Here is what the Victor crew found out about Gerald Ford, our 38th president:
Gerald “Jerry” Rudolph Ford was born on July 14, 1913 in Omaha, Nebraska. He was raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan by his stepfather, Leslie Lynch King, and his mother, Dorothy King Ford. He did not learn that he was adopted until he was almost fifteen. “My stepfather was a magnificent person,” he remembered, “and my mother equally wonderful. So I couldn’t have written a better prescription for a superb family upbringing.” As an adult Gerald Ford attributed his personal qualities to his Midwestern childhood.
Gerald Ford grew up to be an outstanding football player, serving as captain of his high school team. He played football all through his years at the University of Michigan, graduating in 1935. He attended law school at Yale University and while earning his law degree he served as assistant football coach. He graduated from Yale in 1941.
Following law school Gerald joined the US Navy. He served during World War II and attained the rank of lieutenant commander. When he returned home from serving overseas as a navy combat officer he had a new-found feeling for public service. “I came back a converted internationalist,” he recalled, “and of course our congressman at the time was an avowed, dedicated isolationist. And I thought he ought to be replaced. Nobody thought I could win. I ended up winning two to one.”
Gerald Ford returned to Grand Rapids, Michigan to practice law. He entered the political arena running for State Representative of Michigan. A few weeks before his election to Congress in 1948, he married Elizabeth Bloomer. Together they have four children: Michael, John, Steven, and Susan.
For twenty-five years Gerald Ford served in the US House of Representatives, specializing in military matters and the budgeting process. He was appointed Minority Leader in 1964, with his highest ambition to become Speaker of the House. Representative Ford was recognized by all of his fellow legislators as straightforward and honest, a man of recognized decency.
“It’s the quality of the ordinary, the straight, the square, that accounts for the great stability and success of our nation. It’s a quality to be proud of. But it’s a quality that many people seem to have neglected.”
~ Gerald R. Ford
In 1968, Representative Ford watched as one of his fellow Representatives, Richard Nixon of California was elected President, with Spiro Agnew as his Vice President. Four years later, in the midst of President Nixon’s reelection campaign, Ford learned about the Watergate break-in scandal. He later said, “I was dumbfounded by the stupidity of the Watergate break-in.” Representative Ford went to Nixon’s campaign manager, John Mitchell, and asked him if the President or anyone in the White House knew about the break-in. Mitchell’s answer was, “Absolutely not.” On that assurance Ford took a firm stand of support for President Nixon.
But the Watergate controversy kept heating up. At the same time Vice President Agnew was in his own trouble. During the summer of 1973, it was disclosed that Spiro Agnew had received bribes from building contractors while he served as Governor of Maryland. To escape prosecution, Agnew was attempting to make a plea bargain. “About two days, maybe one day before the story broke,” Ford recalled, “Nixon invited me to come down to the executive office in the old executive office building. I had no reason to know why I was being called.” They had been talking informally for an hour and a half or so when Ford was called to the floor of the House for an immediate vote. When he arrived on the floor two or three of his colleagues pulled him aside and said, â€˜Agnew’s resigning.’ Suddenly Ford knew President Nixon was considering him as Agnew’s replacement. Ford’s outstanding reputation in the House would command a majority of the bi-partisan votes, making him a safe compromise.
Just after Ford became Vice President the Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox subpoenaed President Nixon. Nixon ordered the US Attorney General to fire Cox. Both the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General refused to fire him and resigned in protest. The scandal was heating up for the White House. Ford felt he was on a very narrow path. If he was too critical of President Nixon he would have been accused of undercutting Nixon so he could get his job. If he stayed too loyal he would appear to be supporting someone who was involved in what he considered a very unwise action. On August 1, 1974 he received a call from Secretary of State Alexander Haig. Haig told Ford there was a “smoking gun”- evidence that Nixon was involved in the cover-up. Haig warned Ford that there would probably be either an impeachment or a resignation soon. VP Ford that day told his wife, “Betty, I don’t think we’re ever going to live in the vice president’s house.”
On August 9, 1974 Richard Nixon resigned as President. He was the first U.S. President ever to resign. VP Ford escorted him out of the White House and was sworn in as the 38th President of the United States. The first thing President Ford had to do, as he saw it, was to relieve the country, to show that there was a decent, respectable new person in the White House. He promised, “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.”
Thirty days later, following his instincts, he pardoned Richard Nixon in advance of any litigation. He believed the idea of a trial that would run over a period of months would keep Watergate alive and would do nothing to reassure the country and turn things around. After President Ford’s pardon of Nixon he never regained the solid national support he had enjoyed those first thirty days. But he was “absolutely convinced that it was the right thing to do.”
As President, Ford worked hard to heal the nation. He re-established normal ties with the Cabinet. Nixon had virtually ignored them. President Ford offered amnesty to young people who had fled the draft during the Viet Nam War. The US was in recession. Ford called the first White House summit on the economy and worked on cutting the federal budget. In foreign affairs President Ford acted vigorously to maintain US power and prestige after the collapse of Cambodia and South Viet Nam. He helped persuade Israel and Egypt to accept an interim truce agreement. President Ford and Soviet Leader Leonid Brezhnev worked together to set new limitations on nuclear weapons. President Ford had only two and a half years to fulfill his goal of healing the nation.
“Truth is the glue that holds the government together. Compromise is the oil that makes the government go.”- President Gerald R. Ford