Gerald Ford

Official portrait of Gerald Ford, 27 August 1974

Official portrait of Gerald Ford, 27 August 1974

Gerald R. Ford was the 38th President of the United States of America from 1974-1977. Ford was born on July 14, 1913 in Omaha, Nebraska. He attended the University of Michigan where he played football. He was an All American Center and had offers from professional football clubs. However, Ford had decided he would attend law school.

Ford attended Yale Law School. He worked his way through school. He was the head boxing coach and assistant football coach. He kept up his grades and graduated in the top quarter of the class at Yale as he had at U of M.

Ford married Betty Boxer from Grand Rapids and she was a well-known supporter of women’s rights. Betty found a lump in her breast in 1974, and subsequently urged the female public to get breast exams and tried to get the public to be better informed about breast cancer. Betty had started the Betty Ford Center to treat alcohol and prescription drug addictions, after she herself had suffered from the same problem.

Ford had served in the navy during World War II, and then went on to serve in the Congress. After serving for eight terms in the Congress from the strongly Republican Grand Rapids, Michigan, Ford was elected the House minority leader. He had ambitions to become the Speaker.

Nixon was the President and when his Vice President, Spiro Agnew stepped down from his post, Ford became an obvious choice. Ford was not known for his brilliance, but did have a strong reputation of being loyal, honest and humble.

Ford had one of the most unusual roads to the White House. When Agnew stepped down and Ford was appointed Vice President, it put Ford in position to take over as Commander and Chief when Nixon resigned.

When Nixon resigned the county was in need of a leader who could pull the country together and restore the dignity. The Watergate scandal and the cover-ups were hard on the American people. Ford was known to bring camaraderie, a strong desire for conciliation and compromise. He was a healer, which the country needed.

With Ford’s long experience in the Congress and his loyal and honest reputation, he was able to bring with him a lot of goodwill to the White House. However, with the decision to pardon Richard Nixon on September 8, 1974, many politicians and members of the public were upset. Ford felt that a trial would continue the cloud over the American people instead of just putting Watergate and Nixon behind them.

When Ford became President, he inherited a poor economy as well as high interest rates and inflation plus a high rate of unemployment. The county was in a state of stagflation which was a long time of high inflation together with lower consumer spending and unemployment (stagnation). Ford wanted to cut spending and raise taxes and did not want to deal with the unemployment. He said that he would not make a “180-degree turn” from his fight against inflation. However, in 1975 he did change his mind and he supported a tax cut to push the economy. Some had joked that he did not make a “180 degree” turn, but it was a 179 degree turn.

As President, Ford vetoed 66 bills (in a half term as President) while Nixon had vetoed only 42 bills. The stubbornness that Ford had resulted in a term in politics of “gridlock” to explain the stalemate in the legislative branch.

Not only was America suffering a hard economic situation, but internationally there were many troubles. The Khmer Rouge had control of Cambodia and North Vietnamese were taking control in Vietnam. Ford had to evacuate the Americans. The evacuation was not as smooth as hoped and resulted with American marine gunners having to shoot at the angered South Vietnamese to get the last helicopter off the ground.

Ford was known as clumsy. He had quite a remarkable fall down the steps coming out of the Air Force One plane, which was caught on film. The media had a field day with the fall and Ford became the target of many jokes and cartoons. This was unfair because he was really one of the better athletes in congress.

On September 5, 1975, Ford had an attempt on his life. Lynnette “Squeaky” Fromme attempted to shoot President Ford. Squeaky was associated with the Charles Manson gang and she was sentenced to prison for the rest of her life.

Ford was challenged by Ronald Reagan for the 1976 Republican nomination. Ford was able to squeak by with an 1187-1070 vote. Then Ford faced Jimmy Carter and was 30 points behind and was never able to recover.

Carter won and in his inaugural speech recognized Ford, “For myself and for our Nation, I want to thank my predecessor for all he had done to heal our land”. Ford will continue to be known for bringing integrity back into the White House and the Office of President.

Gerald Ford Facts

  • President No.: 38th
  • Term as President: 1974-1977
  • Party: Republican
  • From: Omaha, Nebraska
  • Married: Elizabeth Bloomer Ford
  • Born on: July 14, 1913
  • Died on: December 26, 2006
  • Education: University of Michigan, Yale Law School
  • Career: Lawyer
  • Height: 6 feet
  • Population when Gerald Ford was president? 203,302,031
  • Hobbies: Golf, jogging, sailing, skiing, swimming
  • Pets: Dog, a golden retriever named Liberty
  • Transportation used: Helicopter, airplane, car
  • Communication methods: Telephone, typed letter


The Gerald Ford Cabinet:

Vice President: 1974–1977 Nelson Rockefeller
Secretary of State: 1974–1977 Henry Kissinger
Secretary of the Treasury: 1974–1977 William E. Simon
Secretary of Defense: 1974–1975
James R. Schlesinger
Donald Rumsfeld
Attorney General: 1974–1975
William B. Saxbe
Edward Levi
Secretary of Interior: 1974–1975
Rogers Morton
Stanley K. Hathaway
Thomas S. Kleppe
Secretary of Agriculture: 1974–1976
Earl Butz
John Albert Knebel
Secretary of Commerce: 1974–1975
Frederick B. Dent
Rogers Morton
Elliot Richardson
Secretary of Labor: 1974–1975
Peter J. Brennan
John Thomas Dunlop
William Usery, Jr.
Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare: 1974–1975
Caspar Weinberger
F. David Mathews
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development: 1974–1975
James Thomas Lynn
Carla Anderson Hills
Secretary of Transportation: 1974–1975
Claude Brinegar
William Thaddeus Coleman, Jr.



State of the Union Addresses

Other Gerald Ford Speeches

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