jerry”

Born: July 14, 1913, in Omaha, Nebraska
Died: December 26, 2006 in Rancho Mirage, California

Father: Leslie Lynch King
Mother: Dorothy Ayer Gardner King Ford
Married: Elizabeth “Betty” Bloomer Warren (1918- ), on October 15, 1948
Children: Michael Gerald Ford (1950- ); John Gardner Ford (1952- ); Steven Meigs Ford (1956- ); Susan Elizabeth Ford (1957- )

Religion: Episcopalian
Education: Graduated from the University of Michigan (1935) and Yale University Law School (1941)
Occupation: Lawyer, public official
Political Party: Republican


  • Member of U.S. House of Representatives, 1949-73
  • Vice President, 1973-74

Presidential Salary: $200,000/year + $50,000 expense account

The President makes the unpopular decision to pardon Nixon
The Helsinki Agreement
The “Whip Inflation Now – WIN” domestic policy

  • He was born Leslie Lynch King, Jr.
  • Ford was the first president to be an Eagle Scout.
  • Ford was on the University of Michigan football team from 1931 to 1934. He was offered tryouts by both the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions.
  • Both Ford and his wife, Betty, had been models before their marriage.
  • When Ford proposed to to his wife, he was wearing one brown & one black shoe.
  • Running for Congress in 1948, Ford campaigned on his wedding day.
  • Ford was one of the members of the Warren Commission appointed to study the assassination of President  John F. Kennedy.
  • One night, Ford was locked out of the White House while walking his golden retriever, Liberty. The Secret Service finally let him in.
  • Ford’s daughter Susan held her senior prom at the White House.
  • He was the first president to release to the public a full report of his medical checkup.
  • Ford was the first president to visit Japan.
  • Ford was the only president whose two assassination attempts against him were made by women.
  • Gerald Ford was the first president not elected by the people to become president. He became vice president when Nixon’s elected vice president, Spiro T. Agnew, resigned. Then became president when  Nixon resigned.
  • Ford was the first president to pardon a former president.

1913 Gerald Ford was born on July 14, 1913 in Omaha, Nebraska

1935 Gerald Ford attended University of Michigan (1935)

1939 Germany invades Poland; World War II begins. Gerald Ford was in the military during WWII

1941 Attack on Pearl Harbor
U.S. enters World War II

1941 Gerald Ford attended Yale University Law School (1941)

1945 Atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Germany and Japan surrender, ending World War II

1946 The Cold War began between the United States and the Soviet Union

1948 Gerald Ford was married to Elizabeth Bloomer Ford (Betty) on October 15, 1948. They had 4 children

1949 Gerald Ford became a Member of U.S. House of Representatives, 1949-73

1949 NATO formed

1950 Senator Joseph McCarthy gains power and start Communist witch hunts (1950-1954)
Korean War begins

1953 Armistice in Korea

1954 SEATO alliance

1955 Warsaw Pact

1956 US installs Diem as leader of South Vietnam

1957 Civil Rights Act of 1957
Russians launch Sputnik

1958 NASA formed

1959 Cuban Revolution

1960 Greensboro sit-in
Civil Rights Act of 1960

1961 Peace Corps
Vietnam War officially begins with 900 military advisors landing in Saigon
OPEC formed

1962 Cuban Missile Crisis

1963 President J Kennedy assassinated
March on Washington; Martin Luther King, Jr. “I have a dream” speech

1964 Civil Rights Act of 1964

1968 Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy assassinated
Civil Rights Act of 1968

1969 Vietnam

1969 1969 Richard Nixon became the President of the United States of America
1969 – Neil Armstrong becomes the first man to walk on the moon

1974 Gerald Ford became Vice President, 1973-74 (under Nixon)

1974 Richard Nixon resigns Presidency over Watergate
1974 Gerald Ford became the President of the United States of America
1974 – Ford granted disgraced Nixon an unconditional pardon
1974 – Campaign Reform Law

1975-1976 1975-1976 – Communist victory in Southeast Asia
1975 – Helsinki Agreement

1977 The Presidency of Gerald Ford ended

1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident
1979 – Iran hostage crisis begins

1981 Attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan by John Hinckley

1986 Iran-Contra scandal breaks
Space Shuttle Challenger accident

2006 Gerald Ford died of heart disease on December 26, 2006 in Rancho Mirage, California. Gerald and Betty Ford are buried together in Woodlawn Cemetery, Grand Rapids, Michigan.