Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr. (born July 14 , 1913) (born Leslie Lynch King,
Jr. , renamed after adoption) was the fortieth (1973 - 1974) Vice President
and the thirty-eighth (1974 - 1977) President of the United States. He
remains the only President to serve without being elected to either the
presidency or vice presidency.
Order: 38th President
Term of Office: August 9, 1974 - January 20, 1977
Rise to the Presidency
Ford was a member of the House of Representatives for 24 years from 1949
- 1973 , and became Minority Leader of the House. After Vice President
Spiro Agnew resigned during Richard Nixon 's presidency, on October 10
, 1973 , Nixon appointed Ford to take Agnew's place. The United States
Senate voted 92 to 3 to confirm Ford on November 27 , 1973 and on December
6 , the House confirmed him 387 to 35.
When Nixon then resigned in the wake of the Watergate scandal , Ford
assumed the presidency, proclaiming that "our long national nightmare is
over". One month later, Ford gave Nixon a blanket pardon for any crimes
he might have committed while President or indeed anything else he might
have done - a move that many historians believe cost him election in 1976
The economy was a great concern during the Ford administration. In response
to rising inflation, Ford went before the American public on television
in October, 1974 and asked them to "whip inflation now" (WIN); as part
of this program, he urged people to wear "WIN" buttons. However, most people
recognized this as simply a public relations gimmick without offering any
effective means of solving the underlying problem. At the time inflation
was around 7%, a relatively modest number in restrospect, but still enough
to discourage investment and push capital overseas and into government
In the aftermath of Watergate, the Democrats scored major gains in both
the House and the Senate in the 1974 elections. Ford and Congress battled
over legislation, with Ford vetoing scores of Democrat-supported bills.
The economic focus began to change as the country sank into a mild recession
, and in March, 1975 , Ford and Congress signed into law income tax rebates
to help boost the economy.
Ford also faced a foreign policy crisis with the Mayaguez Incident .
In May 1975 , shortly after the Khmer Rouge took power in Cambodia , Cambodians
seized an American merchant ship, the Mayaguez , in international waters.
Ford dispatched Marines to rescue the crew, but the marines landed on the
wrong island and met unexpectedly stiff resistance just as, unknown to
the US, the Mayaguez sailors were being released. In all phases of the
operation, fifty service men were wounded and forty-one killed, including
three men believed to have been left behind alive and subsequently executed
and twenty-three Air Force personnel killed earlier while enroute to the
staging area at Utapao, Thailand . It is believed that approximately sixty
Khmer Rouge soldiers were killed out of a land and sea force of about 300.
While in Sacramento, California on September 5 , 1975 , a follower of
incarcerated cult leader Charles Manson named Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme
attempted to assassinate Ford, but was thwarted by a Secret Service agent.
Seventeen days later another woman, Sara Jane Moore , also tried to kill
Ford ( see Oliver Sipple ).
It is believed that Ford's pardoning of Nixon, along with the continuing
economic problems, may have cost him the election of 1976 . His campaign
may also have been hampered by a strong challenge that year for the nomination
in his party by Ronald Reagan . He also made a major gaffe during the campaign
when he insisted Eastern Europe was not occupied by the Soviets .
During his tenure in the House of Representatives, Ford was chosen to
serve on the Warren Commission , a special task force set up to investigate
the causes of, and quell rumors regarding the assassination of President
John F. Kennedy . The Commission eventually concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald
had acted alone in killing the President, a conclusion sometimes disparaged
by conspiracy theorists as the " Lone Nut Theory ". Today Ford is the only
surviving member of the Commission, and continues to stand behind its conclusions.
Ford grew up in Michigan and played football for the University of Michigan
. Despite his athleticism, Ford had a not-entirely deserved reputation
for being very clumsy. Television footage often showed him stumbling down
the stairs, bumping his head on the doorway of Air Force One , or walking
into other people. This stereotype was greatly popularized by a series
of skits on Saturday Night Live featuring Chevy Chase who portrayed Ford
as a man who was literally incapable of taking a single step without falling
over or destroying something. Many of Ford's supporters have since denounced
this stereotype as unfair, saying the President was no more clumsy than
any normal personexcept his blunders were just far more visible and popularized.
At the 1980 Republican National Convention, Ford was nearly nominated
to return to service as Vice President under nominee Ronald Reagan . On
the day a Vice President was to be nominated however, Reagan changed his
mind and chose George H. W. Bush , who had rivaled him for the presidential
nomination. While attending the 2000 Republican convention, Ford suffered
a mild stroke , but has subsequently recovered.
The Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan was
named after him.