Gerald Ford

Gerald Ford books and biography


Gerald Ford

Gerald Ford

38th President of the United States
In office
August 9, 1974 – January 20, 1977
Vice President(s)   None (1974),
Nelson A. Rockefeller (1974-1977)
Preceded by Richard Nixon
Succeeded by Jimmy Carter

40th Vice President of the United States
In office
December 6, 1973 – August 9, 1974
President Richard Nixon
Preceded by Spiro T. Agnew
Succeeded by Nelson A. Rockefeller

Born July 14, 1913 (age 93)
Omaha, Nebraska
Political party Republican
Spouse Elizabeth Ann Ford
Religion Episcopalian

Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr., (born Leslie Lynch King Jr. on July 14, 1913) was the 38th (1974–1977) President of the United States. Ford also served as the 40th (1973–1974) Vice President. He was the first person appointed to the Vice-Presidency under the terms of the 25th Amendment, and upon succession to the presidency became the first (and to date, only) president in U.S. history to fill that office without having been elected either President or Vice-President. He is also the longest-lived United States president ever, having surpassed Ronald Reagan's record on November 12, 2006.

Ford was born in Omaha, Nebraska. He was originally named Leslie Lynch King, Jr., after his biological father. His parents divorced when he was less than a year old, and when his mother remarried, he was given the name of his step-father, Gerald Rudolff Ford. He later changed the spelling of the middle name. Ford obtained his bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan, where he was a football star. He went on to obtain a law degree from Yale University before serving in the United States Navy during World War II. Returning from the war a confirmed "internationalist", Republican Ford defeated the incumbent in the party primary and was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1948, representing the Grand Rapids, Michigan area. He was elected House Minority Leader in 1963 and served in the House until 1973. When Spiro Agnew resigned, Ford was appointed Vice President of the United States at the height of the Watergate scandal, which eventually led to Nixon's resignation.

The Ford administration saw the withdrawal of American forces from Vietnam, the execution of the Helsinki Accords, and the continuing specter of inflation and recession. Faced with an overwhelmingly Democratic majority in Congress, the administration was hampered in its ability to pass major legislation, and Ford's vetoes were frequently overridden. Ford was criticized by many for granting a pre-emptive pardon to Nixon, and was subsequently defeated by Democrat Jimmy Carter in the 1976 presidential election.


Early life

Ford with his pet Boston Terrier, 1916
Ford with his pet Boston Terrier, 1916

Ford was born in Omaha, Nebraska on Monday, July 14, 1913 at 12:43 AM CST to Leslie Lynch King and Dorothy Ayer Gardner, and was originally named Leslie Lynch King, Jr. His parents separated before he was born and divorced five months after his birth; he is the only President whose parents have been divorced. Two years later, his mother married Gerald Ford, after whom he was renamed despite never being formally adopted. Raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Ford was not aware of his adoption until shortly before turning fifteen. "My stepfather was a magnificent person," Ford stated, "and my mother equally wonderful. So I couldn't have written a better prescription for a superb family upbringing."[1]

Ford joined the Boy Scouts and attained that program's highest rank, Eagle Scout. He always regarded this as one of his proudest accomplishments, even after attaining the White House.[2] In subsequent years, Ford received the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award and Silver Buffalo from the Boy Scouts of America. He attended Grand Rapids South High School and was a star athlete, rising to become captain of his high school football team. In 1930, he was selected to the All-City team of the Grand Rapids City League. He also attracted the attention of college recruiters.[3]

Attending the University of Michigan as an undergraduate, Ford became the center for the school's football team and helped the Wolverines to undefeated seasons in 1932 and 1933. His number 48 jersey has since been retired by the school. At Michigan, Ford was a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity and washed dishes at his fraternity house to earn money to pay for college expenses. While at Michigan, Ford turned down contract offers from the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers of the National Football League following his graduation in 1935 in order to attend law school.[4] As part of the 1935 Collegiate All-Star football team, Ford played against the Chicago Bears in an exhibition game at Soldier Field.[5]

I'm a Ford, not a Lincoln.
—Gerald R. Ford, December 1973[6]

While attending Yale Law School, he joined a group of students led by R. Douglas Stuart, Jr., and signed a petition to enforce the 1939 Neutrality Act. The petition was circulated nationally and was the inspiration for America First, a group determined to keep America out of World War II.[7] Ford's position on American involvement in the war would soon change.

Ford graduated from law school in 1941 and was admitted to the Michigan bar shortly thereafter. Before he could commence a law practice, though, overseas developments caused a change in plans. Like others, Ford responded to the attack on Pearl Harbor and joined the military.[8]

Naval Service in World War II

Ford in uniform, 1945
Ford in uniform, 1945

Ford received a commission as ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve on 13 April 1942. On 20 April, he reported for active duty to the V-5 instructor school at Annapolis, Maryland. After one month of training, he went to Navy Preflight School in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where he was one of 83 instructors and taught elementary seamanship, ordnance, gunnery, first aid, and military drill. In addition, he coached in all nine sports that were offered, but mostly in swimming, boxing and football. During the one year, he was at the Preflight School, he was promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade on 2 June 1942, and to Lieutenant on March 1943.

