AKA Leslie Lynch King, Jr.
Birthplace: Omaha, NE
Location of death: Rancho Mirage, CA
Cause of death: Natural Causes
Remains: Buried, Gerald R. Ford Museum, Grand Rapids, MI
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Head of State
Party Affiliation: Republican
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: 38th US President, 1974-77
Military service: US Navy (1942-46, Lieutenant Commander)
Gerald Ford was the 38th President of the United States, and America's only President who was never elected to any office higher than the US Congress.
Ford was born and baptized Leslie King, Jr. His father was a drunk who began beating his mother almost immediately after they were married, and they were quickly divorced. When she later remarried a salesman named Gerald Ford, the future President took his stepfather's name, and became Gerald Ford, Jr. As a Boy Scout, he earned the rank of Eagle Scout. He was an outstanding football player in high school and at the University of Michigan. He turned down professional offers from the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers, and instead took a position as assistant coach of Yale's football team while attending law school there. He served in the Navy during World War II, where he came closest to death not in battle but when he was nearly swept overboard in a typhoon.
By the late 1940s, Ford was a successful lawyer in Grand Rapids, and in 1949 he was elected to Congress. As a somewhat progressive Republican, he was re-elected 12 times, never getting less than 60% of the vote. He was named to the Warren Commission, where he helped provide a palatable public answer to questions about the assassination of John F. Kennedy. According to federal files released two years after his death, Ford kept the FBI informed of the Warren Commission's internal deliberations as they happened.
After becoming part of the Republican leadership in Congress in the mid-1960s, Ford fought against President Lyndon B. Johnson's social welfare legislation and opposed the gradual escalation of American military involvement in Vietnam. In late 1973, Ford was named to replace scandal-plagued Vice President Spiro T. Agnew. President Richard M. Nixon and other high-ranking officials said publicly that Ford was selected for his reputation of integrity and trustworthiness in Congress, while off-the-record some suggested he was chosen more because his blandness made him acceptable to both left and right. He had been friends with Nixon since the mid-1950s. Ford served as Nixon's Vice President for just eight months, until the Watergate cover-up led to Nixon's resignation. Ford was sworn in as President on 9 August 1974.
Only a month later, Ford issued an unprecedented pre-emptive pardon to Nixon "for any crimes he may have committed" while President. To most Americans who had endured the Nixon and Agnew scandals, the pardon reeked of a cynical, pre-arranged deal, though Ford has always denied any quid pro quo arrangement. The pardon was greeted with widespread outrage, and became the defining moment of Ford's Presidency.
As President, Ford named Nelson Rockefeller to be his Vice President, but most of their administration's initiatives were stifled by a Democratic-controlled Congress. Ford can be credited with bills involving energy decontrol, tax cuts, deregulation of the securities industries, and antitrust law reform. Ford sought to combat high inflation by having large quantities of buttons printed and distributed nationwide, with only the word "WIN" on the button's face -- an acronym for "Whip Inflation Now." Not surprisingly, the buttons did little to curb inflation.
It was considered controversial when President Ford's wife Betty described the US Supreme Court's controversial 1973 Roe v Wade ruling, which legalized abortion, as a "great, great decision". Further outrage ensued when their son Jack, then 23, publicly admitted he had smoked marijuana.
While Ford was President, though still athletic and in good health, he had the unfortunate luck of slipping and falling several times, and it always made the news. Once, while playing golf, his drive accidentally drifted into a crowd of spectators and struck a lady on the head. The clip was repeatedly aired on television, and Ford's seeming clumsiness was parodied ruthlessly by Chevy Chase on Saturday Night Live.
When he sought election to his office in 1976, Ford snubbed Rockefeller and instead selected Senator Bob Dole as his running mate. During a campaign debate against former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter, Ford incorrectly stated that Poland was "independent and autonomous" from the Soviet Union, though at the time the Soviet Union dominated Poland and much of Eastern Europe. When pressed, instead of reconsidering, Ford responded more firmly that "There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, and there never will be under a Ford administration". Ford's misstatements were considered a major factor in his loss to Carter, and are cited again every four years as among the worst gaffes made in any televised political debate.
During his Presidency, two crazed women made separate attempts to assassinate Ford. In Sacramento on 5 September 1975, Lynnette 'Squeaky' Fromme, a member of Charles Manson's "family", raised a .45 caliber handgun in Ford's direction. She was wrestled to the ground by Secret Servicemen, but there was no bullet in the chamber of her gun. Two and a half weeks later, on 22 September 1975, an accountant named Sara Jane Moore took a shot at Ford in San Francisco. She missed when a bystander, former Marine Oliver Sipple, saw the gun and grabbed Moore's arm, ruining her aim. Though Ford was not hit, the White House waited three days before publicly thanking Sipple, while staff debated an appropriate response after learning that the heroic Sipple was gay.
