Rudolph Ford, jr. (July 14, 1913 – December 26, 2006):
Known to his friends
as “Jerry,” President Ford was born Leslie King, Jr. on 14 July 1913 in
Omaha, Nebraska. After his parents divorced, his mother moved to Grand
Rapids, Michigan, and married a prominent business man, Gerald R. Ford, who
adopted him and gave him his name. Gerald Ford, Jr. spent his childhood in
Grand Rapids and graduated from the former South High School. He later earned
a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1935 from the University of Michigan where he
was a member of the senior honor society Michigamua. He received his law
degree from Yale University Law School in 1941, was admitted to the Michigan
State Bar that same year, and was admitted to practice before the United
States Supreme Court. In 1965, he was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor
of Laws by Michigan State University and Albion, Aquinas and Spring Arbor
Colleges; in 1968 by Buena Vista and Grove City Colleges; in 1972 by Belmont
Abbey College (North Carolina); in 1973 by Western Michigan University; and
in 1975 by Southern Methodist University. He received a Doctor of Public
Administration degree from American International College in 1968.
President Ford was an accomplished athlete. He won all-city and all-state
football honors in Grand Rapids during high school. While earning three
varsity letters, he was a member of the University of Michigan’s undefeated
national championship teams of 1932 and 1933, and was named Michigan’s most
valuable player in 1934, playing center. On New Year’s Day, 1935, he
participated in the Shrine East-West Crippled Children’s Benefit Classic in
San Francisco. That August he played in the All-Star game against the Bears
in Chicago. While a Yale law student, he was assistant varsity football
coach. In 1959, he was selected by Sports Illustrated to receive its Silver Anniversary
All-American Award as one of the 25 football players in the preceding quarter
century who had contributed most to their fellow citizens. In 1972, he was
awarded the National Football Foundation’s gold medal for close association
with the game.
Ford received a commision as ensign in the US Naval Reserve on 13 April 1942
and ultimately served 47 months on active duty during World War II. His
background as a coach and trainer made him a good candidate for instructor in
the Navy's V-5 (aviation cadet) program. On 20 April, he reported for active
duty to the V-5 instructor school at Annapolis, Maryland. After one month of
training, he went to Navy Preflight School in Chapel Hill, North Carolina,
where he was one of 83 instructors and taught elementary seamanship,
ordnance, gunnery, first aid, and military drill. In addition, he coached in
all nine sports that were offered, but mostly in swimming, boxing and
football. During the one year he was at the Preflight School, he was promoted
to Lieutenant Junior Grade on 2 June 1942 and to Lieutenant on 1 March 1943.
Applying for sea duty, Ford was sent in May 1943 to the pre-commissioning
detachment for a new light aircraft carrier, USS Monterey (CVL-26) at New
York Shipbuilding Corporation, Camden, New Jersey. From the ship's
commissioning on 17 June 1943 until the end of December 1944, Ford served as
the assistant navigator, athletic officer, and anti-aircraft battery officer
on board Monterey. While he was on board, Monterey participated in many
actions in the Pacific with the Third and Fifth Fleets during the fall of
1943 and in 1944. In 1943, the carrier helped secure Makin Island in the
Gilberts, and participated in carrier strikes against Kavieng, New Ireland in
1943. During the spring of 1944, Monterey supported landings at Kwajalein and
Eniwetok and participated in carrier strikes in the Marianas, Western
Carolines, and northern New Guinea, as well as in the Battle of Philippine
Sea. After overhaul, from September to November 1944, aircraft from Monterey launched
strikes against Wake Island, participated in strikes in the Philippines and
Ryukus, and supported the landings at Leyte and Mindoro.