Applying for sea duty, Ford was sent in May 1943 to the pre-commissioning detachment for a new small aircraft carrier, the USS Monterey, at New York Shipbuilding Corporation, Camden, New Jersey. From the ship's commissioning on 17 June 1943 until the end of December 1944, Ford served as the assistant navigator, Athletic Officer, and antiaircraft battery officer on board the Monterey. While he was on board, the Monterey participated in many actions in the Pacific with the Third and Fifth Fleets during the fall of 1943 and in 1944. In 1943, the carrier helped secure Makin Island in the Gilberts, and participated in carrier strikes against Kavieng, New Ireland in 1943. During the spring of 1944, the Monterey supported landings at Kwajalein and Eniwetok and participated in carrier strikes in the Marianas, Western Carolines, and northern New Guinea, as well as in the Battle of Philippine Sea. After overhaul, from September to November 1944, aircraft from the Monterey launched strikes against Wake Island, participated in strikes in the Philippines and Ryukus, and supported the landings at Leyte and Mindoro.

Although the ship was not damaged by the Japanese forces, the Monterey was one of several ships damaged by the typhoon which hit Admiral William Halsey's Third Fleet on 18-19 December 1944. The Third Fleet lost three destroyers and over 800 men during the typhoon. The Monterey was damaged by a fire, which was started by several of the ship's aircraft tearing loose from their cables and colliding during the storm. During the storm, Ford narrowly missed being a casualty himself. After Ford left his battle station on the bridge of the ship in the early morning of 18 December, the ship rolled twenty-five degrees which caused Ford to lose his footing and slide toward the edge of the deck. The two inch steel ridge around the edge of the carrier slowed him enough so he could roll and twisted into the catwalk below the deck. As he later stated, "I was lucky; I could have easily gone overboard."

After the fire, the Monterey was declared unfit for service and the crippled carrier reached Ulithi on 21 December before proceding across the Pacific to Bremerton, Washington where it underwent repairs. On Christmas Eve 1944 at Ulithi, Ford was detached from the ship and sent to the Athletic Department of the Navy Pre-Flight School, at Saint Mary's College of California where he was assigned to the Athletic Department until April 1945. One of his duties was to coach football. From end of April 1945 to January 1946, he was on the staff of the Naval Reserve Training Command, Naval Air Station, Glenview, Illinois as the Staff Physical and Military Training Officer. On 3 October 1945, he was promoted to Lieutenant Commander. In January 1946, he was sent to the Separation Center, Great Lakes, Illinois to be processed out. He was released from active duty under honorable conditions on 23 February 1946. On 28 June 1963, the Secretary of the Navy accepted Ford's resignation from the Naval Reserve.

For his naval service, Gerald Ford earned the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with nine engagement stars for operations in the Gilbert Islands, Bismark Archipelego, Marshal Islands, Asiatic and Pacific carrier raids, Hollandia, Marianas, Western Carolines, Western New Guinea, and the Leyte Operation. He also received the Philippine Liberation with two bronze stars for Leyte and Mindoro, as well as the American Campaign and World War II Victory Medals.[9]

Marriage and family

Official White House portrait of Betty Ford
Official White House portrait of Betty Ford
See also: Betty Ford

On October 15, 1948, Ford married Betty Bloomer Warren at Grace Episcopal Church, in Grand Rapids. This was Mrs. Ford's second marriage. The Fords had four children: Michael Ford (b. 1950), a minister; John "Jack" Ford (b. 1952), a journalist/public relations consultant; Steven Ford (b. 1956), an actor and rodeo rider;[10] and Susan (Ford) Vance Bales (b. 1957), a photographer.

Mrs. Ford was noted for her outspokenness on topics, including pre-marital sex and the Equal Rights Amendment. This was a sharp contrast from most First Ladies, particularly her immediate predecessor, the reticent Pat Nixon. Mrs. Ford publicly battled breast cancer during her husband's presidency. After leaving office, her battles with alcoholism and addiction were discussed prominently in the media, as was the family's support in opening the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California.[11]

House of Representatives

Campaign billboard from 1948 election
Campaign billboard from 1948 election

Following his return from the war, Ford became active in local Republican politics. Grand Rapids supporters urged him to take on Bartel J. Jonkman, the incumbent Republican congressman. Ford had changed his worldview as a result of his military service; "I came back a converted internationalist", Ford stated, "and of course our congressman at that time was an avowed, dedicated isolationist. And I thought he ought to be replaced. Nobody thought I could win. I ended up winning two to one."[1]

During his first campaign, Ford visited farmers and promised he would work on their farms and milk the cows if elected—a promise he fulfilled.[12] In 1961, the U.S. House membership voted Ford a special award as a "Congressman's Congressman" that praised his committee work on military budgets.[13]

Ford meets with President Richard Nixon as House Minority Leader.
Ford meets with President Richard Nixon as House Minority Leader.

