Gerald Ford

president of the United States from 1974 to 1977

Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr. (born Leslie Lynch King, Jr.; July 14, 1913 — December 26, 2006) was an American politician who had served as the 38th president of the United States from 1974 to 1977. Before becoming president, he was the 40th vice president from 1973 to 1974. As a member of the Republican Party, he was also a member of the House of Representatives from 1949 to 1973, becoming its minority leader in 1965. He is the only president who has not been elected to the office of either President or Vice President.[1]

Gerald Ford
Official portrait, 1974
38th President of the United States
In office
August 9, 1974 – January 20, 1977
Vice PresidentNone (Aug–Dec 1974)
Nelson Rockefeller (1974–1977)
Preceded byRichard Nixon
Succeeded byJimmy Carter
40th Vice President of the United States
In office
December 6, 1973 – August 9, 1974
PresidentRichard Nixon
Preceded bySpiro Agnew
Succeeded byNelson Rockefeller
House Minority Leader
In office
January 3, 1965 – December 6, 1973
DeputyLeslie Arends
Preceded byCharles Halleck
Succeeded byJohn Rhodes
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Michigan's 5th district
In office
January 3, 1949 – December 6, 1973
Preceded byBartel Jonkman
Succeeded byRichard Vander Veen
Personal details
Leslie Lynch King Jr.

(1913-07-14)July 14, 1913
Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.
DiedDecember 26, 2006(2006-12-26) (aged 93)
Rancho Mirage, California, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Height1.83 m (6 ft 0 in)
(m. 2015)
  • Politician
  • lawyer
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Navy
Years of service1942–1946
Rank Lieutenant commander
Battles/warsWorld War II

Ford was born in Omaha, Nebraska. He attended the University of Michigan and Yale Law School. After Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941, he joined the U.S. Naval Reserve and served from 1942 to 1946.

Ford began his career in politics in 1949 as the U.S. representative from Michigan's 5th congressional district. In 1965, he became the House Minority Leader. In December 1973, he became the vice president of the United States, replacing Spiro Agnew, who had resigned two months before. This made Ford the first person to become vice president due to the 25th Amendment. In August 1974, Ford became president after Richard Nixon resigned.

As president, Ford signed the Helsinki Accords. It was created to ease tensions between the Western world and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. In 1975, South Vietnam collapsed. This event ended US participation in the Vietnam War.

Domestically, Ford had to work with economic downturn. There was growing inflation and a recession during his presidency.[2] Ford also gave a presidential pardon to his predecessor, Richard Nixon, for his role in the Watergate scandal. The pardon was one of the most controversial things he did as president. Foreign policy was characterized in procedural terms by the bigger role Congress began to play, and by the restraining of the powers of the president.[3]

In 1976, Ford ran for reelection. He defeated former California Governor Ronald Reagan for the Republican nomination. He narrowly lost the presidential election to the Democratic candidate, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter.

After his presidency ended in 1977, Ford remained active in the Republican Party. However, his views on some social issues caused disagreement with conservative members of the party in the 1990s and early 2000s, and he was regarded as a moderate. He is ranked average in presidential opinion polls.[4][5][6]

Ford died at home on December 26, 2006 after facing a series of health problems. He was 93 years old.

Early life

Ford's Home were he was born in

He was born on July 14, 1913, at 3202 Woolworth Avenue in Omaha, Nebraska, where his parents lived with his paternal grandparents. (the parents of his father) His birth name was Leslie Lynch King, Jr. His mother was Dorothy Ayer Gardner, and his father was Leslie Lynch King, Sr., a wool trader and son of prominent banker Charles Henry King and Martha Alicia King (née Porter). Dorothy separated from King just sixteen days after her son's birth. She took her son with her to the Oak Park, Illinois. This was where her sister, Tannisse, and brother-in-law, Clarence Haskins James, lived. After that, she moved to the home of her parents, Levi Addison Gardner and Adele Augusta Ayer in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Dorothy and King divorced in December 1913; she got full custody of her son. Ford's paternal grandfather Charles Henry King paid child support until shortly before his death in 1930.[7]

Leslie Lynch King, Jr. (later known as Gerald R. Ford) in 1916

Ford later said his biological father had a history of hitting his mother.[8] James M. Cannon, a member of the Ford administration, wrote in a Ford biography that the Kings' separation and divorce were sparked when, a few days after Ford's birth, Leslie King threatened Dorothy with a butcher knife and threatened to kill her, Ford, and Ford's nursemaid. Ford later told confidantes that his father had first hit his mother on their honeymoon for smiling at another man.[9]

After two and a half years with her parents, on February 1, 1916, Dorothy married Gerald Rudolff Ford, a salesman in a family-owned paint and varnish company. They then called her son Gerald Rudolff Ford, Jr. The future president was never formally adopted, however, and he did not legally change his name until December 3, 1935; he also used a more conventional spelling of his middle name.[10] He was raised in Grand Rapids with his three half brothers from his mother's second marriage: Thomas Gardner Ford (1918–1995), Richard Addison Ford (born 1924), and James Francis Ford (1927–2001).

Ford also had three half-siblings from his father's second marriage: Marjorie King (1921–1993), Leslie Henry King (1923–1976), and Patricia Jane King (born 1925). They never saw one another as children and he did not know them at all. Ford was not aware of his biological father until he was 17, when his parents told him about the circumstances of his birth. That year his father Leslie King, whom Ford described as a "carefree, well-to-do man who didn't really give a damn about the hopes and dreams of his firstborn son", approached Ford while he was waiting tables in a Grand Rapids restaurant.

