• Gerald Ford was born in Omaha, Nebraska, but moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, when his mother left a troubled relationship with his father. She remarried in Michigan and Ford, who was born Leslie Lynch King Jr., changed his name to Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr., in honor of his stepfather, after he graduated college.
• Ford was a star center on the University of Michigan football team, and he turned down contracts with the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers to attend law school at Yale University, where he also coached football.
• After graduating law school Ford returned to Michigan to practice law, and after the attack on Pearl Harbor served in the Navy during World War II.
• Ford’s growing interest in politics culminated with a successful bid for a seat in the United States House of Representatives in 1948, where he served until he was picked to become Richard Nixon’s vice president in December 1973.
How he defined the office
• Ford’s presidency is unique in that he is the first man to achieve the office without having been elected to either the presidency or the vice presidency. He was named Spiro Agnew’s replacement by Richard Nixon after Agnew resigned. He then succeeded to the presidency eight months later after Nixon’s resignation.
Successes and failures
• President Ford suffered an immediate decline in popularity when, a month into his time in office, he issued a pardon to President Nixon for his role in the Watergate scandal. He hoped the pardon would put Watergate behind him, but instead it angered many Americans – as well as members of Congress - who wanted to see Nixon face consequences.
• Ford’s time in office was dominated by an economic decline. Inflation and unemployment were at their highest levels since World War II and the country increased its dependence on foreign oil, the price of which kept increasing.
• Ford inherited America’s up-and-down relationship with the Soviet Union, and worked to continue the policy of détente between the countries.
• The book on the Vietnam War closed during Ford’s presidency when he ordered the evacuation from Saigon of all United States personnel and South Vietnamese citizens with connections to the U.S.
• Ford narrowly edged Ronald Reagan for the Republican nomination in the 1976 election, but he lost the presidency to Jimmy Carter, ending his time in office.
• I have not sought this enormous responsibility, but I will not shirk it ... In all my public and private acts as your President, I expect to follow my instincts of openness and candor with full confidence that honesty is always the best policy in the end. My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a governemnt of laws and not of men. Here the people rule.” — upon being sworn in as president on Aug. 9, 1974.