American History

President Gerald Ford

President Gerald Ford

President Gerald R. Ford, Jr.

38th President of the United States




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“. . . The ultimate test of leadership is not the polls you take, but the risks you take. In the short run, some risks prove overwhelming. Political courage can be self-defeating. But the greatest defeat of all would be to live without courage, for that would hardly be living at all.”--Remarks by President Ford upon receiving the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award--May 21, 2001

"My family joins me in sharing the difficult news that Gerald R. Ford, our beloved husband, father, grandfather, and great grandfather, has passed away at 93 years of age. His was a life filled with love of God, his family, and his country."--Betty Ford's statement of December 26, 2006


President Gerald R. Ford, Jr.

38th President of the United States


Gerald Rudolph"Jerry" Ford- (July 14, 1913-December 26, 2006)

 Gerald R. Ford, Jr. was the 38th President of the United States, and holds the distinction of being the only president who was never actually elected through a national election or by the electoral college. Vice-President Ford became president on August 9, 1974 when Richard Nixon became the only president to resign his office. Ford had become Vice-President only ten months earlier when Nixon appointed him to that office upon the resignation of Vice-President Spiro Agnew.

Ford was born in 1913, the son of Leslie Lynch King and Dorothy Ayer Gardner. Upon his birth, he was named Leslie Lynch King, Jr. Two months after his birth, King and Gardner divorced. Two years later, she remarried, and the future president was renamed for his stepfather, and became  Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr. Growing up in East Rapids, Michigan, it was natural for the athletic Ford to attend the University of Michigan, where he played football for the Wolverines. He studied political science and economics while at Michigan, and later entered Yale Law School after deciding not to sign contracts to play professional football for NFL teams who sought his football skills.

During World War Two, Ford served in the U.S. Navy from April, 1942 to February, 1946. In 1948, Ford was elected to the United States House of Representatives as a Republican. He represented the 5th District of Michigan from 1949 until chosen as Vice-President in 1973. It should be noted that Ford, like many politically-minded veterans of World War Two, successfully won office in the elections held in the years right after the war. Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy also entered the House of Representatives in this time period.

Ford's influence in Congress grew when fellow Republicans selected him as their leader in 1965. Since the Democrats controlled the House by holding a majority of the seats, the Republicans were called the "minority party."As the leader of the Republicans in Congress, Ford's new position titled "House Minority Leader."

 When Vice-President Spiro Agnew resigned due to criminal allegations against him, President Nixon chose Ford as the new Vice-President. After the House and Senate confirmed the choice, Ford became the first unelected (by voters) Vice-President of the U.S.

Ford's selection as the Vice-President became critically important when Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974. Ford then became the first unelected (by voters) President of the U.S. President Ford's first important decision was to grant Nixon a full presidential pardon, which prevented any legal action against the former president for crimes he may have committed while he was president.

President Ford's major domestic issues involved the economy, which was slowed by relatively high inflation and a recession, or slowing down of the economy.

His foreign policy issues were significant, as the long Vietnam War came to a close. With the ending of this war, Communist forces gained control of South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. The Communists in Cambodia called themselves the Khmer Rouge (Red Cambodians,or Khmer). On May 12, 1975, thirteen days after the fall of Saigon brought the Vietnam War to a close, Khmer Rouge forces seized an American ship, the SS Mayaguez. Ford decided to use military force to rescue the ship's crew, and ordered several hundred U.S. Marines to attack Kho Tang Island, off the coast of Cambodia. Over 40 American Marines died 23 U.S. airmen died in a related crash, the crew was released, and America's long involvement in Indochina (Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia) ended with the Mayaguez Incident. Ford also met with Soviet leaders in a summit in Vladivostok, USSR in 1975.