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."[11]

Scouting and athletics

Eagle Scout Gerald Ford (circled in red) in 1929; Michigan Governor Fred Green at far left, holding hat
Ford as a University of Michigan football player, 1933

Ford was involved in The Boy Scouts of America, and earned that program's highest rank, Eagle Scout.[12] In his later years, Ford received the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award in May 1970 and Silver Buffalo Award from the Boy Scouts of America. He is the only U.S. president who is an Eagle Scout.[12] He played football when he was in high school and college.

Political career


Ford served 25 years in the United States House of Representatives and was Minority Leader for many years. When Richard Nixon was President, his first Vice President was Spiro Agnew, but Agnew resigned in 1973 because he took bribes while he was Governor of Maryland in the late 1960s. Nixon then chose Ford to be his next Vice President. Ford had to be approved by Congress since there was no Presidential election that year. Because he had been in Congress for a long time, other Congressmen knew him well and were happy to approve him as vice president because they thought he was honest.

However, Ford was not Nixon's first choice. Some of his first choices were John Connally (the former Governor of Texas), Nelson Rockefeller (the Governor of New York), and Ronald Reagan (the former Governor of California). But, Nixon was worried that these other men might have trouble getting approved by Congress. All of them had also run for president already or were planning to run soon. Nixon did not want to help pick who would be the top Republican candidate in 1976 and Ford promised him that he was not interested in being President. Ford always told reporters that he always dreamed of being Speaker of the House instead.

Presidency, 1974–77


Because of the Watergate scandal, Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974. Ford became the President. He was inaugurated at the White House by Chief Justice Warren E. Burger. He is the only President of the United States not to be elected to either the office of President or Vice President. Once he became president, he realized he could do a good job and decided to run for a full term in 1976. He ran against the popular conservative Ronald Reagan for the Republican nomination in 1976. Ford won by a small number of votes against Reagan.

In 1975, Ford was nearly assassinated in Sacramento, California.

Ford had pardoned Nixon for his crimes in 1974. Many experts say that is one of the reasons why Ford lost to Jimmy Carter in the 1976 election, which was very close. Other reasons for the loss were a bad economy with a lot of inflation, the Mayagüez incident, and the last U.S. soldiers leaving Vietnam followed by Saigon and the rest of South Vietnam being taken over by the North Vietnamese, both in 1975.



With his somewhat short 895-day presidency (less than one term), he was often seen as a place holder in between Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter. The way he handled the Watergate scandal has changed people's view of him. While critics felt that pardoning Nixon was not fair, his supporters felt like his term provided a sense of healing and comfort to a country that was morally divided.

He was also a more liberal Republican than the more conservative Ronald Reagan.

Personal life


Ford was adopted at a young age. His birth name was Leslie King, Jr. He married Betty Ford in 1948.

Ford died in his home in California from cerebrovascular disease and arteriosclerosis at the age of 93 years and 165 days. Until then, no other president had lived to be that old since Ronald Reagan in 2004. George H. W. Bush became the oldest living former president in November 2017.[13] On March 22, 2019, Jimmy Carter gained the distinction of being the nation's longest-lived president.[14]


  1. Wright, John (2001). The New York Times Almanac 2002. Routledge. p. 96. ISBN 9781579583484.
  2. Frum, David (2000). How We Got Here: The '70s. New York City: Basic Books. pp. xxiii, 301. ISBN 978-0-465-04195-4.
  3. George Lenczowski (1990). American Presidents, and the Middle East. Duke University Press. pp. 142–143. ISBN 978-0-8223-0972-7.
  4. "Lincoln Wins: Honest Abe tops new presidential survey". CNN. February 16, 2009. Retrieved December 2, 2020.
  5. "Presidential Historians Survey 2017". C-SPAN. Retrieved December 2, 2020.
  6. "Presidents 2018 Rank by Category" (PDF). Retrieved December 2, 2020.
  7. Young, Jeff C. (1997). The Fathers of American Presidents. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co. ISBN 0-7864-0182-6.
  8. Funk, Josh (December 27, 2006). "Nebraska-born Ford Left State as Infant". Fox News. Associated Press. Retrieved December 31, 2013.
  9. Cannon, James. "Gerald R. Ford". Character Above All. Public Broadcasting System. Archived from the original on January 26, 2011. Retrieved December 31, 2013.
  10. "Gerald R. Ford Genealogical Information". Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum. University of Texas. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved December 31, 2013.
  11. Kunhardt, Jr., Phillip (1999). Gerald R. Ford "Healing the Nation". New York: Riverhead Books. pp. 79–85. Archived from the original on February 3, 2006. Retrieved December 31, 2013.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Townley, Alvin (2007) [December 26, 2006]. Legacy of Honor: The Values and Influence of America's Eagle Scouts. New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 12–13 and 87. ISBN 978-0-312-36653-7. Retrieved December 31, 2013.
  13. "Ford eclipses Reagan as oldest ex-president". USA Today. 2006-11-12. Retrieved 2009-09-21.
  14. "Jimmy Carter's new milestone: Longest-lived U.S. president". Detroit News. 2019-03-22. Retrieved 2019-09-25.

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