Online Encyclopedia Search Tool

Your Online Encyclopedia


Online Encylopedia and Dictionary Research Site

Online Encyclopedia Free Search Online Encyclopedia Search    Online Encyclopedia Browse    welcome to our free dictionary for your research of every kind

Online Encyclopedia

Gerald Ford

Gerald Ford
Gerald Ford
White House Portrait
Order: 38th President
Term of Office: August 9, 1974January 20, 1977
Predecessor: Richard M. Nixon
Successor: James E. Carter
Date of Birth: Monday, July 14, 1913
Place of Birth: Omaha, Nebraska
First Lady: Elizabeth Ann "Betty" (Bloomer) Ford
Profession: Lawyer
Political Party: Republican
Vice President: Nelson A. Rockefeller
Order: 40th Vice President
Term of Office: December 6, 1973August 9, 1974
Predecessor: Spiro T. Agnew
Successor: Nelson A. Rockefeller
President: Richard M. Nixon

Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr. (born July 14, 1913) (born Leslie Lynch King, Jr., renamed after adoption) was the fortieth (19731974) Vice President and the thirty-eighth (19741977) President of the United States. He remains the only individual to serve as President without ever having been elected to either the presidency or vice presidency. Along with his own vice president, Nelson Rockefeller, he is one of only two people to serve as Vice President after being appointed. As of 2004, he is the oldest living former President, outliving one of his successors, Ronald Reagan, the longest-lived American president. On July 14, 2004, he became the second former US President (after Reagan) to reach his 91st birthday. At present, Ford is the second longest-lived president in US history.


Early life

Ford was born to Leslie Lynch King and Dorothy Ayer Gardner. His parents divorced two years after he was born, and his mother remarried to Gerald Ford, after whom he was renamed after being adopted by his step-father. He was the only President to be adopted. Ford grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan and starred as a center playing football for the University of Michigan. After graduating in 1935, he turned down contract offers from the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers of the National Football League. Ford graduated from Yale Law School in 1941, having coached football and boxing part time to pay for school. Ford joined the Boy Scouts as a child and attained the rank of Eagle Scout. He always regarded this as one of his proudest accomplishments even after attaining the White House. He said "I am the first Eagle Scout President!"

World War II


In April 1942 Ford joined the U.S. Naval Reserve receiving a commission as an ensign. After an orientation program at Annapolis, he became a physical fitness instructor at a pre- flight school in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. In the spring of 1943 he began service in the light aircraft carrier USS Monterey (CVL-26). He was first assigned as athletic director and gunnery division officer, then as assistant navigator, with the Monterey which took part in most of the major operations in the South Pacific, including Truk, Saipan, and the Philippines. His closest call with death came not as a result of enemy fire, however, but during a vicious typhoon in the Philippine Sea in December 1944. He came within inches of being swept overboard while the storm raged. The ship, which was severely damaged by the storm and a resulting fire, had to be taken out of service. Ford spent the remainder of the war ashore and was discharged as a lieutenant commander in February 1946.

House of Representatives: Minority Leader

Ford was a member of the House of Representatives for 24 years from 1949 to 1973, and became Minority Leader of the Republican Party in the House. Ford was very popular with the voters in his district and was always re-elected with 60% margins. He always stayed in close touch with the people of Grand Rapids. During his first campaign, he visited farmers and promised he would work on their farms and milk their cows if elected - a promise which he apparently fulfilled [1] . Ford won an award in 1961 as a "Congressman's Congressman" that praised his committee work on military budgets. During his tenure, Ford was chosen to serve on the Warren Commission, a special task force set up to investigate the causes of, and quell rumors regarding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The Commission eventually concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald had acted alone in killing the President, a conclusion sometimes disparaged by conspiracy theorists as the "Lone Nut Theory". Today Ford is the only surviving member of the Commission, and continues to stand behind its conclusions. During the eight years (1965–1973) he served as Minority Leader, Ford won many friends in the House due to his fair leadership and inoffensive personality. He often attacked the "Great Society" programs of President Lyndon Johnson as unneeded or wasteful. He made a speech attacking Johnson's Vietnam war policies called "Why are we pulling our punches in Vietnam?". Ford charged that the President was meddling in the war effort and not letting the military do its job. Ford appeared on a televised series of press conferences with famed Illinois Senator Everett Dirksen that became very popular. The two men proposed Republican alternatives to President Johnson's policies. Many in the press jokingly called this "The Ev and Jerry Show". Ford also led an effort to impeach William O. Douglas, who was a Justice on the United States Supreme Court. Ford made a speech charging Douglas with criminal activities and with promoting rebellion in his writings.


After Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned during Richard Nixon's presidency, on October 10, 1973, Nixon nominated Ford to take Agnew's place, under the 25th Amendment - the first time it applied. The United States Senate voted 92 to 3 to confirm Ford on November 27, 1973 and on December 6, the House confirmed him 387 to 35. Ford had long been one of President Nixon's most outspoken supporters (someone joked once that "He is one of the few people who not only admires Nixon, but actually likes him!"). Ford traveled widely as Vice President and made many speeches defending the embattled President. He cited the many achievements of President Nixon and dismissed Watergate as a media event and a tragic sideshow.


Vice President Ford is sworn in as the 38th President of the United States by Chief Justice Warren Burger as Mrs. Ford looks on.
Vice President Ford is sworn in as the 38th President of the United States by Chief Justice Warren Burger as Mrs. Ford looks on.

When Nixon then resigned in the wake of the Watergate scandal on August 9, 1974, Ford assumed the presidency, proclaiming that "our long national nightmare is over". On August 20 Ford nominated Nelson Rockefeller to fill the Vice Presidency he had vacated, again under the 25th Amendment.

Pardons Nixon

One month later, Ford gave Nixon a blanket pardon for any crimes he may or may have not committed while President or indeed anything else he might have done — a move that many historians believe cost him the election in 1976.


The economy was a great concern during the Ford administration. In response to rising inflation, Ford went before the American public on television in October, 1974 and asked them to "whip inflation now" (WIN); as part of this program, he urged people to wear "WIN" buttons. However, most people recognized this as simply a public relations gimmick without offering any effective means of solving the underlying problem. At the time inflation was around 7%, a relatively modest number in restrospect, but still enough to discourage investment and push capital overseas and into government bonds.

The economic focus began to change as the country sank into a mild recession, and in March, 1975, Ford and Congress signed into law income tax rebates to help boost the economy.

Aftermath of Watergate

In the aftermath of Watergate, the Democrats scored major gains in both the House and the Senate in the 1974 elections. Ford and Congress battled over legislation, with Ford vetoing scores of Democrat-supported bills.

Foreign policy

President Ford, left, and USSR's Leonid Brezhnev meet at the Vladivostok summit negotiations, 1974
President Ford, left, and USSR's Leonid Brezhnev meet at the Vladivostok summit negotiations, 1974

Ford also faced a foreign policy crisis with the Mayaguez Incident. In May 1975, shortly after the Khmer Rouge took power in Cambodia, Cambodians seized an American merchant ship, the Mayaguez, in international waters. Ford dispatched Marines to rescue the crew, but the marines landed on the wrong island and met unexpectedly stiff resistance just as, unknown to the US, the Mayaguez sailors were being released. In all phases of the operation, fifty service men were wounded and forty-one killed, including three men believed to have been left behind alive and subsequently executed and twenty-three Air Force personnel killed earlier while enroute to the staging area at Utapao , Thailand. It is believed that approximately sixty Khmer Rouge soldiers were killed out of a land and sea force of about 300.

Ford's presidency also saw the final withdrawal of American personnel from Vietnam, in 'Operation Frequent Wind '. On 29 April and the morning of 30 April 1975 the American embassy in Saigon was evacuated, amidst chaotic scenes. [2]

Assassination attempts

While in Sacramento, California on September 5, 1975, a follower of incarcerated cult leader Charles Manson named Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme pointed a gun at Ford's stomach as he was shaking hands with well-wishers. No shots were fired, though, and nobody was injured. Seventeen days later, another woman – Sara Jane Moore – also tried to kill Ford in San Francisco; but her shooting attempt was thwarted by a bystander, Oliver Sipple.