Also in 1975, Ford survived two assassination attempts. On September 5, 1975, Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme pulled the trigger of a gun pointed at President Ford's stomach as he greeted and shook hands in a crowd in Sacramento, California. The bullet in the gun jammed, and Ford was uninjured. Over two weeks later, on September 22, 1975, Sara Jane Moore tried to shoot Ford, but a bystander in the crowd forced the gun away from her. Despite successfully firing a shot from her gun, Moore failed to injure the President. Moore served time in prison, winning parole on Dec. 31, 2007 (see One of Ford’s Would-Be Assassins Is Paroled from the New York Times, Jan. 1, 2008). Ford's other failed assassin, Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, won parole in August, 2009. (see Ford Would-Be Assassin to Be Paroled from the New York Times, Aug. 5, 2009)

Ford ran for election in 1976, gaining the Republican nomination for President only after a bitter and hard-fought primary campaign against Governor Ronald Reagan. Ford is a moderate Republican, while Reagan was the leader of the party's growing conservative wing. Ford lost the 1976 election to Democrat Jimmy Carter, a former governor of Georgia.

Following his defeat, Ford retired from formal politics and wrote several memoirs. He re-appeared on the scene in 1980 at the Republican Convention, negotiating with nominee Ronald Reagan for a possible spot on the Republican ticket as the Vice-Presidential nominee. In the negotiations, Ford reportedly demanded significant power in a possible Reagan Administration, including authority over foreign policy. Reagan decided that this "co-presidency" was not in his best interest, and instead chose George H. W. Bush as his running mate.

At the 2000 Republican convention, Ford again grabbed headlines, this time by suffering two small strokes while attending the nominating convention of George W. Bush.

During his retirement, Ford enjoyed playing golf and spending time with his wife Betty and their children and grandchildren. Ford served as honorary Co-Chair (with former opponent President Jimmy Carter) of the National Commission on Federal Election Reform in 2001. This commission formed as a result of the disputed Bush-Gore election of 2000.

In January, 2006, President Ford was hospitalized with pneumonia. He left the hospital after a twelve-day stay.

President Gerald Ford passed away on Tuesday, December 26, 2006 at the age of 93. At the time of his death, he was the longest lived former president in U.S. history, surpassing the late Ronald Reagan, who also died at age 93.


Books by Gerald and Betty Ford:


Books about Ford:


Quotes by President Ford (source: http://www.ford.utexas.edu/grf/quotes.asp):

“I am a Ford, not a Lincoln.”--Remarks after being sworn in as Vice President of the United States--December 6, 1973

"I have not sought this enormous responsibility, but I will not shirk it . . . I believe that truth is the glue that holds government together, not only our Government, but civilization itself. That bond, though strained, is unbroken at home and abroad. In all my public and private acts as your President, I expect to follow my instincts of openness and candor with full confidence that honesty is always the best policy in the end. My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a Government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule.”--Remarks upon being sworn in as President of the United States--August 9, 1974

“As we are a nation under God, so I am sworn to uphold our laws with the help of God. And I have sought such guidance and searched my own conscience with special diligence to determine the right thing for me to do with respect to my predecessor in this place, Richard Nixon, and his loyal wife and family. Theirs 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.”--Remarks upon granting a pardon to former President Richard Nixon--September 8, 1974

“History will judge this Conference not by what we say here today, but by what we do tomorrow - not by the promises we make, but by the promises we keep.”--Address before the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe--August 1, 1975

“As we continue our American adventure…all our heroes and heroines of war and peace send us this single, urgent message: though prosperity is a good thing, though compassionate charity is a good thing, though institutional reform is a good thing, a nation survives only so long as the spirit of sacrifice and self-discipline is strong within its people. Independence has to be defended as well as declared; freedom is always worth fighting for; and liberty ultimately belongs only to those willing to suffer for it.”--Bicentennial Remarks at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania--July 4, 1976

“To me, the Presidency and the Vice-Presidency were not prizes to be won, but a duty to be done.”--Remarks upon accepting the Republican Presidential Nomination, Kansas City, Missouri--August 19, 1976

"Some people equate civility with weakness and compromise with surrender. I strongly disagree. I come by my political pragmatism the hard way, for my generation paid a very heavy price in resistance to the century we had of some extremists -- to the dictators, the utopians, the social engineers who are forever condemning the human race for being all too human."--Remarks upon receiving the Congressional Gold Medal--October 27, 1999.


