Gerald R. Ford was the 38th President of the United States of America from 1974-1977. Ford was born on July 14, 1913 in Omaha, Nebraska. He attended the University of Michigan where he played football. He was an All American Center and had offers from professional football clubs. However, Ford had decided he would attend law school.
Ford attended Yale Law School. He worked his way through school. He was the head boxing coach and assistant football coach. He kept up his grades and graduated in the top quarter of the class at Yale as he had at U of M.
Ford married Betty Boxer from Grand Rapids and she was a well-known supporter of women's rights. Betty found a lump in her breast in 1974, and subsequently urged the female public to get breast exams and tried to get the public to be better informed about breast cancer. Betty had started the Betty Ford Center to treat alcohol and prescription drug addictions, after she herself had suffered from the same problem.
Ford had served in the navy during World War II, and then went on to serve in the Congress. After serving for eight terms in the Congress from the strongly Republican Grand Rapids, Michigan, Ford was elected the House minority leader. He had ambitions to become the Speaker.
Nixon was the President and when his Vice President, Spiro Agnew stepped down from his post, Ford became an obvious choice. Ford was not known for his brilliance, but did have a strong reputation of being loyal, honest and humble.
Ford had one of the most unusual roads to the White House. When Agnew stepped down and Ford was appointed Vice President, it put Ford in position to take over as Commander and Chief when Nixon resigned.
When Nixon resigned the county was in need of a leader who could pull the country together and restore the dignity. The Watergate scandal and the cover-ups were hard on the American people. Ford was known to bring camaraderie, a strong desire for conciliation and compromise. He was a healer, which the country needed.
With Ford's long experience in the Congress and his loyal and honest reputation, he was able to bring with him a lot of goodwill to the White House. However, with the decision to pardon Richard Nixon on September 8, 1974, many politicians and members of the public were upset. Ford felt that a trial would continue the cloud over the American people instead of just putting Watergate and Nixon behind them.
When Ford became President, he inherited a poor economy as well as high interest rates and inflation plus a high rate of unemployment. The county was in a state of stagflation which was a long time of high inflation together with lower consumer spending and unemployment (stagnation). Ford wanted to cut spending and raise taxes and did not want to deal with the unemployment. He said that he would not make a "180-degree turn" from his fight against inflation. However, in 1975 he did change his mind and he supported a tax cut to push the economy. Some had joked that he did not make a "180 degree" turn, but it was a 179 degree turn.
As President, Ford vetoed 66 bills (in a half term as President) while Nixon had vetoed only 42 bills. The stubbornness that Ford had resulted in a term in politics of "gridlock" to explain the stalemate in the legislative branch.
Not only was America suffering a hard economic situation, but internationally there were many troubles. The Khmer Rouge had control of Cambodia and North Vietnamese were taking control in Vietnam. Ford had to evacuate the Americans. The evacuation was not as smooth as hoped and resulted with American marine gunners having to shoot at the angered South Vietnamese to get the last helicopter off the ground.
Ford was known as clumsy. He had quite a remarkable fall down the steps coming out of the Air Force One plane, which was caught on film. The media had a field day with the fall and Ford became the target of many jokes and cartoons. This was unfair because he was really one of the better athletes in congress.
On September 5, 1975, Ford had an attempt on his life. Lynnette "Squeaky" Fromme attempted to shoot President Ford. Squeaky was associated with the Charles Manson gang and she was sentenced to prison for the rest of her life.
Ford was challenged by Ronald Regan for the 1976 Republican nomination. Ford was able to squeak by with an 1187-1070 vote. Then Ford faced Jimmy Carter and was 30 points behind and was never able to recover.
Carter won and in his inaugural speech recognized Ford, "For myself and for our Nation, I want to thank my predecessor for all he had done to heal our land". Ford will continue to be known for bringing integrity back into the White House and the Office of President.
Gerald Ford died on December 26, 2006, at his home in Rancho Mirage, California. President Ford's wife of 58 years, Betty Ford, issued a statement that confirmed his death: "My family joins me in sharing the difficult news that Gerald Ford, our beloved husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather has died at 93 years of age. His life was filled with love of God, his family and his country." The causes of death listed on the subsequent death certificate were arteriosclerotic cerebrovascular disease and diffuse