President Gerald Ford 1974–1977
Vice President Nelson Rockefeller 1974–1977
State Henry A. Kissinger 1974–1977
Treasury William E. Simon 1974–1977
Defense James R. Schlesinger 1974–1975
  Donald Rumsfeld 1975–1977
Justice William Saxbe 1974–1975
  Edward Levi 1975–1977
Interior Rogers Morton 1974–1975
  Stanley K. Hathaway 1975
  Thomas Kleppe 1975–1977
Agriculture Earl L. Butz 1974–1976
  John A. Knebel 1976–1977
Commerce Frederick B. Dent 1974–1975
  Rogers C. B. Morton 1975
  Elliot L. Richardson 1975–1977
Labor Peter J. Brennan 1974–1975
  John T. Dunlop 1975–1976
  W. J. Usery 1976–1977
HEW Casper Weinberger 1974–1975
  Forrest D. Mathews 1975–1977
HUD James T. Lynn 1974–1975
  Carla A. Hills 1975–1977
Transportation Claude Brinegar 1974–1975
  William T. Coleman, Jr. 1975–1977

Supreme Court appointments

Ford appointed the following Justice to the Supreme Court of the United States:

1976 election bid

It is believed that Ford's pardoning of Nixon, along with the continuing economic problems, cost him the election of 1976.

His campaign may also have been hampered by a strong challenge that year for the nomination in the Republican party by Ronald Reagan. Additionally, Ford made a major gaffe during a television debate when he insisted that Eastern Europe was not dominated by the Soviets. On 30 October, 1975, his refusal to sanction federal aid for the city of New York led the New York Daily News to paraphrase their perception of Ford's attitude in the headline "Ford to City: Drop Dead" [3] .

(Left to right:) Presidents Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, George H. W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy Carter at the dedication of the Reagan Presidential Library.
(Left to right:) Presidents Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, George H. W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy Carter at the dedication of the Reagan Presidential Library.

Interestingly, since he served only one term it is technically possible under US law for him to serve as President again, although this is highly unlikely.


Despite his athletic history, Ford gained a reputation for being clumsy when he was President. Television footage often showed him stumbling down the stairs, bumping his head on the doorway of Air Force One, or walking into other people. This stereotype was greatly popularized by a series of skits on Saturday Night Live featuring Chevy Chase. Many of Ford's supporters have since denounced this stereotype as unfair, saying the President was no more clumsy than any normal person—except his blunders were just far more visible and popularized. Ford took this kidding gracefully and later wrote a book about humor and the Presidency. He even became friends with Chevy Chase. The people who worked in the White House during the Ford administration universally praised the President and First Lady as warm, gracious and down to earth people who helped restore confidence after the scandal of Watergate.

Later elections

At the 1980 Republican National Convention , Ford was nearly nominated to return to service as Vice President under nominee Ronald Reagan. On the day a Vice President was to be nominated, however, Reagan changed his mind and chose George H. W. Bush, who had rivaled him for the presidential nomination. While attending the 2000 Republican National Convention , Ford suffered a mild stroke, but has subsequently recovered.


Ford was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton in 1999 for his efforts to heal the nation after the Watergate scandal. The Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan was named after him in December 1999.

On November 22, 2004, New York Republican Governor George Pataki named him and the other living former presidents (Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton) as honorary members of the board rebuilding the World Trade Center.

Ford was one of five ex-presidents and First Ladies of to attend the funeral of Richard Nixon on April 27, 1994, in Nixon's hometown of Yorba Linda, California.
Ford was one of five ex-presidents and First Ladies of to attend the funeral of Richard Nixon on April 27, 1994, in Nixon's hometown of Yorba Linda, California.

