Gerald R. Ford
|July 14, 1913, in Omaha, Nebraska
|December 26, 2006, in Rancho Mirage, California
|States in Union
|Nelson A. Rockefeller
|Elizabeth (Betty) Bloomer Ford (Wife)
|Lawyer, Public Official
Ford’s parents were Gerald R. and Dorothy Garner Ford. Ford married Elizabeth Bloomer in 1948. They had four children: Michael Gerald, John Gardiner, Steven Meigs, and Susan Elizabeth.
Following the resignation of President Nixon, Gerald Ford took the oath of office on August 9, 1974, and declared, “I assume the Presidency under extraordinary circumstances . . . This is an hour of history that troubles our minds and hurts our hearts.”
Upon taking office, Ford felt challenged to restore national confidence by demonstrating that he was a decent, honest man. In the first days of his presidency it appeared that many did come to trust the new president. Ford’s approval rating soared, until he pardoned President Nixon. As a result many suspected that Ford must have been involved in the Nixon conspiracy. However, Ford strongly believed the alternative––a long trial––would have been devastating for the country and that the pardon was the best way to end the national crisis. In later years Ford asserted that he had been “absolutely convinced that it was the right thing to do.”
Ford was also faced with the immediate concerns of rising inflation, a depressed economy, a persistent energy shortage, and a pressing need for world peace. Questions remained about Vietnam, and many wondered if removing troops was the correct course of action. The peace treaty that had been negotiated by President Nixon did not last. In April 1975 communist forces captured Saigon in South Vietnam. Just before the invasion, hundreds of remaining American citizens and Vietnamese refugees were evacuated thereby ending American involvement completely.
Ford offered amnesty to young Americans who had fled the draft during the Vietnam War. To confront the recession he held the first White House summit on the economy and subsequently implemented cuts in the federal budget. Ford also extended the benefits of the 1965 Voting Rights Act to Spanish-speaking and other language minorities. Ford is also credited with setting new limitations on nuclear weapons with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev.
Ford did seek reelection, but he lost in an extremely close election to the Democrat Jimmy Carter. Ford retired to California to write, give lectures, and serve on corporate boards.
Upon taking the oath of office as president, Ford asserted, “I believe that truth is the glue that holds government together, not only our Government but civilization itself. That bond, though strained, is unbroken at home and abroad. In all my public and private acts as your President, I expect to follow my instincts of openness and candor with full confidence that honesty is always the best policy in the end. My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.” (August 9, 1974)
In his remarks on signing a proclamation granting pardon to Richard Nixon, Ford asserted, “It can go on and on, or someone must write ‘The End’ to it. I have concluded that only I can do that. And if I can, I must.” (September 8, 1974)
Ford commented about Nixon, “Nixon was a long-time friend who made a very stupid mistake. So I have to look at the overall, which I think was a good record, and concede that everyone is human and you can make mistakes that are very unfortunate and regrettable.”
In later years Ford stated about his legacy, “I hope historians will write that the Ford administration healed the land, that I restored public confidence in the White House and in the government.”
