Today in History: Gerald Ford becomes president

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich (WLNS) – On August 9th, 1974, the 37th US President Richard Nixon resigned, becoming the only president to do so.

That same day, Gerald Ford became the 38th US President which he served as until January 20th, 1977. Ford’s presidency was the shortest of all who did not die in office.

Ford was selected by Richard Nixon to serve as Vice President, following the resignation of Spiro Agnew. Following the resignation of Nixon after the Watergate scandal, Ford became President, thus becoming the first person to serve in those offices without being elected to them.

Gerald Ford was born on July 14th, 1913 in Nebraska as Leslie Lynch King, Jr. After his parents divorce, Ford and his mother settled in Grand Rapids where her parents lived.

On February 1st, 1916, Dorothy King married Gerald R. Ford, a Grand Rapids paint salesman.

The Fords began calling her son Gerald R. Ford, Jr., although his name was not legally changed until December 3rd, 1935.

Gerald Ford was active in scouting and achieved the rank of Eagle Scout in November 1927.

Ford graduated from Grand Rapids South High School in 1931. He was a member of National Honor Society, Varsity Letter Club, Glee Club, Student Council, Latin Club as well as participated in football, basketball, and track. He earned all-city and all-state honors in football.

From 1931 to 1935 Ford attended the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where he majored in economics. He graduated with a B.A. degree in June 1935.

Ford played on the University’s national championship football teams in 1932 and 1933. He was voted the Wolverine’s most valuable player in 1934. In August 1935 he played in the Chicago Tribune College All-Star football game at Soldier Field against the Chicago Bears.

He received offers to play for the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers, but took a position as a boxing coach and and assistant varsity football coach at Yale to attend law school. He was admitted in the spring of 1938. Ford was introduced to politics in the summer of 1940 when he worked in Wendell Willkie’s presidential campaign. Ford earned his LL.B. degree in 1941, graduating in the top 25 percent of his class in spite of the time he had to devote to his coaching duties.

After setting up a law partnership in Grand Rapids, serving in World War II and challenging the incumbent for the Republican nomination, Ford was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Michigan’s 5th District.

Gerald Ford served in the House of Representatives from January 3, 1949 to December 6, 1973.

When Spiro Agnew resigned the office of Vice President of the United States late in 1973, after pleading no contest to a charge of income tax evasion, President Nixon was empowered by the 25th Amendment to appoint a new vice president. Nixon chose Gerald Ford who served as vice president for nine months before becoming president after Nixon’s resignation.

During the 1976 campaign, Ford fought off a strong challenge by Ronald Reagan to gain the Republican nomination. He chose Senator Bob Dole of Kansas as his running mate and succeeded in narrowing Democrat Jimmy Carter’s large lead in the polls, but finally lost one of the closest elections in history.

After leaving office, President Ford continued to actively participate in the political process as well as lecture at hundreds of colleges and universities.

In 1981, the Gerald R. Ford Library in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan, were dedicated.

President Ford died on December 26th, 2006 and was interred on the grounds of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids.

Although Ford’s presidency was the shortest of anyone who did not die in office, he also lived longer than any other President at 93-years-old.

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