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
Rise to the PresidencyFord 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 .
PresidencyThe 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 bonds.
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 person—except 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.
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