Although the ship was not damaged by the Japanese forces, Monterey was one of
several ships damaged by the typhoon, which hit Admiral Halsey's Third Fleet
on 18-19 December 1944. The Third Fleet lost three destroyers and over 800
men during the typhoon. Monterey was damaged by a fire which was started by
several of the ship's aircarft tearing loose from their cables and colliding
during the storm. During the storm, Ford narrowly missed being a casualty
himself. As Ford headed for his battle station on the bridge of the ship in
the early morning of 18 December, the ship rolled twenty-five degrees which
caused Ford to lose his footing and slide toward the edge of the deck. The
two inch steel ridge around the edge of the carrier slowed him enough so he
could roll and twist into the catwalk below the deck. As he later stated,
"I was lucky; I could have easily gone overboard."
After the fire, Monterey was declared unfit for service and the crippled
carrier reached Ulithi on 21 December before preceding across the Pacific to
Bremerton, Washington, where it underwent repairs. On Christmas Eve 1944 at
Ulithi, Ford was detached from the ship and sent to the Navy Pre-Flight
School, St. Mary's College, California, where he was assigned to the Athletic
Department until April 1945. One of his duties was to coach football. From
the end of April 1945 to January 1946, he was on the staff of the Naval
Reserve Training Command, Naval Air Station, Glenview, Illinois, as the Staff
Physical and Military Training Officer. On 3 October 1945, he was promoted to
Lieutenant Commander. In January 1946, he was sent to the Separation Center,
Great Lakes, Illinois, to be outprocessed. He was released from active duty
under honorable conditions on 23 February 1946. On 28 June 1963, the
Secretary of the Navy accepted Ford's resignation from the Naval Reserve.
Returning to Grand Rapids after the war, Ford resumed law practice. In 1948,
he received the Grand Rapids JayCees Distinguished Service Award for work in
various community projects. The following year he was named one of “America’s
Ten Outstanding Young Men” by the US Junior Chamber of Commerce and received
its Distinguished Service Award.
On 15 October 1948, he married Elizabeth Bloomer of Grand Rapids. The Fords
had four children: Michael Gerald (born 15 March 1950); John Gardner (16
March 1952); Steven Meigs (19 May 1956); and Susan Elizabeth (6 July 1957).
President Ford was a member of Grace Episcopal Church, Grand Rapids. He
maintained active membership in the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars
and AMVETS, and was a 33rd Degree Mason.
During his first term, Congressman Ford was named to the House Public Works
Committee. In 1951 he was assigned to the Appropriations Committee where he
served on the Army Civil Functions Subcommittee and the Emergency Agency
Subcommittee. During the 83rd and 84th Congresses, he was a member of the
Subcommittees on Foreign Operations and the Department of Defense and was on
the Army Panel serving as Panel chairman in the 83rd Congress. During the
85th Congress, he was appointed to the Select Committee on Astronautics and
Space Exploration. Congressman Ford remained a member of both the Defense and
Foreign Operations Subcommittees of the House Appropriations Committee
throughout the 85th, 86th, 87th and 88th Congresses. He was senior Republican
on the Defense Subcommittee before becoming Minority Leader.
Congressman Ford served as a member of the Republican Leadership in Congress
beginning in January 1963; was chairman of the Republican Conference of the
House during the 88th Congress (1963-64) and had been a member of the House
Republican Policy Committee for over nine years. On 4 January 1965 he was
chosen Minority Leader of the House of Representatives at the opening of the
89th Congress. In November 1972 he was re-elected to his thirteenth
consecutive term as a member of Congress, having served since 3 January 1949,
but he resigned 6 December 1973 to become Vice President. He maintained an
attendance record of over 90 percent throughout his 24-year tenure.
Vice Presidency (6 December 1973 - 9 August 1974)
Congressman Ford was nominated on 12 October 1973 to succeed Spiro T. Agnew
as Vice President. His nomination was confirmed by the Senate on 27 November
1973 by a vote of 92 to 3 and by the House on 6 December 1973, by a vote of
387 to 35. He was sworn in as Vice President on 6 December 1973, the first
person to be so selected according to provisions of the 25th Amendment to the
Presidency (9 August 1974 - 20 January 1977)
When he entered the White House in 1974, Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr. became the
fourth consecutive President to have served in the US Navy. He was the first
vice president in American history to succeed to the nation's highest office
because of the resignation of a president, and he was the first person to
occupy the White House without being elected either president or vice
President Ford's administration is notable for many events, the most
controversial probably being the pardon of former President Richard M. Nixon.