Ford was a member of the House of Representatives for twenty-four years, holding the Grand Rapids congressional district seat from 1949 to 1973. Appointed to the House Appropriations Committee two years after being elected, he was a prominent member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. Ford described his philosophy as "a moderate in domestic affairs, an internationalist in foreign affairs, and a conservative in fiscal policy."[14] In 1963, Republican members of the House elected him Minority Leader. During his tenure, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Ford to the Warren Commission, a special task force set up to investigate the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The Commission's conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald had acted alone in killing the President remains controversial.

During the eight years (1965–1973) he served as Minority Leader, Ford won many friends in the House because of his fair leadership and inoffensive personality.[13] But President Johnson disliked Ford for the congressman's frequent attacks on the administration's "Great Society" programs as being unneeded or wasteful, and for his criticism of the President's handling of the Vietnam War. As minority leader in the House, Ford appeared in a popular series of televised press conferences with famed Illinois Senator Everett Dirksen in which they proposed Republican alternatives to Johnson's policies. Many in the press jokingly called this "The Ev and Jerry Show".[15] In 1970, Ford led the effort to impeach William O. Douglas, an associate justice on the Supreme Court, for "moonlighting" for private clients.[16]

Vice Presidency, 1973–74

After Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned during Richard Nixon's presidency October 10, 1973, Nixon nominated Ford to take Agnew's position on October 12; this was the first time that the Vice-Presidential vacancy provision of the 25th Amendment had been applied. The United States Senate voted 92 to 3 to confirm Ford on November 27, and on December 6 the House confirmed him 387 to 35.

Ford's tenure as Vice President was little noted by the media. Instead, reporters were preoccupied by the continuing revelations about criminal acts during the 1972 Presidential elections and allegations of cover-ups within the White House. Ford said little about the Watergate scandal, although he privately expressed his personal disappointment in the President's conduct.[17]

I have not sought this enormous responsibility, but I will not shirk it. Those who nominated and confirmed me as Vice President were my friends and are my friends. They were of both parties, elected by all the people and acting under the Constitution in their name. It is only fitting then that I should pledge to them and to you that I will be the President of all the people.
—Gerald R. Ford, August 9, 1974[6]

The Watergate investigation continued following Ford's appointment until Chief of Staff, Alexander Haig contacted Ford on August 1, 1974, and told him that "smoking gun" evidence had been found. The evidence left little doubt that President Nixon had been a part of the Watergate cover-up. Ford at the time was continuing to reside in the same home he had as a congressman and was waiting on repairs before becoming the first Vice President to move into the new Vice President's official residence at Number One Observatory Circle. However, "Al Haig [asked] to come over and see me," Ford later related, "to tell me that there would be a new tape released on a Monday, and he said the evidence in there was devastating and there would probably be either an impeachment or a resignation. And he said, 'I'm just warning you that you've got to be prepared, that things might change dramatically and you could become President.' And I said, 'Betty [Ford, his wife], I don't think we're ever going to live in the Vice President's house.'"[1]

Presidency, 1974–77


My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.
—Gerald R. Ford', August 9, 1974.[18]
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 resigned in the wake of the Watergate scandal on August 9, 1974, Ford assumed the presidency. Immediately after taking the oath of office in the East Room of the White House, he spoke to the assembled audience in a speech broadcast live to the nation. Ford noted the peculiarity of his position: "I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your President by your ballots, and so I ask you to confirm me as your President with your prayers."[18] On August 20 Ford nominated former New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller to fill the Vice Presidency he had vacated. Rockefeller was confirmed by the House and Senate.[19]

Nixon pardon

On September 8, 1974, Ford gave Nixon a full and unconditional pardon for any crimes he may have committed while President.[20][21] In a televised broadcast to the nation, Ford explained that he felt the pardon was in the best interests of the country and that the Nixon family's situation "is an American tragedy in which we all have played a part. It could go on and on and on, or someone must write the end to it. I have concluded that only I can do that, and if I can, I must."[22] At the same time as he announced the Nixon pardon, Ford introduced a conditional amnesty program for Vietnam War draft dodgers who had fled to countries such as Canada.[23] Unconditional amnesty, however, did not come about until the Jimmy Carter presidency.[24]

