Gerald Ford

Gerald Ford

38th President, 1974-1977

Early Life and Pre-presidency

Official Presidential portrait of Gerald Ford Courtesy Gerald R. Ford Library

Official Presidential portrait of Gerald Ford
Courtesy Gerald R. Ford Library

  • Born Leslie Lynch King, Jr. on July 14, 1913 in Omaha, Nebraska.
  • Parents: Leslie Lynch King, Sr. and Dorothy Ayer Gardner. Siblings: Half-siblings (mother): Thomas Gardner, Richard Addison, and James Francis; Half-siblings (biological father): Marjorie, Leslie Henry, and Patricia Jane.
  • His mother divorced his father soon after Ford was born and moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan where she married Gerald Rudolff Ford in February 1916. Ford then adopted his stepfather’s name.
  • Attended Grand Rapids South High School and graduated in 1931.
  • Entered University of Michigan where he was a star football player and graduated in 1935. The Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers both offered him a contract, but he elected to enter law school instead.
  • Worked as an assistant footbal coach and boxing coach at Yale University before entering Yale Law School in 1938, graduating in 1941.
  • Opened his law practice in Grand Rapids after being admitted to the bar in 1941.
  • Enlisted in the U.S. Navy after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. He received his call of duty in April 1942 and served until he was released from active duty in February 1946, obtaining the rank of lieutenant commander. He resigned from the Naval Reserve in June.
  • Returned to Grand Rapids to continue practicing law and became involved in Republican politics.
  • Married Elizabeth “Betty” Bloomer Warren (1918–2011) on October 15, 1948. Children: Michael Gerald (1950– ), John Gardner (1952– ), Steven Meigs (1956– ), and Susan Elizabeth (1957– ).
  • Ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1948 elections and won. He served from 1949 to 1973.
  • Appointed to the Warren Commission in November 1963 to investigate the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
  • Elected House Minority Leader in 1964 and served from 1965 to 1973.
  • When Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned on October 10, 1973, President Nixon nominated Ford to fill the vacancy. The U.S. Senate confirmed his nomination and he was sworn in on November 27.
  • On August 8, 1974, President Nixon announced on television that he would resign as President the next day at noon. Gerald Ford would assume the Presidency upon Nixon’s resignation.

Presidency

Ford in the Oval Office, 1976 Courtesy Gerald R. Ford Library

Ford in the Oval Office, 1976
Courtesy Gerald R. Ford Library

  • Took his oath of office on August 9, 1974 in the East Room of the White House.
  • He is the only President to become a Vice President, then President without being elected into office.
  • Nominated Nelson A. Rockefeller as his Vice President. Rockefeller’s nomination was approved by both houses of Congress.
  • On September 8, 1974, he granted full pardon to former President Richard Nixon through Proclamation 4311, causing a small decline in his approval rating.
  • On November 17, 1974, Ford became the first sitting U.S. President to visit Japan.
  • To counter the rising inflation, Ford announced a campaign called WIN (Whip Inflation Now) in November 1974.
  • Ford vetoed the Freedom of Information Act, but Congress overrode his veto on November 21, 1974.
  • Signed the Privacy Act in January 1974. The law ensured American citizens their right to individual privacy.
  • In March 1975, Ford ordered the evacuation of all remaining American troops in South Vietnam when the capital Saigon fell to North Vietnam.
  • Signed the Tax Reduction Act of 1975 in March, which cut taxes by $22.8 billion, even though he is opposed to it.
  • Traveled to Europe in July 1975 to sign the Helsinki Accords. The accords were a declaration of improving relations between the West and the Communist bloc of countries.
  • There were two assassination attempts on Ford during his term: on September 5, 1975 by Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, and on September 22, 1975 by Sara Jane Moore.
  • Ford vetoed 46 bills during his term, the most by any President. The President would also have the highest percentage of overturned vetoes by Congress at 94%.
  • During Ford’s term, inflation rose to a high of 12.2% in 1974, but fell to 4.8% towards the end of 1976. Unemployemnt rose to a high of 9.2% in 1975 but dropped to 7.8% in early 1976.
  • Ford is nominated as the Republican Party’s Presidential candidate in the 1976 election. He lost to Democrat James Carter.

Post-presidency

Gerald and Betty Ford with George W. Bush, 2006

Gerald and Betty Ford with George W. Bush, 2006

  • Retired to Rancho Mirage, a city in Riverside county, California.
  • Joined the American Enterprise Insitute for Public Policy Research as its distinguished fellow in 1977 and founded the AEI World Forum, which held its first forum in Beaver Creek, Colorado in 1982.
  • Appointed President of the Eisenhower Fellowships in January 1977 and served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees from 1980 to 1986.
  • Published A Time to Heal, his autobiography, in 1979.
  • He was considered as a potential running mate to Ronald Reagan in the 1980 election but negotiations fell through.
  • Opened the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor on April 27, 1981.
  • The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan was dedicated on September 18, 1981.
  • Received an honorary doctorate from the Central Connecticut State University in March 1988.
  • Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton in August 1999.
  • Co-chaired the National Commission on Federal Election Reform in 2001 with former President James Carter.
  • Received the John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award in May 2001 for his pardon of President Nixon.
  • Died on December 26, 2006 of arteriosclerotic cerebrovascular disease and diffuse arteriosclerosis.
  • He lay in state at the U.S. Capitol on December 30, 2006 then had a state funeral at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.
  • He is interred in a tomb at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.
  • At 93 years and 165 days old, he was the longest-lived U.S. President.