Gerald R. Ford

By: Alexis Brown

General Biography

Gerald Rudolph "Jerry" Ford Jr. was born on July 14, 1913 as Leslie Lynch King, Jr. in Omaha Nebraska. His parents, Leslie Lynch King Sr. and Dorothy Ayer Gardner separated two weeks after his birth and Jerry Ford moved with his mother to Grand Rapids, Michigan to live with his grandparents. His mother remarried three years later, on February 1, 1916 to Gerald Rudolff Ford. Through this marriage, Jerry gained his name, which wasn't legally changed until December 3, 1935, a new father, and three step brothers; Thomas Gardner Ford (1918-1995), Richard Addison Ford (born 1924), and James Francis Ford (1927-2001).

It was here that his life took shape and he was throttled into the spotlight through sports in high school and college and as the Representative from Michigan's 5th Congressional District. In between law school at Yale and serving as Representative, Ford spent almost four years serving in the Navy and was awarded with ten battle stars for naval battles in the Pacific. Upon returning, he met Elizabeth Anne Bloomer while campaigning for his first term as Representative. Shortly after their marriage on October 15, 1948, the couple moved to Washington D.C where Ford would serve as a member of the House of Representatives for 25 years.

When Spiro Agnew resigned the office of Vice President on October 10, 1973, President Nixon chose Gerald R. Ford to take his place. Ford was sworn in on December 6, 1973 and less than a year later took the Oath of Office as the 38th President of the United States on August 9, 1974. He narrowly lost the 1976 election to Jimmy Carter and retired to California. During their time in Washington D.C, the Fords had three sons and one daughter; Michael Gerald (born 1950), John "Jack" Gardner (born 1952), Steve Meigs (born 1956), and Susan Elizabeth (born 1957). Through retirement, Jerry Ford remained active in the Republican Party, but on December 26, 2006 he died at the age of 93.

Before the Presidency

Before becoming President, Gerald Ford attended The University of Michigan and received his bachelor degree in economics. He then attained a law degree from Yale University. It was during this time, specifically in the summer of 1940, that he was first introduced to politics as he worked in Wendell Willkie's presidential campaign. After that his interest in politics grew as he joined a group of students at Yale led by R. Douglas Stuart, jr., and signed a petition to enforce the 1939 Neutrality Act which became the inspiration for the America First Committee, a group determined to keep the U.S. out of World War II. Despite his reservations to the war, when Ford received a commission as ensign in the U. S. Naval Reserve on April 13, 1942, he reported for active duty the next week. While serving on the Navy from April 1942 to June 1946, Gerald Ford reported that it changed his view of the world. "I came back a converted internationalist," he wrote.

Upon returning to Grand Rapids, Ford became active in local politics. His fellow Republican supporters urged him to run for Congress to represent his Michigan district (District 5). He was a member of the House of Representatives for 25 years, eight years of which he was the House Minority Leader. It was from this Minority Leader position that he was thrust into the public eye through speeches and televised press conferences, mostly about the growing mistrust of Johnson's handling of the Vietnam War. Republican support grew and his role shifted to that of an advocate of the White House Agenda under Nixon. It is said that his fair leadership and inoffensive personality won him many friends in the House. When Vice President, Spiro Agnew resigned, President Richard Nixon nominated Ford to take the Vice President position; however, House Speaker Carl Albert later recalled, "We gave Nixon no choice but Ford." His short tenure as Vice President was little noted by the public as the media at that time was wrapped up in the Watergate scandal.

During the Presidency

When Gerald R. Ford assumed the presidency on August 9, 1974, he became the only president who wasn't previously voted into either the presidential or vice presidential offices. Even though he hadn't been expecting the position at all, he made the best of his situation.

His first month in office, Gerald Ford did something that shocked the public and severely tarnished his image; he pardoned Richard Nixon for any crimes he might have committed against the United States while President on September 8, 1974. Shortly thereafter, on September 16, Ford announced something else that didn't sit well with a portion of the public. He announced a program for the return o Vietnam Era Draft Evaders and Military Deserters. This would establish a Clemency Board who would review the records and make recommendations for receiving a Presidential Pardon and change in Military discharge status. Less than three months after Ford assumed office, midterm elections took place. With voter dissatisfaction at a high following Nixon's pardon, the Democratic Party was able to increase their majority in the House to 291 of 435 seats. This was one more than the number needed for the two-thirds majority that is necessarily to override a Presidential veto. Because of this, Ford was often faced with opposition in Congress.