The Nixon pardon was highly controversial. Critics derided the move and claimed a "corrupt bargain" had been struck between the men.[3] They claimed Ford's pardon was quid pro quo in exchange for Nixon's resignation that elevated Ford to the Presidency. Nixon's chief of staff, Alexander Haig, offered a deal to Ford. Bob Woodward, in his book, Shadow, recounts the Haig deal. Woodward recounts that Haig entered Ford's office on August 1, 1974 while Ford was still Vice President and Nixon had yet to resign. Haig told Ford that there were three pardon options: (1) Nixon could pardon himself and resign, (2) Nixon could pardon his aides involved in Watergate and then resign, or (3) Nixon could agree to leave in return for an agreement that the new president would pardon him. After listing these options, Haig handed Ford various papers; one of these papers included a discussion of the president's legal authority to pardon and another sheet was a draft pardon form that only needed Ford's signature and Nixon's name to make it legal. Woodward summarizes the setting between Haig and Ford as follows: "Even if Haig offered no direct words on his views, the message was almost certainly sent. An emotional man, Haig was incapable of concealing his feelings; those who worked closely with him rarely found him ambiguous." Despite the situation, Ford never accepted the offer from Haig and later decided to pardon Nixon on his own terms. Regardless, historians believe the controversy was one of the major reasons Ford lost the election in 1976.[25]

Wikisource has original text related to this article:
The Nixon Pardon

Ford's first press secretary and close friend Jerald terHorst resigned his post in protest after the announcement of President Nixon's full pardon.

Administration and Cabinet

Gerald Ford meets with his Cabinet in 1975.
Gerald Ford meets with his Cabinet in 1975.

Upon assuming office, Ford inherited the Cabinet Nixon selected during his tenure in office. Over the course of Ford's relatively brief administration, only Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Secretary of the Treasury William Simon remained. Ford appointed William Coleman as Secretary of Transportation, the second African American to serve in a presidential Cabinet (after Robert Clifton Weaver) and the first appointed in a Republican administration.[26]

Ford selected George H.W. Bush to be both Ambassador to the People's Republic of China in 1974 and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency in 1975.[27] In 1975, Ford also selected former congressman and ambassador Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense. Rumsfeld had previously served as Ford's transition chairman and later Chief of Staff. Additionally, Ford chose a young Wyoming politician, Richard Cheney, to be his new Chief of Staff and later campaign manager for Ford's 1976 presidential campaign.[28] Ford's dramatic reorganization of his Cabinet in the fall of 1975 has been referred to by political commentators as The "Halloween Massacre."

The Ford Cabinet
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 Savig 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
  William Usery, Jr. 1976–1977
HEW Caspar 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

Midterm elections

Main articles: United States House election, 1974 and United States Senate election, 1974

The 1974 Congressional midterm elections took place less than three months after Ford assumed office. Occurring in the wake of the Watergate scandal, the Democratic Party was able to turn voter dissatisfaction into large gains in the House election, taking 49 seats from the Republican Party and increasing their majority to 291 of the 435 seats. Even Ford's old, reliably Republican seat was taken by Democrat Richard VanderVeen. In the Senate election, the Democratic majority became 60 in the 100-seat body.[29] In both houses, the numbers were above or close to the two-thirds mark required to override a presidential veto, and the 94th Congress overrode the highest percentage of vetoes since Franklin Pierce was President in the 1850s.[30]

Domestic policy

The economy was a great concern during the Ford administration. In response to rising inflation, Ford went before the American public in October 1974 and asked them to "whip inflation now." As part of this program, he urged people to wear "WIN" buttons.[31] In hindsight, this was viewed as simply a public relations gimmick without offering any effective means of solving the underlying problems.[32] At the time, inflation was around 7%.[33]

The Drop Dead cover in 1975
The Drop Dead cover in 1975

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 as part of the Tax Reduction Act of 1975 to boost the economy. When New York City faced bankruptcy in 1975, Mayor Abraham Beame was unsuccessful in obtaining Ford's support for a federal bailout. The incident prompted the New York Daily News' notorious headline: "Ford to City: Drop Dead."[34]

Similar to the more recent bird flu concerns, Ford was confronted with a potential swine flu pandemic. Sometime in the early 1970s, an influenza strain H1N1 shifted from a form of flu that affected pigs and crossed over to humans. On February 5, 1976, an Army recruit at Fort Dix mysteriously died and four fellow soldiers were hospitalized; health officials announced that swine flu was the cause. Soon after, public health officials in the Ford administration urged that every person in the United States be vaccinated.[35] Although the vaccination program was plagued by delays and public relations problems, some 24% of the population was vaccinated by the time the program was cancelled. The vaccine was blamed for twenty-five deaths; more people died from the shots than from the swine flu.[36]

Foreign policy

South Vietnamese civilians scramble to board a U.S. helicopter during the American evacuation of Saigon.
South Vietnamese civilians scramble to board a U.S. helicopter during the American evacuation of Saigon.

