Gerald Rudolph Ford
Served 1974-1977 (became President upon the resignation of Nixon)
Gerald Rudolph Ford was born in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1913, under the name of Leslie J. King.
His mother divorced when he was young. When he was four, his mother remarried Gerald R. Ford, who adopted and renamed the child after himself. They moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan. In college, Ford starred on the University of Michigan football team, then went to Yale, where he served as assistant coach while earning his law degree.
During World War II, Ford attained the rank of lieutenant commander in the Navy. After the war he returned to Grand Rapids, where he began the practice of law, and entered Republican politics. In 1948, Ford was elected to Congress. A few weeks before his election, he married Elizabeth (“Betty”) Bloomer. They have four children: Michael, John, Steven, and Susan.
Ford’s reputation for integrity and openness had made him popular during his 25 years in Congress. From 1965 to 1973, he was House Minority Leader.
After the resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew, President Richard Nixon chose Ford, a respected moderate Republican leader, as his new Vice President under the 25th Amendment. Upon Nixon’s resignation, Ford became America’s first unelected President.
When Gerald R. Ford took the oath of office on August 9, 1974, he declared, “I assume the Presidency under extraordinary circumstances…. This is an hour of history that troubles our minds and hurts our hearts.”
It was indeed an unprecedented time. He had been the first Vice President chosen under the terms of the 25th Amendment and, in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, was succeeding the first President ever to resign.
Ford was confronted with almost insuperable tasks. There were the challenges of mastering inflation, reviving a depressed economy, solving chronic energy shortages, and trying to ensure world peace.
Ford acted to curb the trend toward Government intervention and spending as a means of solving the problems of American society and the economy. In the long run, he believed, this shift would bring a better life for all Americans.
As President, Ford tried to calm earlier controversies by granting former President Nixon a full pardon. His nominee for Vice President, former Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York, was the second person to fill that office by appointment. Gradually, Ford selected a cabinet of his own.
Ford established his policies during his first year in office, despite opposition from a heavily Democratic Congress. His first goal was to curb inflation. Then, when recession became the Nation’s most serious domestic problem, he shifted to measures aimed at stimulating the economy. But, still fearing inflation, Ford vetoed a number of non-military appropriations bills that would have further increased the already heavy budgetary deficit. During his first 14 months as President he vetoed 39 measures. His vetoes were usually sustained.
Ford continued as he had in his Congressional days to view himself as “a moderate in domestic affairs, a conservative in fiscal affairs, and a dyed-in-the-wool internationalist in foreign affairs.” A major goal was to help business operate more freely by reducing taxes upon it and easing the controls exercised by regulatory agencies. “We…declared our independence 200 years ago, and we are not about to lose it now to paper shufflers and computers,” he said.
In foreign affairs Ford acted vigorously to maintain U. S. power and prestige after the collapse of Cambodia and South Viet Nam. Preventing a new war in the Middle East remained a major objective; by providing aid to both Israel and Egypt, the Ford Administration helped persuade the two countries to accept an interim truce agreement. Detente with the Soviet Union continued. President Ford and Soviet leader Leonid I. Brezhnev set new limitations upon nuclear weapons.
While at the White House, the Ford family’s golden retriever, Liberty, had a litter of eight puppies, getting some heartwarming publicity for herself and Susan Ford’s Siamese cat, Chan.
President Ford won the Republican nomination for the Presidency in 1976, but lost the election to his Democratic opponent, former Governor Jimmy Carter of Georgia.
On Inauguration Day, President Carter began his speech: “For myself and for our Nation, I want to thank my predecessor for all he has done to heal our land.” A grateful people concurred.
President Ford died December 26, 2006 in Rancho Mirage, California at age 93.
For more information about President Ford, visit The Gerald R. Ford Library.