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Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr.

Ford, Gerald Rudolph, Jr. (1913– ), 38th president of the United States. Ford succeeded Richard M. Nixon as president after one of the gravest traumas in U.S. political history forced Nixon to resign.

Early life

Ford was christened Leslie King, Jr. When his parents were divorced, his mother's second husband, Gerald Rudolph Ford, adopted and renamed the boy. Ford grew up in Grand Rapids, Mich., and attended the University of Michigan. After graduating in 1935, Ford worked his way through Yale University Law School and received his law degree in 1941. Soon after, he began almost 4 years' service in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He finished as a lieutenant commander and resumed his law practice.

U.S. Representative

In 1948, at the urging of Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg, Ford ran for Congress. He unseated the Republican incumbent and arrived in Washington, D.C., newly married to Elizabeth (Betty) Bloomer. Ford became known as a hard- working member of Congress and of his party. In 1953 he was named to the House Appropriations Committee and, in 1963, to the Warren Commission (set up to investigate the assassination of President John F. Kennedy). He became House minority leader in 1965.

Vice President

Mentioned as a possible vice presidential nominee, Ford preferred to remain in the House. However, in Oct. 1973 Spiro T. Agnew resigned as vice president and President Nixon nominated Ford to replace him. The Senate approved the nomination, making Ford the first appointed vice president in U.S. history. After Nixon's involvement in the Watergate scandal led to his own resignation in Aug. 1974, Ford was thrust into the presidency.


“Our long national nightmare is over,” Ford announced. In world affairs, he continued the widely endorsed policies of his predecessor. He reaffirmed U.S. commitment to traditional allies and announced plans to visit China and the Soviet Union. Ford made the nation's serious economic problems a top priority. He worked to establish a broad-ranging program that would generate more economic activity and reduce unemployment, continue efforts against inflation, and help reduce U.S. dependence on foreign sources of energy. Pushing for a reduction in government spending, Ford engaged in a running battle with what he referred to as “the spendthrift Democratic Congress.” By Nov. 1976, when the next presidential election was held, Ford could argue that the economy was in better shape than it had been when he took office. Perhaps angered by Ford's decision to pardon former President Nixon, voters elected the Democratic nominee, Jimmy Carter, to the presidency.


After leaving office, Ford toured the nation, speaking before organizations and lecturing at colleges and universities. He also served on the boards of directors of various companies, worked on several projects for President Ronald Reagan, and published his autobiography.


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