Both Moore and Fromme were given life sentences, and both later escaped from the same West Virginia prison. Fromme escaped in 1979, and was captured again several hours later about 25 miles away. Moore escaped in 1989, and turned herself in two days later. Both women were transferred to other prisons, and both remain imprisoned.
After his Presidency, Ford retired to Palm Springs, California. In the decades since leaving the White House, he has been best known as an inveterate golf player. In 1996, in one of his last political statements, Ford signed a public letter with former Presidents Carter and George H.W. Bush, stating that they "categorically oppose" decriminalization of marijuana, even as pain relief for the terminally ill. Their stated rationale was that allowing the use of medical marijuana would "send the wrong message" that marijuana has medicinal value.
Father: Leslie Lynch King (stagecoach owner, b. 25-Jul-1886, m. 7-Sep-1912, div. 19-Dec-1913, d. 1941)
Father: Gerald Ford Sr. (stepfather, paint salesman, b. 9-Dec-1890, m. 1-Feb-1917, d. 26-Jan-1962)
Mother: Dorothy Ayer Gardner King Ford (b. 27-Feb-1892, d. 17-Sep-1967)
Brother: Thomas G. Ford, Sr (half-brother, b. 15-Jul-1918, d. 1995)
Brother: Robert Addison Ford (half-brother, b. 3-Jun-1924)
Brother: James Francis Ford ("Jim", half-brother, b. 11-Aug-1927, d. 2001)
Sister: Marjorie B. King (half-sister, b. 1921 to King and Margaret Atwood King, d. 1993)
Brother: Leslie King ("Bud", half-brother, b. 1923 to King and Margaret Atwood King, d. 1976)
Sister: Patricia Jane King (half-sister, b. 1925 to King and Margaret Atwood King)
Wife: Betty Ford (m. 15-Oct-1948)
Son: Michael Gerald Ford (minister, b. 14-Mar-1950)
Son: John Gardner Ford ("Jack", reporter, b. 16-Mar-1952)
Son: Steven Ford (actor, rodeo performer, b. 19-May-1956)
Daughter: Susan Elizabeth Vance Bales (photographer, b. 6-Jul-1957)
High School: Grand Rapids South High School, Grand Rapids, MI (1931)
University: BA Economics, University of Michigan (1935)
Law School: Yale Law School (1941)
Teacher: University of Grand Rapids
US President (1974-77)
US Vice President (1973-74)
US Congressman, Michigan 5th (1949-73, resigned)
Citigroup Honorary Director
Member of the Board of 20th Century Fox (1981-84)
Alfalfa Club 1968
America First Committee Resigned
Atlantic Council Honorary Director
Bretton Woods Committee
Caring Institute Board of Trustees (Honorary)
Chowder & Marching Society
Benevolent & Protective Order of the Elks Grand Rapids, MI
Freemasonry Grand Rapids, MI (initiated 30-Sep-1949)
Heart of America Foundation Executive Advisory Board
It's My Party Too National Advisory Board
Korea Society Advisory Council
National Coalition on Health Care
National Press Club
National Committee on US-China Relations Board of Directors
Bretton Woods Committee Honorary Co-Chairman
Burning Tree Country Club (1965)
George W. Bush for President
National Constitution Center National Honorary Committee
Veterans of Foreign Wars
Delta Kappa Epsilon Fraternity
Phi Delta Phi Legal Fraternity
Presidential Medal of Freedom 1999
Congressional Gold Medal
Distinguished Eagle Scout Award
Grand Marshal of the Tournament of Roses 1978
Eagle Scout 1927
Traveled to the USSR 26-Jun-1974
Assassination Attempt by Squeaky Fromme (5-Sep-1975)
Assassination Attempt by Sara Jane Moore (22-Sep-1975)
Knee Replacement left, Eisenhower Medical Center, Rancho Mirage, CA (4-Apr-1990)
Stroke Philadelphia, PA (1-Aug-2000)
Angioplasty Mayo Clinic (24-Aug-2006)
Secret Service Codename Passkey
Funeral: Richard Nixon (1994)
Funeral: Ronald Reagan (2004)
Lain in state at the Capitol Rotunda (30-Dec-2006 to 2-Jan-2007)
Risk Factors: Stuttering, Smoking, Pacemaker
Rotten Library Page:
Author of books:
A Time to Heal: The Autobiography of Gerald Ford (1979, memoir)
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