President Ford was the only American President never to be elected as eiher president or vice president. He was confronted with the difficult task of restoring confidence to the U.S. Presidency after the Watergate Scandal and the resignation of President Nixon. It is said that President Nixon chose him as Vice President because he didn't think he
would be acceptable as President, thus making his own impeachment less likely. While not a brilliant intellect, President Ford was an man of unquestioned integrity and character. After President
Nixon's resignation, Ford pardoned Nixon feeling that the country's obsession with Watergate was impairing his ability to address critical national issues. This principled act was probably one of the major reasons why he lost the 1976 presidential election to Georgia Governor, Jimmy Carter.
President Ford's mother Dorthy was a society girl who met Leslie King at a college dance. They married and their son was named Leslie Lynch King, Jr. His mother found that her husband had a dark side. He was intensely jealous of her. One evening he struck her at home after she had politely smiled at a man earlier in the day. When the abuse continued, she went home. He followed her and promised it would never happen again. A year later he struck her while she was holding baby Gerald in her arms. That night fearing his uncontrolable temper, she snuck out of the house with Gerald and headed for Grand Rapids. There are many strong mothers in the biographies of presidents and Dorthy was one of them. Leaving her huaband was an act of considerable courage at the time. There were few prospects for divorced women with children. Luckily she met an upright man, Gerald Rudolf Ford, who married her and adopted Gerald. His parents did not tell him that he adopted until he was about 13 and had his name offically changed. He only saw his faher once after his mother left him. His father came to the drug store where he was flipping hamburgers and introduced himself. He had his new wife with him. He had just bought a new car and offered to take him to his ranch in Wyoming. Gerald told his father, "My place is here."
Gerald was the only child his mother had with his natural father, Leslie King. His mother had three more boys with his new father Gerald Ford. Gerald as a young boy was not aware that Ford was not his natural father. He did not learn until he was a teenager.
Gerald was born in Omaha, Nebraska, during 1913. His mother was still a schoolgirl when she married. Gerald's father was a wool dealer. Her husband proved to be a wildly jealous man and psychologically and phyically abusive. His father beat his mother on nymerous occassions. One day when Gerald was still quite young, after an abusive outburst, his mother picked up and moved back to Grand Rapids where her parents took them in. About 2 years later she married again, this time to a man who proved to be a wonderful father. His new father, Gerald R. Ford, was a paint salesman. His parents did not tell Gerald about his biological father until one day when his faher introduced himself. Gerald was by that time in highschool. Gerald grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan.I have little information on his childhood, except that he was very athletically inclined. Interestingly, he was probably the most gifted athelete of all our presidents. He won a football scholarship to Michican University and was a noted football player there. He was offered a contract by a professional football team and coached college football. Crriously as president, the press made fun of him as clumsy. Gerald was also an avid Boy Scout and advanced to Eagle Scout.
I also have little information on the clothes Gerald wore as a boy at this time. The imaage above as a very small boy shows him with Buster Brown bangs and what looks to be a sailor suit (figure 1). As an older boy he surely would have worn knickers and a flat cap, like his younger brother here (figure 2). Notice the large collar his brother is wearing here. It is a detachable collar looking rather like an Eton collar, but does not have sharply pointed tips.As an active Boy Scout he wore the Scout uniform.
Gerald's father had a small paint business. The depression played havoc on the business and he did not have money to send his son to college. Gerald's won a athletic scholarship which allowed him to go to the University of Michigan where he starred on the football team. The coach helped him fine a job so Gerald could stay in school. He waited tables in a fraternity. After graduating from Michigan he went to Yale, where he served as assistant coach while earning his law degree.
During World War II he attained the rank of lieutenant commander in the Navy. He was assigned to conduct the physical training of naval aviation cadets. He managed to get an assignment on a combat ship. He served on an escort carrier in the Pacific. An escort or jeep carrier was a small carrier used for escoring convoys, anti-submarine duties, and other purposes where it would not have been practical to assign one of the Navy's large fleet carriers. Ford was assigned as the physical training officer and gunnery division officer. He became an assistant navigator and participated in some of the carrier battles in the Pacific.
After the war he returned to Grand Rapids, where he began the practice of law.
Ford entered Republican politics in Grand Rapids. A few weeks
before his election to Congress in 1948. His constituents elected him for 13 times to his seat in the House. Ford's reputation for integrity and openness had made him popular during his 25 years in Congress. From 1965 to 1973, he was House Minority Leader in a Congress heavily dominated by democrats. President Nixon chose Ford to replace Vice President Agnew who was forced to resign. Ford's reputation for high ethical standards, anecisity after the Agnew scandals, must have influenced the choice. It is said that Nixon also chose Ford because he didn't think he was very smart and the prospect of Ford as president would discourage rising calls for his replacement.
Gerald Ford took the oath of office on August 9, 1974, after President Nixon's resignation, he declared, "I assume the Presidency under extraordinary circumstances.... This is an hour of history that troubles our minds and hurts our hearts." It was indeed an unprecedented time. He had been the first Vice President chosen under the terms of the 25th Amendment and, in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, was succeeding the first President ever to resign. Ford was confronted with almost insuperable tasks. There were the challenges of mastering inflation, reviving a depressed economy, solving chronic energy shortages, and trying to ensure world peace.