The Ford Administration saw the final withdrawal of American personnel from Vietnam in 'Operation Frequent Wind', and the subsequent fall of Saigon. On April 29 and the morning of April 30, 1975, the American embassy in Saigon was evacuated amidst a chaotic scene. Some 1,373 U.S. citizens and 5,595 Vietnamese and third country nationals were evacuated by military and Air America helicopters to U.S. Navy ships off-shore.

Ford meets with Soviet Union leader Leonid Brezhnev in Vladivostok on November 1974 to sign a joint communiqué on the SALT treaty.
Ford meets with Soviet Union leader Leonid Brezhnev in Vladivostok on November 1974 to sign a joint communiqué on the SALT treaty.

From the prior administration, in addition to longstanding Cold War issues, Ford inherited the on-going détente with both the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China—and the policy of building relationships with the two communist countries, which had been mutually antagonistic toward each other for many years.

Still in place from the Nixon Administration was the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty.[37] The thawing relationship brought about by Nixon's visit to China was reinforced by Ford's December 1975 visit to the communist country.[38] In 1975, the Administration entered into the Helsinki Accords with the Soviet Union, creating the framework of the Helsinki Watch, an independent non-governmental organization created to monitor compliance that later evolved into Human Rights Watch.[39]

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 the American merchant ship 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 U.S., the Mayaguez sailors were being released. In the operation, fifty U.S. servicemen were wounded and forty-one killed while approximately sixty Khmer Rouge soldiers were killed.[40]

Assassination attempts

Secret Service rushing Ford to safety after an assassination attempt by Lynette
Secret Service rushing Ford to safety after an assassination attempt by Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme

Ford faced two assassination attempts during the course of his presidency, both over a three-week period. While in Sacramento, California on September 5, 1975, Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, a follower of Charles Manson, pointed a Colt .45-caliber handgun at Ford and pulled the trigger. Though the gun was loaded with five bullets, it was an automatic pistol and the slide had not been pulled to place a bullet in the firing chamber, making it impossible for the gun to fire. Fromme was taken into custody; she was later convicted of attempted assassination of the President and was sentenced to life in prison.[41]

Seventeen days later, another woman, Sara Jane Moore, also tried to kill Ford while he was visiting San Francisco, but her attempt was thwarted when bystander Oliver Sipple deflected her shot. One person was injured when Moore fired, and she was later sentenced to life in prison.[42][2]

Supreme Court appointment

In 1975, Ford appointed John Paul Stevens as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States to replace retiring Justice William O. Douglas. Stevens had been a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, appointed by President Nixon.[43] During his tenure as House Republican leader, Ford had led efforts to have Douglas impeached. After being confirmed, Stevens eventually disappointed some conservatives by siding with the Court's liberal wing regarding the outcome of many key issues.[44] Nevertheless, President Gerald Ford recently paid tribute to John Paul Stevens. "He has served his nation well," Ford said of Stevens, "with dignity, intellect and without partisan political concerns." [3]


1976 presidential election

Main article: United States presidential election, 1976
Ford and his wife Betty after 1976 Republican nomination
Ford and his wife Betty after 1976 Republican nomination

Ford reluctantly agreed to run for office in 1976 but first had to counter a challenge for the Republican party nomination. Former Governor of California Ronald Reagan and the party's conservative wing faulted Ford for failing to do more in South Vietnam, for signing the Helsinki Accords and for negotiating to cede the Panama Canal. Reagan launched his campaign in the autumn of 1975 and won several primaries before withdrawing from the race at the Republican Convention in Kansas City, Missouri. The conservative insurgency convinced Ford to drop the more liberal Vice President Nelson Rockefeller in favor of Kansas Senator Bob Dole.[45]

Ford and Jimmy Carter debate
Ford and Jimmy Carter debate

In addition to the pardon dispute and lingering anti-Republican sentiment, Ford had to counter a plethora of negative media imagery. Chevy Chase often did pratfalls on Saturday Night Live, imitating Ford, who had been seen stumbling on two occasions during his term. As Chase commented, "He even mentioned in his own autobiography it had an effect over a period of time that affected the election to some degree."[46]

Ford's campaign had an advantage from several activities held during 1976 celebrating the United States Bicentennial. The Washington, D.C. fireworks display was presided over by the President and televised nationally.[47]

Democratic nominee and former Georgia governor Jimmy Carter campaigned as an outsider and reformer; he gained support from voters dismayed by the Watergate scandal. Carter led consistently in the polls, and Ford was never able to shake voter dissatisfaction following Watergate and the Nixon pardon.

For myself and for our Nation, I want to thank my predecessor for all he has done to heal our land.
—Jimmy Carter, January 20, 1977[48]

Presidential debates were reintroduced for the first time since the 1960 election. While Ford was seen as the winner of the first debate, during the second debate he inexplicably blundered when he stated, "There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and there never will be under a Ford Administration." Ford also said that he did not "believe that the Poles consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union."[49]

In the end, Carter won the election, receiving 50.1% of the popular vote and 297 electoral votes compared with 48.0% and 240 electoral votes for Ford. Though he lost, in the three months between the Republican National Convention and the election, Ford managed to close what was once a 34-point Carter lead to a 2-point margin.