On 8 September 1974, only a month after being sworn in, President Ford signed
Proclamation 4311 which granted "a full, free, and absolute pardon unto
Richard Nixon for all offenses against the United States which he...committed
or may have committed or taken part in during the period from January 20,
1969 through August 9, 1974." The pardon, which angered many Americans,
ultimately contributed to national healing and reconciliation.
President Ford subsequently announced an amnesty program for draft dodgers
and deserters of the Vietnam War era. About one fifth of the approximately
106,000 men eligible applied for amnesty under the program.
The year 1975 brought new challenges to Ford's presidency. In April 1975, the
Vietnam War ended when the Republic of (South) Vietnam was conquered by the
communist Democratic Republic of (North) Vietnam. President Ford requested
from Congress $700 million in emergency military aid for South Vietnam, but
when his request was rejected he arranged for American assistance in
evacuating American allies and other refugees from that country. Nearly
100,000 refugees subsequently settled in the United States. In May 1975, an
international incident occurred when the US merchant ship Mayagüez was seized
by Cambodian communist Khmer Rouge forces in the Gulf of Thailand. President
Ford chose to respond aggressively to this communist challenge and 200 US
Marines were landed on the island of Koh Tang. After bloody fighting on the
island between the Khmer Rouge and US Marines, all 39 crew members of
Mayagüez were released.
President Ford survived two separate assassination attempts in California in
September of 1975.
In the 1976 election, President Ford narrowly won the Republican presidential
nomination, having been challenged by former Governor Ronald Reagan of
California. His Democratic opponent was former Governor Jimmy Carter of
Georgia. For only the second time in US history, a series of debates between
the presidential candidates was televised nationally. Ultimately, Jimmy
Carter defeated President Ford by 1.7 million votes and a narrow margin in
the electoral college.
Living in Rancho Mirage, California, President Ford remained physically and
socially active after leaving the White House. He published his
autobiography, A Time to Heal, in 1979. The Gerald R. Ford Presidential
Library and Museum is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. President Ford died at
his home on 26 December 2006.
- In November 1963 was named by President Lyndon Johnson to the Warren
- Author (with John R. Stiles) of the book, Portrait of the Assassin (1965).
- Served as permanent chairman of the 1968 and 1972 Republican National
- As Minority House Leader delivered some 200 speeches annually throughout
- Visited the People’s Republic of China in late June and early July 1972 on
behalf of the President.
- Lauded as a “Congressman’s Congressman” by the American Political Science
Association when it conferred on him its Distinguished Congressional Service
Award in 1961.
- Was presented the George Washington Award by the American Good Government
Society in May 1966.
- Chosen by the American Academy of Achievement to receive the Golden Plate
Award as one of fifty “giants of accomplishment,” presented during the
Academy’s 10th annual Salute to Excellence in June 1971.
- Selected to receive the AMVETS Silver Helmet Award, that group’s highest
recognition of Congressional service, at ceremonies in Washington in April
1942: Commissioned Ensign, US Naval
20 April 1942 - May 1942: Under
instruction, US Naval Academy
May 1942 - May 1943: US Navy
Pre-Flight School, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
May 1943 - June 1943: Outfitting
and commissioning of USS Monterey (CVL-26) , New York Shipbuilding
Corporation, Camden, New Jersey
June 1943 - December 1944:
Assistant Navigator on USS Monterey (CVL-26)
December 1944 - April 1945:
Athletic Department of Navy Pre-Flight School, St. Mary's College,
April 1945 - January 1946: Staff
Physical and Military Training Officer, Naval Reserve Training Command, Naval
Air Station, Glenview, Illinois
January 1946 - February 1946:
Separated at Great Lakes Naval Training Center, Great Lakes, Illinois
23 February 1946: Date of release
from the US Navy
28 June 1963: Resigned
Medals and Awards
For his naval service in nine combat operations, Lieutenant Commander Ford
earned the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with eight battle stars for actions
in the Gilbert Islands, Bismarck Archipelago, Marshall Islands, Asiatic and
Pacific carrier raids, Hollandia, Marianas, Western Carolines, Western New
Guinea, and the Leyte Operation. He also received the Philippine Liberation
with two bronze stars for Leyte and Mindoro, as well as the American Campaign
and World War II Victory Medals.