“I have always believed that most people are mostly good, most of the time. I have never mistaken moderation for weakness, nor civility for surrender. As far as I'm concerned, there are no enemies in politics--just temporary opponents who might vote with you on the next Roll Call.”--Remarks upon receiving the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award--May 21, 2001


“. . . The ultimate test of leadership is not the polls you take, but the risks you take. In the short run, some risks prove overwhelming. Political courage can be self-defeating. But the greatest defeat of all would be to live without courage, for that would hardly be living at all.”--Remarks upon receiving the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award--May 21, 2001

Predecessor in Office:
Gerald R. Ford's Offices:
Successor in Office:
Preceded by:

Bartel J. Jonkman

United States Representative for the 5th Congressional District of Michigan


Succeeded by:

Richard F. Vander Veen

Preceded by:

Charles A. Halleck

House Minority Leader


Succeeded by:

John J. Rhodes

Preceded by:

Spiro Agnew

Vice President of the United States

December 6, 1973 – August 9, 1974

Succeeded by:

Nelson Rockefeller

Preceded by:

Richard Nixon

President of the United States

August 9, 1974 – January 20, 1977

Succeeded by:

Jimmy Carter

Preceded by:

Richard Nixon

Republican Party Presidential nominee

1976 (lost)

Succeeded by:

Ronald Reagan

Copyright © 1998-2010 Roger A. Lee and History Guy Media; Last Modified: 11.26.10

"The History Guy" is a Registered Trademark.

Contact the webmaster

The Conflicts Dealt With by Gerald Ford, 1974-1977

Analysis of Ford's decisions on the Mayaguez and Angola conflicts.

Family, Career, and Personal Highlights

Gerald Ford (1890-1962)--Adoptive/Stepfather

Dorothy Ayer Gardner (1892-1967) -- Mother

Leslie Lynch King (1886-1941)--Biological Father

Elizabeth "Betty" Bloomer Warren (b. 1918), Wife,wed on October 15, 1948


Michael Gerald Ford (b. 1950)--Son

John Gardner "Jack" Ford (b. 1952)--Son

Steven Meigs Ford (b. 1956)--Son

Susan Elizabeth Ford (b. 1957)--Daughter




Half-Siblings on his biological father's side:
Marjorie B. King (Werner) (1921-1993)--Half-Sister

Leslie ("Bud") Henry King (1923-1976)--Half-Brother

Half-Siblings on his mother's side:

Thomas Gardner Ford (1918-1995)--Half-Brother

Richard Addison Ford (b. 1924)--Half-Brother

James Francis Ford (1927-2001)--Half-Brother


Class of 1931: Grand Rapids South High School (Mich.)
Member of National Honor Society,

Varsity Letter Club,

Glee Club,

Student Council,

Latin Club

Hi-Y (High School YMCA).

Participated in football, basketball, and track. Earned all-city and all-state honors in football.

1935: BA Economics and Political Science, University of Michigan.

Member of: Michigamua (senior men's honor society)

Sphinx (junior men's honor society)

Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity

Interfraternity Council

Student Council.

1941: LL.B. ,Yale University Law School

Member of Phi Delta Phi legal fraternity.


1940-1942: Attorney/University instructor
--taught a business law course at the University of Grand Rapids. Ford also coached at the University. (See below)

Military Service:

1942-1946 (World War Two): United States Navy

--served aboard the USS Monterey (CVL-26) , a light aircraft carrier

--served as the assistant navigator, Athletic Officer, and antiaircraft battery officer

While Ford served on the USS Monterey, the ship:

--helped take Makin Island in the Gilberts

--participated in carrier strikes against Kavieng, New Ireland in 1943

--supported landings at Kwajalein and Eniwetok

--participlated in carrier strikes in the Marianas, Western Carolines, and northern New Guinea, as well as in the Battle of Philippine Sea

--Monterey launched strikes against Wake Island

--participated in strikes in the Philippines and Ryukus

--supported the landings at Leyte and Mindoro.