Had Ford won the election, he would have been disqualified by the 22nd Amendment from running in 1980, since he served more than 2 years of Nixon's term.

Post-presidential years

Gerald R. FordOfficial White House Portrait by Everett Kinstler
Gerald R. Ford
Official White House Portrait by Everett Kinstler

The pardon controversy eventually subsided. Ford's successor, Jimmy Carter, opened his 1977 inaugural address by praising the outgoing President.[48]

(Left to right:) Former Presidents Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, then President George H. W. Bush, and former Presidents Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter at the dedication of the Reagan Presidential Library (1991).
(Left to right:) Former Presidents Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, then President George H. W. Bush, and former Presidents Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter at the dedication of the Reagan Presidential Library (1991).
President George W. Bush with former President Gerald Ford and Betty Ford  April 23, 2006
President George W. Bush with former President Gerald Ford and Betty Ford April 23, 2006

Ford remained relatively active in the years after his presidency and continued to make appearances at events of historical and ceremonial significance to the nation, such as Presidential inaugurals and memorial services.

After securing the Republican nomination in 1980, Ronald Reagan gave serious consideration to his former rival Ford as a potential vice-presidential running mate. But negotiations between the Reagan and Ford camps at the Republican National Convention in Detroit were unsuccessful. Ford conditioned his acceptance on Reagan's agreement to an unprecedented "co-presidency," giving Ford the power to control key executive branch appointments (such as Henry Kissinger as Secretary of State and Alan Greenspan as Treasury Secretary). After rejecting these terms, Reagan offered the vice-presidential nomination instead to George H.W. Bush.[50]

Ford is a close friend of his successor, Jimmy Carter, despite the fact that Carter defeated him in the 1976 presidential election. Their friendship began in 1981, after both had left office, when they attended the funeral of Egypt's slain leader Anwar Al Sadat. Today, Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, visit President and Mrs. Ford's home frequently.[51]

In 1981, he opened the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the Gerald R. Ford Library in Ann Arbor, Michigan.[52] In 1999, Ford was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Bill Clinton.[53] In 2001, he was presented with the John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award for his decision to pardon Richard Nixon to stop the agony America was experiencing over Watergate.[54] In retirement Ford also devoted much time to his love of golf, often playing both privately and in public events with comedian Bob Hope, a longtime friend.

Health problems

As Ford approached his ninetieth year, he began to experience significant health problems. He suffered two minor strokes at the 2000 Republican National Convention, but made a quick recovery.[55] In January 2006, he spent 11 days at the Eisenhower Medical Center near his residence at Rancho Mirage, California, for treatment of pneumonia.[56] President George W. Bush visited former President Ford in April 2006 at Ford's home in Rancho Mirage; the former President, walking with a cane, escorted Bush back outside to his car after visiting for about an hour. While vacationing in Vail, Colorado, he was hospitalized for two days in July 2006 for shortness of breath.[57] On August 15, 2006 Ford was admitted to St. Mary's Hospital of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota for "testing and evaluation". On August 21, it was reported that he had been fitted with a pacemaker. On August 25, he underwent an angioplasty procedure at the Mayo Clinic, according to a statement from an assistant to Ford. On August 28, Ford was released from the hospital and returned with his wife Betty to their California home. On October 12 however, Ford entered the hospital yet again for undisclosed tests at the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, California,[58] he was released on October 16. As a result of his frail health in the past year it was announced on October 17 that Ford is considering selling his home near Vail, Colorado due to the uncertainty as to whether he would be able to return.

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

Funeral plans for former presidents are written out by the Presidents themselves and kept until their death by the Military District of Washington, which oversees state funerals, and then the funeral is performed to their wishes. Ford, the oldest of the living ex-presidents, has requested a state funeral and a burial at his presidential museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


  • Since the death of Ronald Reagan on June 5, 2004, Ford has been the oldest living former President. On November 12, 2006, Ford officially became the longest-lived President, surpassing Ronald Reagan.[59] He has had the second-longest post-presidency after Herbert Hoover. On September 9, 2008 he will surpass Hoover's record of 11,555 days.
  • He is, at 93 years of age, one of only four U.S. Presidents to have lived to 90 or more years of age (the others being Reagan, also 93, Herbert Hoover, 90, and John Adams, also 90).
  • Gerald and Betty Ford hold the record as the longest-lived First Couple, at ages 93 and 88 respectively. The previous record (calculated using the combined ages of the two spouses) was held by Ronald and Nancy Reagan at ages 93 and 83 respectively at the time of President Reagan's death on June 5, 2004, at which time Gerald and Betty Ford had already tied their record at ages 90 and 86 respectively. Prior to 2003, Harry and Bess Truman, at ages 88 and 87 respectively at the time of President Truman's death in 1972, had held the record for more than 30 years.
  • Ford is the only member of the Warren Commission still alive.