US Naval Historical Center)
Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78):
January 16, 2007 -- WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Secretary of
the Navy Donald C. Winter announced Jan. 16, the selection of Gerald R. Ford
as the name of the first aircraft carrier in what will be the Gerald R. Ford
class of carriers.
The selection honors the 38th President of the United States and pays tribute
to his lifetime of service in the Navy, in the U.S. government and to the
"President Gerald R. Ford provided the United States great leadership at
a time of constitutional crisis," said Winter. "I am honored to
have the opportunity to name the first ship in the new class of aircraft
carriers after this great Sailor, this great leader, this great man."
Born in Omaha, Neb., in 1913, Ford grew up in Grand Rapids, Mich. He starred
on the University of Michigan football team where he was a center and team
most valuable player in 1934. After graduation he attended Yale Law School,
where he served as assistant football coach while earning his law degree.
During World War II he attained the rank of lieutenant commander in the Navy,
and served on the light carrier, the USS Monterey. After the war he returned
to Grand Rapids, where he began the practice of law, and entered political
Ford was the first Vice President chosen under the terms of the Twenty-fifth
Amendment and, in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, succeeded the first
President ever to resign; serving as the 37th Vice President (1973-1974) and
the 38th President of the United States (1974-1977). Prior to becoming Vice
President, he served for more than eight years as the Republican Minority
Leader of the House of Representatives as a representative from Michigan's 5th
USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) will be the premier forward asset for crisis
response and early decisive striking power in a major combat operation. The
carrier and the carrier strike group will provide forward presence, rapid
response, endurance on station, and multi-mission capability.
Gerald R. Ford and subsequent Ford class carriers will provide improved war
fighting capability, quality of life improvements for sailors and reduced
acquisition and life cycle costs.
PCU Gerald R. Ford
(CVN-78) is to be the lead ship of her class of United States Navy
supercarriers. As announced by the U.S. Navy on 16 January 2007, the ship
will be named after the late 38th President of the United States, Gerald R.
Ford, whose World War II naval service included combat duty aboard the light
aircraft carrier Monterey in the Pacific Theater.
Gerald R. Ford was laid down on 13 November 2009. Construction work began on
11 August 2005, when Northrop Grumman held a ceremonial steel cut for a
15-ton plate that will form part of a side shell unit of the carrier. The
schedule calls for the ship to join the U.S. Navy’s fleet in 2015. Gerald R.
Ford is slated to replace the current USS Enterprise, ending her then 50-plus
years of service with the United States Navy.
On 10 September 2008 the US Navy signed a $5.1 billion contract with Northrop
Grumman Shipbuilding in Newport News, Virginia, to design and construct the
carrier. Northrop had begun advance construction of the carrier under a $2.7
billion contract in 2005. The carrier is being constructed at the Northrop
Gruman Newport News shipbuilding in Hampton Roads, Virginia, which employs
The keel of the new warship was ceremonially laid on November 14, 2009 in Dry
Dock 12 by Ford's daughter, Susan Ford Bales. Said Bales in a speech to the
assembled shipworkers and DoD officials, "Dad met the staggering
challenges of restoring trust in the presidency and healing the nation's
wounds after Watergate in the only way he knew how - with complete honesty
and integrity. And that is the legacy we remember this morning."