When Ford unexpectedly became President, there were a few pressing issues including the economy and the continued Vietnam War. To curb the rising inflation, Gerald Ford created the "Win" Program (Whip Inflation Now). This program urged people to cut spending and consumption. He also introduced a one-year, five-percent tax increase on businesses and wealthy individuals. These programs cut inflation in half, but did nothing to help the rapidly rising unemployment, which reached nine percent in May of 1975. In January of that year, Ford proposed a one-year tax reduction of $16 billion along with spending cuts to stimulate economic growth and avoid inflation. This proposition; however, changed in Congress to a tax reduction of $22.8 billion with no spending cuts. The Tax Reduction Act of 1975 was signed into law in March of 1975. Even thought the American's offensive operations against North Vietnam ended with the Paris Peace Accords, the cease fire didn't last long when in December of 1974, North Vietnamese forces invaded a province of South Vietnam. Ford could not get Congress to approve a large aid package, or any troops sent to help, but the was able to make an agreement with Congress to help South Vietnam evacuate in an operation called "Operation Frequent Wind". During this 24-hour period nearly 7,000 people were evacuated.

Also during his time as President, Gerald Ford lived through two assassination attempts; both within three weeks of each other and both in California. Much happened the short time that Ford was president, but he handled it all the best he could. People respect him now as a greater President than they did at the time, and that really says something about him.

After Presidency

After losing the 1976 presidential election to Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford retired with his wife to Colorado. He stayed relatively active and continued to make appearances at events of historical and ceremonial significance to the nation as well as lecturing at hundreds of colleges and universities. In January 1977, he became the president of the Eisenhower Fellowships, an organization created to honor President Dwight D. Eisenhower. In 1979 he published an autobiography, A Time to Heal, which is reported by reviewers as being "the shortest and most honest of recent presidential memoirs." He also wrote Humor and The Presidency, a humorous book of political anecdotes.

Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter became great friends after their presidencies and served as honorary co-chiars of the National Commission on Federal Election Reform in 2001 and of the Continuity of Government Commission in 2002. Ford became and honorary co-chair of the Council for Excellence in Government and joined the American Enterprise Institute as a distinguished fellow. It was in 1982 that he founded the annual AEI World Forum in which he hoped to "enrich discourse among world leaders and explore crucial public policy issues in an intimate setting."

Aside from his continued political endeavors, Ford invested in oil and was able to provide and income for his children. He also worked to better the communities which had raised him and established the Gerald R. Ford Institute of Public Policy at Albion College in Albion, Michigan in 1977. He opened the Gerald R. Ford Library in Ann Arbor, Michigan in April 1981, followed by the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids the following summer.In October 2001, Ford became the highest ranking Republican to embrace full equality for gays and lesbians, breaking with many conservative members of his party.

On December 26, 2006, Gerald R. Ford died in his home in Rancho Mirage, California at the age of 93 years and 165 days, making him the longest-lived U.S. President. He laid in state on the 30th of December and his burial at his presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan was preceded by a state funeral and memorial services at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C.

Major Achievements During Presidency

  • Gerald Ford's pardoning of Nixon on September 8, 1974 really sullied the public's view of their new president at that time; however, in recent years people have begun to realize what a great service it was to the country. His reasoning for the full pardon was explained in a national television broadcast, "It could go on and on and on, or someone must write and end to it. I have concluded that only I can do that, and if I can, I must. He wanted the nation to be able to let go and move on from the Watergate Scandal, and this was the only way to end it and put it behind everyone. In 2001, Gerald Ford received the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award from the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation for his courageous decision to pardon Nixon.
  • When Ford took office, he was forced to deal with the continued Vietnam War. In December of 1974, North Vietnamese troops invaded a province of South Vietnam, but Ford was stopped by congress from providing the military aid that Nixon had promised South Vietnam. Later that year he declared that "The Vietnam War was over as far as America is concerned." This spared countless American lives from certain death in Vietnam as well as money. Instead, what Ford did was to help evacuate South Vietnamese citizens. During a 24 hour period on April 29 to 30, 1975, 1,373 U.S. citizens and 5,595 Vietnamese and third country nationals were evacuated from the South VIetnamese capital of Saigon during Operation Frequent Wind. Ford also passes the Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act which appropriated $455 million toward assisting the settlement of the 130,000 Vietnamese refugees in 1975.
  • Another problem Ford was faced with during his Presidency was the economy. One of his first acts in office was to create the Economic Policy Board by Executive Order on September 30, 1974. He also created a program, "Whip Inflation Now" (WIN) which called for people to reduce their spending and consumption. He also introduced congress to a one-year, five-percent income tax increase on corporations and wealthy individuals. Gerald Ford was eventually able to compromise with Congress and create bills involving energy decontrol, tax cuts, deregulation of the railroad and securities industries, and and antitrust law reform were approved. These bills would reduce the size and role of the government, saving it money, while at the same time tackle the failing economy and also help with energy shortages.