  • Ford, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Bill Clinton are the only three former Presidents who did not have full siblings. (No president has been a true only child.)
  • Gerald Ford was the 38th President to be born as well as the 38th to serve. Richard Nixon was 37th born, 37th to serve, and the 37th to die. John F. Kennedy was the 39th President born, 35th to serve and the 32nd to die. Five of the 43 presidents (Carter, Ford, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, and George W. Bush) are still living.
  • After leaving office, Ford did a television public service announcement for the Boy Scouts of America. The advertisement featured a long list of former Boy Scout celebrities, athletes, etc. each stating that when your son joins Scouting there was no guarantee that he would grow up to be a movie star, major league player, astronaut, etc. At the closing, Ford's appearance intentionally surpasses all the others as he says, "When your son joins the Boy Scouts there's no guarantee that he'll grow up to be President... but you never know." In the 1990s, the West Michigan Shores Council renamed itself in honor of the President.
  • Ford was characterized in The Simpsons episode "Two Bad Neighbors," having moved in across the street from the family after George H.W. Bush left in disgust. He gets along famously with Homer, inviting him over to watch football, while the two snack on beer and nachos. The two trip simultaneously on the way to Ford's new home, with both muttering "D'oh!" at the same moment, showing both to be accident prone.

See also

  • Spartacus Educational Biography
  • Gerald R. Ford Freeway
  • Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • Gerald R. Ford Library in Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan
  • Notable World War II Veterans


  1. ^ a b c American Presidents, History: Gerald R. Ford.
  2. ^ Gerald R. Ford - Boy Scouts of America, Report to the Nation.
  3. ^ a b "Healing the Nation" Philip Kunhardt Jr., et. al. {1999). The American President, pp. 79-85
  4. ^ Gerald R. Ford Biography - Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum.
  5. ^ J.R. Greene {1995) The Presidency of Gerald R. Ford (American Presidency Series) (Paperback), p. 2.
  6. ^ a b Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum
  7. ^ Doenecke, Justus D., (1990). In Danger Undaunted: The Anti-Interventionist Movement of 1940-1941 As Revealed in the Papers of the America First Committee (Hoover Archival Documentaries), p. 7. Hoover Institution Press
  8. ^ Lieutenant Commander Gerald Ford, USNR - Naval Historical Center, Department of the Navy, July 13, 2005
  9. ^ "Lieutenant Commander Gerald Ford, USNR," U.S. Naval Historical Center, Official Naval Service Bio, accessed 11 September 2006,
  10. ^ Steven Ford at the Internet Movie Database
  11. ^ Betty Ford Biography - Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum.
  12. ^ Barn razing erases vintage landmark - Melissa Kruse, The Grand Rapids Press, pg. D1, January 3, 2003
  13. ^ a b Gerald R. Ford (1913-) - From Revolution to Reconstruction - an .HTML project.
  14. ^ Gerald R. Ford Biography - Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum.
  15. ^ Address by President Gerald R. Ford, May 23, 2001 - transcript, United States Senate
  16. ^ Gerald Ford's Remarks on the Impeachment of Supreme Court Justice William Douglas, April 15, 1970 - Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum.
  17. ^ Gerald R. Ford Biography - Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum.
  18. ^ a b Remarks By President Gerald Ford On Taking the Oath Of Office As President - August 9, 1974
  19. ^ Rockefeller, Nelson Aldrich, (1908 - 1979) - Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  20. ^ President Gerald R. Ford's Proclamation 4311, Granting a Pardon to Richard Nixon - Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum.
  21. ^ - Images of Presidential Proclamation 4311 of September 8, 1974, by President Gerald R. Ford granting a pardon to Richard M. Nixon.
  22. ^ Gerald R. Ford Pardoning Richard Nixon - The History Place.
  23. ^ The Pardoning President - Paul Bacon, PBS.
  24. ^ Carter's Pardon - MacNeil/Lehrer Report, PBS, January 21, 1977
  25. ^
  26. ^ Secretary of Transportation: William T. Coleman Jr. (1975 - 1977) -
  27. ^ George Herbert Walker Bush - profile, CNN.
  28. ^ Richard B. Cheney - United States Department of Defense.
  29. ^ Nixon’s Fall and the Ford and Carter Interregnum - Russell D. Renka, Southeast Missouri State University, April 10, 2003
  30. ^ Presidential Vetoes - Office of the Clerk, United States House of Representatives.
  31. ^ Transcript - Whip Inflation Now - October 8, 1974, Miller Center of Public Affairs
  32. ^ Gerald Ford - USA Presidents Info.
  33. ^ Consumer Price Index, 1913-, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  34. ^ Rhetorical Bankruptcy - Nick Lemann, The Harvard Crimson, November 8, 1975
  35. ^ Pandemic Pointers - Living on Earth.
  36. ^ 1976: Fear of a great plague - Paul Mickle, The Trentonian.
  37. ^ Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, Houghton Mifflin.
  38. ^ Trip to China - Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum
  39. ^ About Human Rights Watch - Human Rights Watch.
  40. ^ Capture and Release of SS Mayaguez by Khmer Rouge forces in May 1975 - United States Marine Merchants.
  41. ^ 'Squeaky' up for parole - Janet McLaren, New York Daily News.
  42. ^ Spieler, Geri An Unlikely Assassin: Sara Jane Moore and the Plot to Kill the President (accessed June 2, 2006)
  43. ^ John Paul Stevens -Oyez, United States Supreme Court multimedia.
  44. ^ The Conservative Persuasion - Christopher Levenick, The Daily Standard, September 29, 2005
  45. ^ Another Loss For the Gipper - Time Magazine, March 29, 1976
  46. ^ VH1 News Presents: Politics: A Pop Culture History Premiering Wednesday, October 20 at 10:00 p.m. (ET/PT) - PRNewswire.
  47. ^ Election of 1976 (2003) C-SPAN
  48. ^ a b Jimmy Carter, Inaugural address - January 20, 1977, transcript from Seattle University
  49. ^ 1976 Presidential Debates - CNN
  50. ^ Richard V. Allen, How the Bush Dynasty Almost Wasn't, New York Times Magazine, July 30, 2000 - .
  51. ^ [1] - "Certainly few observers in January 1977 would have predicted that Jimmy and I would become the closest of friends," Ford said in 2000
  52. ^ All-Star Celebration Opening the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum - IMDb.
  53. ^ Politicians Who Received the Medal of Freedom -
  54. ^ President Gerald Ford and Congressman John Lewis Honored as Profiles in Courage - John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, Summer 2001
  55. ^ Gerald Ford recovering after strokes - BBC, August 2, 2000
  56. ^ Gerald Ford hospitalized with pneumonia - Associated Press, January 17, 2006
  57. ^ Gerald Ford released from hospital - Associated Press, July 26, 2006.
  58. ^ Former President Ford hospitalized again - Associated Press via CNN
  59. ^ "Ford longest-living US president", BBC, November 13, 2006.


