38. GERALD R. FORD 1974-1977
When Gerald R. Ford took the oath of office on August 9, 1974,
he declared, "I assume the Presidency under extraordinary
circumstances.... This is an hour of history that troubles our
minds and hurts our hearts."
It was indeed an unprecedented time. He had been the first
Vice President chosen under the terms of the Twenty-fifth
Amendment and, in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, was
succeeding the first President ever to resign.
Ford was confronted with almost insuperable tasks. There were
the challenges of mastering inflation, reviving a depressed
economy, solving chronic energy shortages, and trying to ensure
The President acted to curb the trend toward Government
intervention and spending as a means of solving the problems of
American society and the economy. In the long run, he believed,
this shift would bring a better life for all Americans.
Ford's reputation for integrity and openness had made him
popular during his 25 years in Congress. From 1965 to 1973, he
was House Minority Leader. Born in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1913, he
grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He starred on the University
of Michigan football team, then went to Yale, where he served as
assistant coach while earning his law degree. During World War
II he attained the rank of lieutenant commander in the Navy.
After the war he returned to Grand Rapids, where he began the
practice of law, and entered Republican politics. A few weeks
before his election to Congress in 1948, he married Elizabeth
Bloomer. They have four children: Michael, John, Steven, and
As President, Ford tried to calm earlier controversies by
granting former President Nixon a full pardon. His nominee for
Vice President, former Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York,
was the second person to fill that office by appointment.
Gradually, Ford selected a cabinet of his own.
Ford established his policies during his first year in
office, despite opposition from a heavily Democratic Congress.
His first goal was to curb inflation. Then, when recession
became the Nation's most serious domestic problem, he shifted to
measures aimed at stimulating the economy. But, still fearing
inflation, Ford vetoed a number of non-military appropriations
bills that would have further increased the already heavy
budgetary deficit. During his first 14 months as President he
vetoed 39 measures. His vetoes were usually sustained.
Ford continued as he had in his Congressional days to view
himself as "a moderate in domestic affairs, a conservative in
fiscal affairs, and a dyed-in-the-wool internationalist in
foreign affairs." A major goal was to help business operate more
freely by reducing taxes upon it and easing the controls
exercised by regulatory agencies. "We...declared our
independence 200 years ago, and we are not about to lose it now
to paper shufflers and computers," he said.
In foreign affairs Ford acted vigorously to maintain U. S.
power and prestige after the collapse of Cambodia and South Viet
Nam. Preventing a new war in the Middle East remained a major
objective; by providing aid to both Israel and Egypt, the Ford
Administration helped persuade the two countries to accept an
interim truce agreement. Detente with the Soviet Union
continued. President Ford and Soviet leader Leonid I. Brezhnev
set new limitations upon nuclear weapons.
President Ford won the Republican nomination for the
Presidency in 1976, but lost the election to his Democratic
opponent, former Governor Jimmy Carter of Georgia.
On Inauguration Day, President Carter began his speech: "For
myself and for our Nation, I want to thank my predecessor for
all he has done to heal our land." A grateful people concurred.
Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum