FRtR > Presidents > Gerald R. Ford > Biography

Gerald R. Ford (1913-)



Biography

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Gerald R. Ford Junior was born in Omaha on 14 July 1913 by the name of Leslie Lynch King. His mother left his father when he was two years old. They moved to Michigan where his mother married Gerald R. Ford Sr., and he adopted his stepfather's name.

Ford studied liberal arts in Ann Arbor under an athletic scholarship of football at the University if Michigan. Ford was a very successful football player, but he did not carry the sport any further, because he saw no future in the sport.

In the fall of 1935 Ford accepted a position at Yale University as assistant coach, where he later decided to study law. In 1938 he was accepted as a part-time law student on a trial basis, and in 1939 he had the school's permission to study full time. In 1941 he received his law degree as top third of his class.

Ford opened a law firm in Grand Rapids with his college buddy Buchen. This firm existed for less than a year, because of the start of the Second World War.

In 1942 Gerald Ford enlisted in the army where he had a short military career, and in December 1945 he was discharged as a lieutenant. He returned home where his political career started to take off.

In 1948 Ford announced that he wanted to challenge the congressman Jonkman in the Republican party primary. Jonkman never took the young Ford seriously, and thanks to Ford's vigorous campaigning, he won the primaries. In November of 1948 Ford was voted into Congress. He was in the House of Representatives from 3 January 1949 to 6 December 1973.

In his first year in the House, Ford joined a group called the Chowder and Marching Club where he first came into contact with Richard Nixon who also was a member. They developed a good relationship which was significant throughout Ford's political career. Ford was one of the first people who gave support to the idea of Nixon as Eisenhower's running mate in 1952. Ford also pressed Eisenhower to keep Nixon on the ticket in 1956, and in 1960 Ford was mentioned as a possible running mate for Nixon in the presidential elections.

In 1961 Ford was appointed Chairman of the House of Representatives Conference, which was the number three leadership position in the party. That same year Ford was also named the Congressman's Congressman by the American Political Science Association: a very cherished award.

In 1963 Ford became leader of the House with the help of a group called the Young Turks. This group thought that the Republican party was getting too old and wanted some young blood in the party. This appointment made Ford the third-ranking Republican in the House, and in 1965 ha was elected minority leader. He held this position for eighteen years

Gerald Ford was a very vibrant leader of the Republican party in the House. He led republican opposition to many of President Johnson's programs, and he was also opposed to the administration's Vietnam policy. The many attacks on President Johnson's address were often made on television and made Ford's popularity grow within the Republican party.

In 1968 Nixon considered very seriously to add Ford to the ticket because of his increased popularity, but it was Ford's ambition to become Speaker of the House, so he declined the offer. Nixon chose Spiro Agnew as his running mate instead- which turned out to be a good combination- and they won. The Republicans did not get a majority in Congress however, so Ford remained the minority leader.

When in 1972 the Watergate scandals became public, Ford remained loyal to Nixon. But Ford had also been able to ;lead his party in Congress without making the host of enemies that Nixon had made by then. His combination of loyalty and reliability was a big success.

Vice-president Agnew was mixed up in some scandals of his own and was forced to resign on 10 October 1973. He pleaded no contest to the charges of income tax evasion.

Nixon would be the first president to act under the twenty-fifth Amendment, and offered Ford the job of vice-president. Ford was sworn is as vice-president of the United States on 6 December 1973, and on 9 August 1974 Ford became the thirty-eighth president after Nixon who was also forced to resign.

Ever since the Watergate scandals were known, Ford defended his friend Nixon at first, but attacked his administration. But just before his appointment as president and there seemed no turning back for Nixon, Ford saw no reason in defending him anymore.

One month after Ford took office and after a lot of debate, he decided to give Nixon a full pardon. He thought that this was best for the country, but this decision made him lose the 1976 elections.

Ford had a very unenviable presidency. He inherited an administration plagued by war in the Middle East, inflation, and fears of energy shortages. He also had to restore the credibility of the president and he had to try to rebuild the confidence in government after the Watergate scandals.

In domestic policy, President Ford felt that through modest tax and spending cuts, deregulating industries, and decontrolling energy prices to stimulate production, he could contain both inflation and unemployment. This also would reduce the size and role of the federal government.

In foreign policy, President Ford and the Secretary of State Henry Kissinger continued the policy of detente. Ford and leader Brezhnev set new limitations upon nuclear weapons. They also continued the "shuttle diplomacy" in the Middle East to keep world peace.

Ford acted vigorously to maintain US power and prestige after the collapse of Cambodia and South Vietnam. Preventing a new was in the Middle East remained a major objective. By providing aid to both Egypt and Israel, the Ford Administration helped persuade the two countries to accept an interim truce agreement.

In 1976, Ford chose Robert Dole as his running mate in the reelection campaign, but they lost to Carter. It was one of the closest elections in history.

After President Ford left the White House, he continued to serve America as an elder statesman speaking out on major issues of the day and lending his expertise to both public and private sectors. In 1979 he wrote an autobiographic book called A Time to Heal. Currently, President Ford is on the board of several major American corporations.