  • Ford, Gerald R. (1987). Humor and the Presidency. ISBN 0-87795-918-8.
  • Ford, Gerald R. (1965). Portrait of the assassin (Lee Harvey Oswald). ASIN B0006BMZM4.
  • Ford, Gerald R. (1994). Presidential Perspectives from the National Archives. ISBN 1-880875-04-7.
  • Ford, Gerald R. (1973). Selected Speeches. ISBN 0-87948-029-7.
  • Ford, Gerald R. (1979). A Time to Heal: The Autobiography of Gerald R. Ford. ISBN 0-06-011297-2.

Further reading

Personal memoirs and official biographies

  • Cannon, James (1993). Time and Chance: Gerald R. Ford's Appointment with History. ISBN 0-472-08482-8.
  • Ford, Betty (1978). The Times of My Life. ISBN 0-06-011298-0.

Administration officials' publications

  • Casserly, John J. (1977). The Ford White House: Diary of a Speechwriter. ISBN 0-87081-106-1.
  • Coyne, John R. (1979). Fall in and Cheer. ISBN 0-385-11119-3.
  • Thompson, Kenneth (ed.) (1980). The Ford Presidency: Twenty-Two Intimate Perspectives of Gerald Ford. ISBN 0-8191-6960-9.
  • Hartmann, Robert T. (1980). Palace Politics: An Insider's Account of the Ford Years. ISBN 0-07-026951-3.
  • Hersey, John (1980). Aspects of the Presidency: Truman and Ford in Office (The President: A Minute-by-Minute Account of a Week in the Life of Gerald Ford). ISBN 0-89919-012-X.
  • Kissinger, Henry A. (1999). Years of Renewal. ISBN 0-684-85572-0.

Outside sources

  • Firestone, Bernard J. and Alexej Ugrinsky (eds) (1992). Gerald R. Ford and the Politics of Post-Watergate America. ISBN 0-313-28009-6.
  • Greene, John Robert (1992). The Limits of Power: The Nixon and Ford Administrations. ISBN 0-253-32637-0.
  • Greene, John Robert (1995). The Presidency of Gerald R. Ford. ISBN 0-7006-0639-4.
  • Mieczkowski, Yanek (2005). Gerald Ford And The Challenges Of The 1970s. ISBN 0-8131-2349-6.
  • Werth, Barry (2006). 31 Days: The Crisis That Gave Us the Government We Have Today. ISBN 0-385-51380-1.

This article might use material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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