Gerald Ford Dies (7/14/1913 – 12/26/2006)

 

Born: 14-Jul1913
Birthplace: Omaha, NE

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. 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.

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