President Ford as a conservative wanted to reserve the tendency toward Government intervention and spending as a means of solving the problems of American society and the economy. In the long run, he believed, that a shift in the role of Government would bring a better life for all Americans. As President, Ford tried to calm earlier controversies by granting former President Nixon a full pardon. He nominated liberal Republican and former New York governor, Nelson Rockefeller, as the new vice-president. Rockfeller was
the second person to fill that office by appointment. The choice was not popular with the increasingly conservative Republican Party. Gradually, Ford selected a cabinet of his own. Ford's conservative policies were hard to sell to the strongly Democratic Congress. Rising inflation was an increasingly serious problem. But as recession set in, Ford had to shift his policies to stimulate the economy. Ford vetoed a number of non-military appropriations bills, both to limit Government programs and to limit the spiraling budgetary deficit. The differences between Fird and the Congress were illustrated with the many vetoes of Congressinal bills. During his first 14 months as President he vetoed 39 measures. Most of his vetoes were sustained. Ford viewed himself as "a moderate in domestic affairs, a conservative in fiscal affairs, and a dyed-in-the-wool internationalist in foreign affairs." A
major goal was to help business operate more freely by reducing taxes upon it and easing the controls exercised by regulatory agencies. He commented, "We...declared our independence 200 years ago, and we are not about to lose it now to paper shufflers and computers."
In foreign affairs Ford acted vigorously to maintain U. S. power and prestige after the collapse of Cambodia and South Viet Nam. Preventing a new war in the Middle East remained a major objective; by providing aid to both Israel and Egypt, the Ford Administration helped persuade the
two countries to accept an interim truce agreement. Detente with the Soviet Union continued. President Ford and Soviet leader Leonid I. Brezhnev set new limitations upon nuclear weapons.
President Ford won the Republican nomination for the Presidency
in 1976. As a Republican and appointed by President Nixon, Ford was dogged with Nixon's Watergate legacy. His decission to pardon Nixon in particular hurt in the campaign. His peformance in the televised debates also hurt
him. Ford lost the election to his Democratic opponent, former Governor Jimmy Carter of Georgia. On Inauguration Day, President Carter began his speech: "For myself and for our Nation, I want tothank my predecessor for all he has done to heal our land." A grateful people generally concurred.
In 25 years of political life, Betty Bloomer Ford did not expect to become First Lady.
As wife of Representative Gerald R. Ford, she looked forward to his retirement and more time
together. In late 1973 his selection as Vice President was a surprise to her. She was just becoming accustomed to their new roles when he became President upon Mr. Nixon's resignation in August 1974.
Born Elizabeth Anne Bloomer in Chicago, she grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and graduated
from high school there. She studied modern dance at Bennington College in Vermont, decided to
make it a career, and became a member of Martha Graham's noted concert group in New York
City, supporting herself as a fashion model for the John Robert Powers firm.
Close ties with her family and her home town took her back to Grand Rapids, where she became
fashion coordinator for a department store. She also organized her own dance group and taught
dance to handicapped children.
Her first marriage, at age 24, ended in divorce five years later on the grounds of incompatibility. Not
long afterward she began dating Jerry Ford, football hero, graduate of the University of Michigan
and Yale Law School, and soon a candidate for Congress. They were married during the 1948
campaign; he won his election; and the Fords lived in the Washington area for nearly three decades
Their four children--Michael, Jack, Steven, and Susan--were born in the next 10 years. As her
husband's political career became more demanding, Betty Ford found herself shouldering many of
the family responsibilities. She supervised the home, did the cooking, undertook volunteer work, and
took part in the activities of "House wives" and "Senate wives" for Congressional and Republican
clubs. In addition, she was an effective campaigner for her husband.
Betty Ford faced her new life as First Lady with dignity and serenity. She accepted it as a challenge.
"I like challenges very much," she said. She had the self-confidence to express herself with humor
and forthrightness whether speaking to friends or to the public. Forced to undergo radical surgery for
breast cancer in 1974, she reassured many troubled women by discussing her ordeal openly. She
explained that "maybe if I as First Lady could talk about it candidly and without embarrassment,
many other people would be able to as well." As soon as possible, she resumed her duties as
hostess at the Executive Mansion and her role as a public-spirited citizen. She did not hesitate to
state her views on controversial issues such as the Equal Rights Amendment, which she strongly
From their home in California, she was equally frank about her successful battle against dependency
on drugs and alcohol. She helped establish the Betty Ford Center for treatment of this problem at the
Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage.
She has described the role of First Lady as "much more than a 24-hour job than anyone would
guess" and says of her predecessors: "Now that I realize what they've had to put up with, I have new
respect and admiration for every one of them."
The Ford have four children, three boys and one girl: Michael, John, Steven, and Susan. The boys had very short hair cuts as children.
Michael attended Wake Forrest University and after graduation enrolled in the Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. After he was ordained he worked with the Coalition for Christiam Outreach t the University of Pittsburgh. He becamr student affairs director at Wake Forrest in 1981 and is currently director of student development. He married Gayle ?? and has three daughters: Sarah, Rebekah, and Hannah--all good Biblical names.
John is known as Jack. He was an eligible young man when his father became president and attracted considerable press interest when he and dates, including celberties, attended concerts and ither public events. He cofounded California Infotech which sets up electroniv information kiosks at shopping malls. He is active in Reoublican politics. He married Juliann Felando in 1989 and they have two sons.
Steve was still a teenager of 17 when his father became president. He decided not to attend college and went West and began working in rodeos as well as wotking bit parts in films. He appeared on a television soap opera "ThecYoung and the Ressless" and found small riles in numerous Hollywood films. He owns a ranchbin California and breads thoroughbread race horses. He also gives motivational speaches. He has not married abnd has no children.
Seventeen magazine while her father was president. She was able to study with Ansel Adams and became a professional photographer with credits from many important magazines. She wrote a mystery novel with a first-daughter character, Double Exposire: A First Daughter Mystery. Suan helped her mother in her struggle with alcoholism and helped her establish the Betty Ford Center. She married Vaden Bales and has two daughters.
Wead, Doug. All the President's Children: Triumph and Tragedy in the Lives of America's First Families (Atria: New York, 2003), 456p.
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