Gerald Rudolph “Jerry” Ford, Jr. (born Leslie Lynch King, Jr.; July 14, 1913 — December 26, 2006) was the 38th President of the United States from 1974 to 1977. He is the only president who has not been elected to the office of either President or Vice President.
He was born, Leslie King, on July 14, 1913, at 3202 Woolworth Avenue in Omaha, Nebraska, where his parents lived with his paternal grandparents. His parents divorced just after he was born and they went to live with his mother’s parents in Michigan. A couple of years later, she married a man named Gerald Ford and Leslie was called Gerald Ford, Jr.
Ford maintained his distance emotionally, saying, “My stepfather was a magnificent person and my mother equally wonderful. So I couldn’t have written a better prescription for a superb family upbringing.”
Scouting and athletics
Ford was involved in The Boy Scouts of America, and earned that program’s highest rank, Eagle Scout. In his later years, Ford received the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award in May 1970 and Silver Buffalo Award from the Boy Scouts of America. He is the only U.S. president who is an Eagle Scout. He played football when he was in high school and college.
Ford served 25 years in the United States House of Representatives and was Minority Leader for many years. When Richard Nixon was President, his first Vice President was Spiro Agnew, but Agnew resigned in 1973 because he took bribes while he was Governor of Maryland in the late 1960’s. Nixon then chose Ford to be his next Vice President. Ford had to be approved by Congress since there was no Presidential election that year. Because he had been in Congress for a long time, other Congressmen knew him well and were happy to approve him as Vice President because they thought he was honest.
Because of the Watergate scandal, Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974. Ford became the President. He is the only President of the United States not to be elected to either the office of President or Vice President. Once he became President, he realized he could do a good job and decided to run for a full term in 1976. He ran against the popular conservative Ronald Reagan for the Republican nomination in 1976. Ford won by a small amount of votes against Reagan.
Ford had pardoned Nixon for his crimes in 1974. Many experts say that is one of the reasons why Ford lost to Jimmy Carter in the 1976 election, which was very close. Other reasons for the loss were a bad economy with a lot of inflation, and the last U.S. soldiers leaving Vietnam followed by Saigon and the rest of South Vietnam being taken over by the North Vietnamese, both in 1975.
With his relatively short 895-day presidency (less than one term), he was often seen as a place holder in between Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter. While critics felt that pardoning Nixon wasn’t fair, his supporters felt like his term provided a sense of healing and comfort to a country that was morally divided.
Ford (at right) and Jimmy Carter in a debate on September 23, 1976.