Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr, born July 14, 1913, became the 38th president of the United States from 1974 until 1977. Born in Omaha, Nebraska, Ford and his mother relocated to Grand Rapids where he was raised. Throughout Ford’s high school career and university, he was a top-performing football player and caught the attention of prominent teams and universities. Set on law, Ford enrolled in Yale Law School instead of pursuing a career in sports. Ford served in the U.S. Navy between 1942 and 1946 before beginning his professional career in politics. Just a year after becoming vice president, Ford became president following the resignation of Richard Nixon. We explore more about the former president here as we celebrate his birthday!
Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr.
July 14, 1913
December 26, 2006 (age 93)
Gerald Ford, the 38th president of the United States, was born on July 14, 1913, in Omaha, Nebraska. Ford’s birth name was Leslie Lynch King Jr., named after his biological father, however, did a complete name change at the age of 22. After his parents’ separation when Ford was only a few months old, he and his mother moved to Grand Rapids where he was raised. According to Ford, his father was an abusive man toward his mother and even threatened to kill him and his mother, which was the ultimate reason for his mother’s move away from his father. In 1917, his mother married a businessman named Gerald Rudolph Ford, whom the former U.S president later named himself after. Ford attended the Grand Rapids South High School and was a star athlete and captain of their football team. He was also part of the Bay Scouts of America, where he earned an Eagle Scout ranking, the program’s highest rank. After graduating from high school, Ford attended the University of Michigan, where he was also a top player for the university’s football team, winning two National Championships. His exceptional skills on the football field caught the attention of various football teams. During his senior year, Ford was offered to play for the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers, however, Ford decided to pursue a career in law instead. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics, he enrolled at Yale University Law School. While pursuing his law degree, he coached boxing and was the head football coach.
Ford’s first exposure to politics was in 1940 when he worked for the Republican presidential campaign of Wendell Willkie. He graduated from law school in 1941, placing third in his class, and was admitted to the Michigan Bar, a governing body of lawyers in Michigan. Within the same year, he started his own law practice with fellow lawyer and friend, Philip W. Buchen. In 1942, Ford joined the U.S. Naval Reserve following the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Following the completion of his navy training, he joined the pre-flight school and was an instructor for elementary navigation skills, ordnance, gunnery, first aid, and military drill. He also coached swimming, boxing, and football. By the year 1943, he was promoted to lieutenant. Ford left the navy in 1946. In 1949, Ford embarked on his professional political career working as a U.S. representative from Michigan’s fifth congressional district, where he served for 25 years. During his time here, he became the House minority leader. By the year 1973, he was appointed as vice president of the United States and was the first vice to be appointed under the 25th amendment, which states that the vice president immediately assigns the presidential role should the president die, resign, or be removed from office. Following the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974, Ford became the 38th president of the United States and is known to have ruled as president during the worst economy experienced by the U.S. since the Great Depression. His term as president ended in 1977.
After his presidency, within the same year his term ended, he became the president of a non-profit organization called Eisenhower Fellowships in Philadelphia and also established the Gerald R. Ford Institute of Public Policy at Albion College in Michigan for undergraduate training in public policy. In 1979, he published his autobiography, “A Time to Heal.” He went on to open his own library, the Gerald R. Ford Library in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on the north campus of the University of Michigan in 1981. Within the following year, he founded the A.E.I. World Forum, an annual meeting of business and financial executives and government officials, which is still annually held to date. In 1987, Ford published his second book, a humorous book called “Humor and the Presidency.” The former president’s health problems began in 2006 when he was diagnosed with pneumonia. Throughout that year, he had frequent tests and hospital visits and experienced shortness of breath. By December 2006, Ford took his last breath at his home at 93 years old.
Ford worked for the Republican presidential campaign of Wendell Willkie.
Ford and his friend started their own law practice.
Ford joined the U.S. Naval Reserve after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Ford embarked on his professional political career as a U.S. representative from Michigan's fifth congressional district.
Ford was appointed as Vice President of the United States to president Richard Nixon.
Richard Nixon resigned and Ford became the 38th president of the United States.
Ford published his autobiography, “A Time to Heal.”
Why We Love Gerald Ford
He was dedicated to law
It was either football or law! Although Ford was an excellent football player which could have potentially become his professional career, he followed his passion into the law field and, well, the rest is history!
He was dedicated to his country
Ford had just begun his career as a lawyer when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor happened. Although he had started his own practice, he decided on joining the U.S. Navy and was on sea duty during World War II.
He brought the U.S. out of recession
During his time as president, the United States economy was on a deep decline. Among the few policies Ford put in place, one of them was a tax cut on low to moderate-income families. His policies increased the G.D.P. rate.
5 Surprising Facts
He nearly died in World War II
While Ford was onboard the Navy U.S.S Monterey aircraft carrier, they were hit by Typhoon Cobra, where he was almost swept off the topside deck and nearly lost his life.
He was targeted for assassination twice
While in California, a woman named Lynette pulled the trigger at Ford and was sentenced to life in prison, following another assassination incident 17 days later in San Francisco, where a woman named Sara Moore fired a revolver at him twice and missed both times.
He received several military awards
Ford is the recipient of the American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, Philippine Liberation Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal.
He once worked as a model
While at Yale Law School, Ford also worked as a model with the John Robert Powers agency and later the Harry Conover’s agency.
His favorite foods are…
For breakfast, Ford enjoyed English muffins, tea with lemon, and orange juice, and as a warm meal, he enjoyed pot roast and red cabbage, while for dessert, he loved butter pecan ice cream.
Gerald Ford FAQs
When did Gerald Ford get married?
Ford married Betty on October 15, 1948.
Where is Gerald Ford buried?
The Gerald Ford Presidential Museum, Grand Rapids, Michigan, United States.
How did Gerald Ford contribute to American foreign policy?
In foreign policy, he reduced tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union through the Helsinki Accords.
Gerald Ford’s birthday dates