At This Time
1974: On August 9 Ford is sworn in as the 38th president • Ford selects Nelson A. Rockefeller, the former Governor of New York, as his vice-president • By the end of August, Ford’s public approval rating as president reaches 71%, but it drops to 49% following his pardon of Nixon • The government announces a clemency that enables draft evaders and military deserters to gain “earned reentry” by performing alternative services • Ford institutes the Economic Policy Board, which will oversee all aspects of economic policy • Ford signs the Federal Elections Campaign Act of 1974 • Ella Grasso of Connecticut becomes the first elected female governor • In November Ford announces his “WIN” campaign (Whip Inflation Now) • Ford visits Japan, the first American president to do so • The Freedom of Information Act is passed over Ford’s veto, which provides expanded access to government files and allows secrecy classifications to be challenged in court and justified by the appropriate federal authorities • Ford discusses the interim arms agreement reached between himself and Leonid Brezhnev at Vladivostock that establishes a “ceiling” to the arms race • 1975: Ford signs the Privacy Act of 1974, ensuring the right of Americans to individual privacy • The Educational Testing Service reports that women who hold advanced degrees have been discriminated against in employment, pay, and promotion • Ford proposes a $16 billion tax cut • In March the Commission on Civil Rights reports that the proportion of blacks in mostly white schools was higher in the South than in the North • Following a chaotic retreat of Saigon forces from the North, the U.S. airlifts refugees from Vietnam • Ford reluctantly tells the nation he will sign the Tax Reduction Act of 1975, which calls for a $23 billion tax cut • Unemployment rises to 8.7%, the highest since 1941 • In June unemployment reaches its highest point at 9.2% • On July 26 Ford leaves on his second trip to Europe, where he signs the Helsinki Agreements on European security and cooperation • Egypt and Israel sign the second-stage Sinai withdrawal agreement • Ford signs legislation requiring states to provide, within five years, free education for the handicapped from ages three to twenty-one • Ford signs the Energy Policy Conservation Act • Steven Spielberg’s thriller film Jaws premieres. • 1976: The Labor Department reports that the unemployment rate dropped from 8.3% in December to 7.8% in January • The Concorde supersonic jet makes its first flight between Europe and the U.S • In resolving an inter-agency dispute, Ford decides to build up the country’s strategic oil reserve in order to protect the U.S. from another foreign embargo • In May Ford asks Congress to accept a timetable for extensive reform of the government’s regulatory program and agencies • Ford approves congressional revisions in the Federal Elections Commission and Federal Election Campaign Act to permit resumption of federal check-off subsidies for all presidential campaigns • Ford signs a treaty with the Soviet Union limiting underground nuclear testing • In June unemployment reaches a 17-month low • On July 4 the nation celebrates its Bicentennial • Viking I lands on Mars • In September Mao Zedong dies, leaving China in a state of unrest • Ford signs the “sunshine” law and vetoes government funding for a prototype electrical automobile engine, which Congress and the Senate override soon thereafter • Peace is declared in Lebanon after more than fifty ceasefires and 35,000 deaths • Up to ninety congressmen are implicated in a scandal for accepting illegal gifts from an agent of the South Korean government • The administration announces that it plans to store as many as 500 million barrels of crude oil in salt dunes on the Gulf Coast • By year’s end, inflation holds steady at a low 4.8%, the best in four years, but high unemployment persists • A new atomic particle is detected by American scientists at the Fermi Lab in Illinois • The National Academy of Science reports that gases from aerosol spray cans can damage the atmosphere’s ozone layer • Slugger Hank Aaron retires from baseball having achieved the most career home runs––755
Did You Know?
Ford is the only vice president to have assumed the presidency for a reason other than the president’s death. Ford became president when President Nixon resigned. Ford was also the first vice president to have been chosen under the terms of the 25th Amendment.
As a college student, Ford was a superior athlete who was particularly gifted at football. Both the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers offered him professional contracts to play on their teams when he graduated from the University of Michigan. However, Ford decided to continue his studies instead. He went to Yale to study law and chose to coach football to help pay for his tuition. He even coached two future senators: Robert Taft Jr. and William Proxmire.
Biographical and primary source materials about Ford, as well as information about The Ford Library located at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and The Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Biographical information, essays, and access to Ford’s presidential speeches sponsored by the Miller Center at the University of Virginia.
Field Trips for Gerald R. Ford
Gerald R. Ford Museum
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Interactive with up-to-date technology, there are also traditional exhibits, temporary exhibits from the Smithsonian and other sources, which run the spectrum of Ford’s life and career, pop culture of the day and historical facets of other presidencies.
Gerald R. Ford Library
Ann Arbor, Michigan
This presidential library collects and preserves documents and other related media materials relating to the administration of President Ford.