Further reading

  • Cannon, James. Time and Chance: Gerald Ford's Appointment with History. New York: HarperCollins, 1993. [Chapters 1-3 concern Ford's early life and election to Congress; chapters 4–7 his congressional career; chapters 8–11 Watergate; chapters 12–19 concern Ford's appointment as Vice President, his vice presidency, the move to impeach Richard Nixon, and the transition to the presidency; chapter 20 concerns the Nixon pardon; and chapter 21 is a summary of the Ford presidency.]
  • Casserly, John J. The Ford White House: Diary of a Speechwriter. Boulder, CO: Colorado Associated University Press, 1977. [Memoir by a speechwriter for President Ford. It covers the period from November 1974 to January 1976.]
  • Congressional Quarterly, Inc. President Ford: The Man and His Record. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 1974. [Background on Ford's political career and legislative record prior to becoming President, including his statements on major issues.]
  • Congressional Quarterly, Inc. Presidency. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 1974-1976. [Annual volumes reviewing activities or issues.]
  • Coyne, John R. Fall in and Cheer. New York: Doubleday, 1979. [Memoir. Chapter 7 concerns his service as a Ford speechwriter, August 1974–February 1975.]
  • Ford, Betty. The Times of My Life. New York: Harper & Row, 1978. [Mrs. Ford's memoir - chapters 22- 37 concern her husband's presidency. The book emphasizes personal and family experiences rather than political events.]
  • Ford, Gerald R. Selected Speeches. Arlington, VA: R.W. Beatty, 1973. [A collection of speeches Ford delivered between 1965 and 1972 concerning politics and domestic and foreign affairs.]
  • Ford, Gerald R. A Time to Heal: The Autobiography of Gerald R. Ford. New York: Harper & Row, 1979. [Memoir mainly concerning his presidency.]
  • The Ford Presidency: Twenty-Two Intimate Perspectives of Gerald Ford, Edited by Kenneth W. Thompson. Portraits of American Presidents, VII. Lanham, MA: University Press of America, 1988. [Interviews with Ford administration officials.]
  • Gerald R. Ford: Presidential Perspectives from the National Archives. Washington, DC: National Archives Trust Fund Board, 1994. [Sections written by Frank H. Mackaman, Leesa Tobin, and David Horrocks of the Ford Library. Photographs selected by Audiovisual Archivist Ken Hafeli.]
  • Gerald R. Ford and the Politics of Post-Watergate America, edited by Bernard J. Firestone and Alexej Ugrinsky. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1993. [Proceedings of a conference on the presidency of Gerald R. Ford that took place at Hofstra University in April 1989.]
  • Greene, John Robert. The Limits of Power: The Nixon and Ford Administrations. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992.
  • Greene, John Robert. The Presidency of Gerald R. Ford. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1995.
  • Hartmann, Robert T. Palace Politics: An Insider's Account of the Ford Years. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1980. [Memoir. Several chapters concern his work as an assistant to Congressman and Vice President Ford. Chapters 7–16 concern his work as a White House Counsellor and supervisor of the speechwriting unit.]
  • Hersey, John. The President: A Minute-by-Minute Account of a Week in the Life of Gerald Ford. New York: Knopf, 1975. [A writer examines President Ford's activities during one week in March 1975. Originally appeared in the "New York Times Magazine," April 20, 1975. Reprinted in Hersey's book "Aspects of the Presidency: Truman and Ford in Office," New Haven, Ticknor and Fields, 1980.]
  • Hyland, William. Mortal Rivals: Superpower Relations From Nixon to Reagan. New York: Random House, 1987. [Memoir - Information on his Ford administration work in the State Department and on the National Security Council staff appears on pp. 76-201. The focus is on Soviet-American relations, including the Vladivostok summit, Helsinki Conference, Angola, detente, and the role of Henry Kissinger.]

Related articles

External links

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations by or about Gerald Ford

Wikisource has original text related to Gerald Ford .

  • Ford Library and Museum
  • First State of the Union Address
  • Second State of the Union Address
  • Third State of the Union Address

|- |width="30%" align="center"|Preceded by:
Spiro Agnew |width="40%" align="center"|Vice President of the United States
1973–1974 |width="30%" align="center"|Succeeded by:
Nelson Rockefeller |- |width="30%" align="center"|Preceded by:
Richard Nixon |width="40%" align="center"|President of the United States
1974–1977 |width="30%" align="center"|Succeeded by:
Jimmy Carter |- |width="30%" align="center"|Preceded by:
Richard Nixon |width="40%" align="center"|Republican Party Presidential candidate
1976 (lost) |width="30%" align="center"|Succeeded by:
Ronald Reagan |}

Last updated: 02-03-2005 06:54:46
Last updated: 02-17-2005 09:08:28