Major Setbacks or Blunders During Presidency

  • Gerald Ford's pardoning of Nixon on September 8, 1974 really sullied the public's view of their new president. There was much controversy over the pardon and many people believed that there was a corrupt bargain between the two. This full pardon most likely caused Ford's loss in the 1976 election.
  • Midterm elections followed less than three months of Ford taking office and after he pardoned Nixon, his public support dropped dramatically.The Democratic party was able to capitalize on voter dissatisfaction and increased their majority in the House to 291 of the 435 seats. This meant that the democrats had the 2/3 majority necessary to override a Presidential veto. The 94th Congress overrode the highest percentage of vetoes since Andrew Johnson.
  • In response to a death and a few cases of severe sickness at Fort Dix on February 5, 1976 that were attributed to "swine flue," public health officials in the Ford administration urged that every person in the United States be vaccinated. By the time the program was canceled in December of that year, only a quarter of the population had been vaccinated and the vaccine was found to be the blame of twenty-five deaths. More people ended up dying from the shots than from the swine flu. It was a major misstep on the part of the Ford administration.

Vice President Nelson A. Rockefeller (1974-77)

Could Gerald R. Ford Lead our Country Today?

I believe that Gerald R. Ford would lead our country well today. He was faced with some of the same problems that we face today, including the economy and energy. His ability to adapt to the situations he was handed, as he became president without ever expecting to at that time, make him a great leader. He was a leader who did what he knew to be right, not caring about public perception or popularity. He could make the tough decisions and do what is best for the United States despite any set backs.

Interesting Facts About Gerald R. Ford

  • He was 6ft tall with blond hair and blue eyes
  • He practiced the Episcopalian religion, part of the Anglican Communion
  • Attained the rank of an Eagle Scout in Boy Scouts and was the first Eagle Scout to serve as president
  • Was a member of his high school Glee Club as well as the National Honor Society, Student Council, Latin Club, Hi-Y Club (High School YMCA), and Varsity Letter Club (football, basketball, and track)
  • He worked as a male model in his late 20's and appeared on the cover of Cosmopolitan in April of 1942 in his Navy Uniform. He met Elizabeth Bloomer, his future wife, while modeling
  • He is the only American President to have served as a Park Ranger in the National Park Service. He worked at Yellowstone National Park during the summer of 1936
  • He played center and linebacker on the University of Michigan football team and was named MVP his senior year as a starting center.
  • As part of their honeymoon, Gerald and Elizabeth Ford attended a Michigan Football game
  • He durned down contract offers from the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions in favor of law school.
  • He actually worked as an assistant football coach and freshman boxing coach while working toward his law degree at Yale.
  • He was initially denied admission to Yale because of his full time coaching responsibilities there
  • He was right handed, but wrote with his left hand
  • He always signed his name "Jerry Ford"
  • He was the last living member of the Warren Committee appointed to study the assassination of John F. Kennedy
  • Ford boasts the title of longest living president at 93 years and 121 days
  • His favorite ice cream was Butter Pecan
  • After surviving the second assassination attempt, he began wearing a bullet proof vest.
  • He was a decorated Naval officer, awarded ten battle stars for naval battles in the Pacific
  • When he entered the room as president, the band would play the Michigan Fight song, "Hail to the Victors," instead of "Hail to the Chief"

Gerald Ford's Favorites!

Hobby: stamp collecting
Breakfast: orange juice, melon, English muffins, and tea with lemon
Food: pot roast and red cabbage (for recipes see The White House Family Cookbook by Henry Haller (New York: Random House, 1987, pp. 176-179)
Dessert: butter pecan ice cream
Hymn: The Navy Hymn - "Eternal Father Strong to Save"
Drink: coffee, iced tea
Color: red
Participatory Sport: golf, tennis, skiing, swimming
Sports Figure: Al Kaline, Detroit Tigers
Parlor Game: bridge
Flower: apple blossom, azalea
Dance: ballroom
Music: jazz, swing
Book: non-fiction contemporary history
Weather: sunshine on golf course, snow on ski slopes
Place to Visit: Vail, Colorado
Time of Day, Season: dawn, all seasons
Hero: Dwight D. Eisenhower
Most Unforgettable Moment: Noon, August 9, 1974, when sworn in as President.
Most Valued Advice: "That which comes from my wife."
Memberships: American Legion (Furniture City Post No. 258), Veterans of Foreign Wars, AMVETS, 33rd Degree Mason


Michigan The Victors by niftywebdesigns

Air Force Band

Hail to the chief by Air Force Band

Works Cited

"Gerald Ford - President of the United States (POTUS)." Gerald Ford - President of the United States (POTUS). N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Mar. 2014.

"Gerald Ford Biography." A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2014.

"Gerald Ford." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 03 Feb. 2014. Web. 02 Mar. 2014.

"Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum." Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Mar. 2014.

"Gerald R. Ford." The White House. The White House, n.d. Web. 04 Mar. 2014.