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Gerald R. Ford

Gerald R. Ford was born Leslie Lynch King in Omaha Nebraska in July 14th 1913. When his parents divorced two years later, Leslie King moved with his mother to Grand Rapids Michigan where, in 1916, she married Gerald Rudolph Ford. Leslie’s step-father adopted the young blonde boy and gave him his name. From his earliest days, Ford’s mother and step-father worked to instill in him, by example, a sense of civic responsibility. While his step-father worked with under-privileged youth and took an active role in local politics, his mother volunteered much of her time to local charities and to Grace Episcopalian Church. As a result, “Jerry,”as he grew to be called, joined the Boy Scouts of America and attained the rank of Eagle Scout. As he aged, Jerry grew into a man with strong sense of duty and honor.

Jerry also developed into a fine athlete were he was most noted for his skill on the football field. As the star center of the South High School football team, Jerry was named three times to the all-city football team, and in his senior year to the all-state football team. The skill and determination that Ford showed on the football field was match only by his performance in the classroom; and in 1931, Ford entered the University of Michigan. At the University of Michigan, Ford once again excelled both in the classroom and on the football field. When he graduated in 1935, Ford was offered contracts by the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers which he turned down in favor of an assistant coaching position at Yale University. In 1938, Ford entered Yale’s Law School and graduated three years later in 1941. After returning home to Michigan, Ford was accepted by the Michigan Bar Association and began practicing law in his home town of Grand Rapids.

When the United States of America was thrust into war, however, Ford put his fledgling law practice aside and joined the US Navy. After a year of teaching physical training at a base in Chapel Hill North Carolina, Ford was transferred to the aircraft carrier U.S.S Monterey in the South Pacific. Ford served aboard the Monterey as the physical training director and the assistant navigation officer for the remainder of the war without distinction and was honorably discharged from the Navy in 1946 with the rank of Lieutenant Commander.

On October 15th, 1948 Ford Married Elizabeth Bloomer. Just a few weeks later, Ford defeated Fred Barr for a seat in the United States House of Representatives, a seat which Ford would hold for twelve consecutive elections. In 1965, Ford was selected the House Minority Leader and gained national attention when he and the Senate Minority Leader Everett M. Dirksen appeared on the television show called the “the Ev and Jerry Show,”in which they espoused and propagated the views of the Republican Party.

In 1973, when Spiro T. Agnew was forced to resign the Vice-Presidency in face of bribery charges, President Richard M. Nixon, using twenty-fifth amendment for the first time, nominated Ford for the position. After approvals form both the Senate and the House, with votes of 92 to 3 and 387 to 35 respectively, Gerald Ford was sworn in as 40th Vice-President of the United States on December 6th.

On August 9th, 1974 at noon, the Presidency of the United States of America was resigned by Nixon, and Gerald Ford was sworn in as the thirty-eighth (38th) President. Ford’s administration was hamstringed from the beginning by a skyrocketing inflation, an American public which had lost all faith in the federal government, as well as an ongoing investigation into the dealings of the former President. Ford thought that such an ongoing investigation would only rip America further and further apart. He thought that it was time for the nation to put such memories aside so that the government could proceed with more important matters; as such, Ford’s first official act as President was to pardon Nixon of any and all federal crimes that he may have committed during his administration. Ford also offered amnesty to those who had dodged the draft during or deserted the conflict in Vietnam in an attempt to unite the nation and put aside old wounds. Ford introduced legislation that would provide public service jobs for the unemployed as well as legislation that lowered federal income tax levels when, in late 1974, America was hit by a depression. Ford also worked to secure peace throughout the world, initiating a temporary truce between Egypt and Israel as well as working to with the Soviet Union to set limits on nuclear armaments. The following year, however, Ford was the subject of two separate assassination attempts in California, both of which failed.

In 1976, Ford won a narrow victory over Ronald Reagan, the former governor of California, for the Republican nomination for President; however, he lost the election to James E. Carter, the Governor of Georgia by almost two million votes.

Although Gerald Ford was successful in many of his legislative and international policy endeavors during his brief stint as President, the Ford will be forever remembered as the man who pardoned President Nixon and for being the only man to ever serve as both the President and the Vice-President without ever winning a national election.

By Daniel L. Gordon
Volunteer for the Cold War Museum

Sources: The World Book Encyclopedia

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