Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr was the thirty-eighth President (1974-1977). He was the only President who was never elected as either Vice President or President. He became President after the resignation of Richard Nixon over the Watergate scandal. He was born Leslie Lynch King Jr on July 14, 1913, in Omaha, Nebraska. His mother married Gerald Ford, who adopted the boy and gave him his name.
Ford went to college at the University of Michigan, where he was an average student, but played center for the football team. Upon graduating in 1935, he took a job as a football and boxing coach in the athletic department at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. He later was admitted to Yale Law School, finishing in the upper third of his class. He started a small practice in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and, when World War II began, he entered the Navy, serving aboard an aircraft carrier in the Pacific Fleet. At the time of his discharge, he held the rank of lieutenant commander.
After the war he resumed his law practice and, in 1948, married Elizabeth Bloomer Warren, who was known to all as "Betty." In the same year he entered politics as a Republican member of the House of Representatives. He won reelection every year until he resigned in 1973 to replace Spiro Agnew as Vice President. Gerald Ford was a moderate, conservative, hardworking and loyal Republican. He was very faithful to his constituents in Michigan and looked after their needs vigilantly. In 1965 he was named House Republican leader. He would have been named Speaker of the House in 1973, but after Spiro Agnew resigned, Richard Nixon nominated him for Vice President. This was the first time the twenty-fifth Amendment, which includes provisions for a vacancy in the Vice Presidency, has ever been used. Gerald Ford was approved by Congress and sworn in on December 6, 1973.
Eight months later on August 9, 1974, President Richard Nixon resigned, and Gerald Ford was sworn in as President of the United States. He had never before had national aspirations in politics, but had always been happy helping the people of his state. Ford brought a personal approach to the presidency in an attempt to heal the nation from the toll taken by Watergate, the Senate hearings, and the subsequent impeachment vote. He granted a full pardon to Richard Nixon.
Problems for Ford began almost immediately, as there was terrible rancor over his pardon of Nixon for any crimes committed during his term in office. Ford was also faced with inflation and economic decline. Because of the pardon, the Democrats would give Ford no honeymoon, and an on-going conflict between the President and the legislature prevented much from being accomplished. Ford vetoed over sixty bills, and of them, only twelve were overridden.
As for foreign affairs, Nixon had left the world a safer place, and that arena had been so well managed that Ford had only to be a caretaker of Nixon's policies. South Vietnam collapsed in 1975, as everyone knew it would when the peace treaty was signed. Cambodia was also taken over by the Communists.
In 1976 Ford's presidential aspirations were subjected to a bitter struggle for the nomination with fellow Republican, Ronald Reagan, the then Governor of California. It was not Reagan's year, and he declined the offer to run as Ford's Vice President, though the position was offered. Ford ran, instead, with Robert Dole of Kansas.
Gerald Ford, who remains the only non-elected President of the United States, went on to lose the 1976 election to Georgia Governor and peanut farmer, Jimmy Carter. His defeat was attributed to an economic recession and high inflation. He is best known for his personal qualities, for being a good sport. Ironically, in light of the fact that he was such an athlete, Ford is also affectionately remembered for being clumsy.
He and his wife, Betty, brought an aura of family back to the White House. Betty Ford gained prominence in her own right as a spokesperson for the fight against breast cancer and for her battle with alcoholism, which led to the founding of "The Betty Ford Clinic." Gerald Ford died continues to serves on various boards of directors and is active in charitable affairs.
Ford died of heart failure at the age of 93 on December 26, 2006 at his home in Rancho Mirage, California of heart failure.