Fresh off one of the biggest political scandals of the day, Watergate, Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr. takes his place in the Oval Office as the 38th President of the United States. From 1974 to 1976 Gerald Ford slowly but surely lead the nation out of crisis and into calmer waters by taking measures like providing Israel and Egypt with aid to try and prevent further war in the Middle East.
However, just like most great figures in history, Ford didn’t just stumble upon success. Before his rise to the Presidency, he started his career as the Republican Congressman from Michigan and served in Congress for 25 years, the final 9 of which he spent as the minority leader. Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned, and Ford took his place. Then the President resigned as well, following his impeachment, and 1, 2, 3, Gerald Ford is President.
Now, let’s dive into some interesting facts!
8 Interesting Facts About Gerald Ford
1. He’s a survivor
Gerald Ford was a fighter and a survivor. He was able to lead the military as the Commander in Chief with the perspective he gained fighting in World War II. He joined the Navy after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the event that launched America into the war. Ford served in the South Pacific, where he was nearly killed by a deadly typhoon in 1944. By the time he left the military, he attained the rank of Lieutenant Commander.
Getting out of the military didn’t keep him out of danger, though. As President, two different people tried to shoot and kill Ford, both in the year 1975, an interesting fact about Gerald Ford. The Secret Service stopped one of them before they could even shoot, and the other missed by several feet. That sort of year could make anyone want to quit, but Ford kept going, and went on to run for President again in 1976.
2. He wasn’t always Gerald
That’s right, Gerald Ford wasn’t always Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr. He was born with the name Leslie Lynch King, Jr. The reason for the name change? A change in father! Gerald’s birth father, Leslie, divorced his mother when Gerald was very young. Young Gerald and his mother then moved from Omaha, Nebraska to Grand Rapids, Michigan. There his mother fell in love with a paint salesman, Gerald Ford. Soon they were married, and Gerald Sr. adopted little Leslie, renaming him to Gerald Jr.
3. He was a pretty nice guy
During his political career, Ford gained a reputation for being open and honest, a straightforward kind of guy. An interesting fact about Gerald Ford is that it was these qualities that opened the door to the White House. When it came time to appoint a new Vice President, Ford was the only Republican that Democrats would approve because of these exact qualities.
As President, he showed forgiveness. One of his first acts as President was to partially pardon those who had run away from the Vietnam war, whether they refused to go or ran away during the war. Near the end of the war, Ford flew 237,000 anti-communist Vietnamese refugees out of Vietnam. Many of the refugees found a home in the United States.
4. He became President under strange circumstances
The general public didn’t vote for Ford to be President or Vice President. He got his position because the people originally in those positions were kicked out. First, Vice President Spiro resigned. He had been involved in a political scandal, and finally resigned after admitting to evading taxes. In return, other political scandal charges were dropped.
Next, President Nixon resigned after being impeached, tried in court for spying on his political opponents. Since Ford was the Vice President at the time, he stepped up to the Presidential position without ever being elected.
5. He wasn’t afraid to stand his ground.
Ford was a man of his principles, and he wasn’t afraid to deal with his issues himself, without hiding behind people. Ford gave Nixon a full pardon, which means Nixon did not face any jail time for his offenses. Many Americans were not happy with this decision, but he stood by it and went before congress to defend himself.
Want another example? Ronald Raegan, the next Republican President after Ford, offered Ford the position of Vice President again. However, Raegan was one of the main reasons Ford didn’t win a second term of Presidency. Now, that might detract some points on Ford’s forgiveness score, but it also shows he isn’t willing to swallow his pride for a power grab. He stood his ground.
6. He was a bit clumsy
It seems like a small detail, that isn’t that important, but critics of President Ford were quick to point out that he was a bit clumsy. Here’s a quote from one critic:
“[Ford was] a loser, a bumbler, a misfit President who for some reason or other…was prone to slip on airplane ramps, bump his head on helicopter entrances, entangle himself in the leashes of his family dogs, and fall from skis in front of television cameras that showed him asprawl in snow.”
7. A President of firsts
Gerald Ford made history in several ways. He was the first to be President and Vice President without being elected, yes, but he has claims to other firsts as well. He was the first President to testify before Congress while he was still President, he defended his Pardon of former President Nixon. He was the first President to participate in public debates with his opposition in the 1976 election, once again showing that willingness to stand his ground and deal with issues himself.
He was also the first Eagle Scout to be President, a fun fact about Gerald Ford.
8. He was offered a position on two football teams
Ford stood out on his football team at the University of Michigan. He stood out so much, in fact, that he was offered a position on both the Green Bay Packers, and the Detroit Lions. He turned down both offers so he could get his law degree at Yale.
Gerald Ford wasn’t the most exciting President, but he helped the country in its time of need and was generally a good guy. He wasn’t elected for his second term because people didn’t think he was up to the job, so he retired to a life of golfing and skiing. One can only imagine what things would have been like if he chose to play football instead.
I hope that this article on Gerald Ford facts was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Historical People Facts Page!