Gerald Ford



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Gerald Ford


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Gerald Ford

Gerald Ford


Gerald Ford (1913-2006), 38th president of the United States (1974-1977), the only president not to be elected to either the office of the presidency or the vice
presidency. He attempted during his 2.5-year term to restore the nation's confidence in a government tarnished by the Watergate scandal and an economy suffering
from inflation and unemployment. After being defeated in his bid for election to the presidency in 1976 by Jimmy Carter, Ford retired to private life. He died on
December 26, 2006.



Ford was born Leslie Lynch King, Jr., in Omaha, Nebraska, on July 14, 1913. The same year his mother, Dorothy, left her husband (they divorced in 1914) and took her
son to live with her parents in Grand Rapids, Michigan. At a church function, she met Gerald R. Ford, whom she married in 1916. Although he never formally adopted
Dorothy's son, Ford gave her child his name--Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr. That name became the future president's legal name in 1935.
Ford, whom family and friends called Junior, worked in his stepfather's paint and varnish store, achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, and became star center for the South
High School football team. Ford's skill as a football player won him a scholarship to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 1931.
While at Michigan, Ford was an average student but a star football player. After his graduation in 1935, both the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers of the
National Football League offered him a contract. Instead, Ford entered Yale University to study law. To finance his studies, he signed on as the coach of the boxing team
(although he had never boxed before), and as an assistant coach for the varsity football team. Ford graduated from Yale in 1941 and, after a short time in New York
City, returned to Grand Rapids to open a law firm with a friend from the University of Michigan, Philip R. Buchen.
However, the firm of Ford and Buchen was short-lived. On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. The United States declared war the next day. Ford enlisted
in the U.S. Navy as an ensign, and after a short period teaching flight recruits, he was assigned to active duty. During World War II (1939-1945), he served on the light
aircraft carrier Monterey in the South Pacific, where in 1944 a typhoon almost washed him overboard. At the end of the war, Ford was discharged as a full lieutenant.



Ford had joined the Republican Party before the war and had worked for presidential candidate Wendell Willkie in the 1940 election. Like his stepfather, Ford had
generally disliked what he considered excessive government spending. He had also believed that the United States should not involve itself deeply in international
affairs, a position called isolationism. When he returned to Grand Rapids from the war, however, Ford abandoned his isolationism and called for the United States to
play a larger role in world affairs. The young lawyer supported the United Nations, the international organization of nations pledged to settle international disputes by
peaceful means, and the European Recovery Program (called the Marshall Plan), a program of U.S. financial assistance to help rebuild European nations devastated by
the war.
Local Republicans, including U.S. Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg of Michigan, urged Ford to compete in the Republican primary against U.S. Representative Bartel
Jonkman, an isolationist who had represented Grand Rapids in the Congress of the United States for four terms. Emphasizing his war record, and capitalizing on the fact
that Jonkman refused to campaign until it was too late, Ford easily won the 1948 Republican primary and was elected to Congress that fall.
Immediately after the victory in the Republican primary, Ford married former fashion model Betty Bloomer Warren, whom he had met the previous year. The Fords had
four children, Michael Gerald, John Gardner, Steven Meigs, and Susan Elizabeth.


United States Representative

Ford represented his district in Congress for the next 25 years. During his tenure there, he opposed federal aid to education and housing, increases in the minimum
wage, Medicare, and antipollution bills. Ford favored increasing the defense budget, and he usually voted for civil rights legislation. He also specialized in budgetary
matters, serving on the House Appropriations Committee, which allocates money for specific government departments to spend, as well as on the subcommittee that
appropriates funds for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the primary agency responsible for keeping the government informed of foreign actions that affect the
United States. An astute student of the legislative process who easily made friends in both parties, Ford quickly rose through the congressional ranks. In January 1963
he was elected chairman of the House Republican Caucus; following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (1961-1963) in November of that year, President
Lyndon Johnson appointed Ford to serve on the President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, called the Warren Commission. In January 1965
Ford was elected the minority leader of the House of Representatives, making him one of the most influential Republicans in Congress.
Twice during that period--in 1960 and in 1968--Republican presidential candidate and former congressman, senator, and vice president Richard Nixon of California
considered Ford as a possible vice-presidential running mate in national elections. In 1960 the idea interested Ford, but Nixon did not choose him. In 1968 Nixon
formally asked him to join the ticket, but Ford refused, hoping instead that Nixon's election would help bring a Republican majority in the House of Representatives. If
that happened, Ford would become the Speaker of the House--the political office that Ford later wrote he truly wanted more than any other.
Nixon's 1968 margin of victory was narrow, however, and the House retained a Democratic majority. Ford served as minority leader for five more years, supporting
Nixon's domestic legislative program and the administration's Vietnam War policy.


Vice President

Two political scandals changed Ford's life. The first occurred on October 10, 1973, when Vice President Spiro T. Agnew resigned rather than face trial on charges of
bribery and income-tax evasion. Under the terms of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, Nixon had to submit the name of a candidate for the
vice presidency to Congress for consideration and approval. He was the first president in U.S. history to do so. Because Democratic and Republican leaders had
informed Nixon that Ford was the only Republican of any stature who could be confirmed, Nixon named Ford on October 11 in a White House ceremony. After several
weeks of testimony, both houses of Congress approved Ford's appointment, and he was sworn in as vice president on December 6, 1973.
The second scandal to change Ford's career was the Watergate affair. On June 17, 1972, five men had been caught after breaking into the Democratic National
Committee offices at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. Their arrest eventually uncovered a plan, sponsored by the White House, to spy on political opponents.
An investigation revealed that a number of senior people in the Nixon Administration had been involved, including former U.S. Attorney General John Mitchell, White
House Counsel John Dean, White House Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman, White House Special Assistant on Domestic Affairs John Ehrlichman, and President Nixon himself.

In May 1973 the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Activities opened hearings and in a series of startling revelations, Dean testified that Mitchell had ordered the
break-in and that the president had authorized payments to the burglars to keep them quiet. The Nixon administration vehemently denied these assertions.
In March 1974 a grand jury indicted Mitchell, Haldeman, Ehrlichman, and four other White House officials for their part in covering up the Watergate break-in and
referred to Nixon as an "unindicted co-conspirator." The following month Nixon released written transcripts of secret White House tapes from a recording system that
had been installed in the president's office. The tapes, made before...

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Gerald Ford

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