Ford's Service Medals and Citations:

--the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with nine engagement stars

--the Philippine Liberation with two bronze stars for Leyte and Mindoro

--the American Campaign and World War II Victory Medals.


1946-1963: Naval Reserves


Political Career:

1940: Worked in Wendell Willkie's (R) presidential campaign
--joined a group of reform-minded Republicans in Grand Rapids, called the "Home Front."

1949-1973: United States House of Representatives (R)

1965-1973: House Minority Leader

1973-1974: Vice-President of the United States (R).

1974-1977: President of the United States (R)

Clubs and Organizations (membership):

--American Legion

--Veterans of Foreign Wars


--33rd Degree Mason

Athletic Career:

Playing Career:

Grand Rapids South High School (Mich.): Participated in football, basketball, and track. Earned all-city and all-state honors in football.

1932-1935: Played center and linebacker University of Michigan Football Team

1932 & 1933: Played on Michigan's National Championship teams

1934: Voted in as the Wolverine's Most Valuable Player (MVP)

1935: Played in the Chicago Tribune College All-Star football game (Now known as the East-West Shrine Game)

1935: Offered professional football contracts by the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers. Ford turned them down to coach at Yale.

Coaching Career:

1935-1940: Boxing coach and assistant varsity football coach at Yale

1940-1941: Line coach for the University of Grand Rapids football team

1942-1945: Various coaching and athletic director positions in the U.S. Navy

Gerald R. Ford's Speeches & Documents

Ford's Speech Upon Taking the Presidential Oath of Office (August 9, 1974)

Ford's Speech Upon Granting A Pardon to Richard Nixon (September 8, 1974)

Ford's Speech Announcing a Program for the Return of Vietnam Era Draft Evaders and Military Deserters (September 16, 1974)

Ford's 1975 State of the Union Address (January 15, 1975)  

Ford's State of the Union Address (January 19, 1976)

Ford's State of the Union Address (January 12, 1977)

Ford-Carter Presidential Campaign Debate (domestic policy), (September 23, 1976)

Ford-Carter Presidential Campaign Debate (foreign policy), (October 6, 1976)

Ford-Carter Presidential Campaign Debate (October 22, 1976)

The Ford Administration: The Cabinet, Aides, & Advisors

The Cabinet--The President's Cabinet is made up of the appointed leaders, or "Secretaries" of each of the Executive Departments.

The National Security Council --Advises the President on national security and foreign policy.


Links and Resources on Gerald Ford

Gerald R. Ford--Biography of Gerald R. Ford. From the official White House web site.

Gerald Ford--Wikipedia article

The Conflicts Dealt With by Gerald Ford, 1974-1977 --Analysis of Ford's decisions on the Mayaguez and Angola conflicts.

Gerald R. Ford Library and Museum --Promotes popular interest and scholarly research in U.S. history during the post-World War II era, especially the Ford presidency (1974-77).

President Gerald Ford: Health & Medical History--Medical history of President Gerald R. Ford

American President.Org: Gerald Ford--Website run by the University of Virginia.

Character Above All: Gerald Ford Essay --Excerpt from an essay about the troubled childhood and political career of Gerald Ford, who became the 38th President of the United States. By James Cannon.

Former President Ford Dead at 93--AP/Yahoo News.

Lieutenant Commander Gerald Ford, USNR--Naval record of President Gerald R. Ford, USN 1942-1946, United States Naval Reserve, 1946-1963

Lieutenant Commander Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr., U.S. Naval Rerserve: Transcript of Naval Service--U.S. Naval Service Transcript, from the Navy's history website.

Interview with President Ford on Detente and the Cold War--

Ford Disagreed With Bush About Invading Iraq--By Bob Woodward, Washington Post Staff Writer, Thursday, December 28, 2006

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