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Gerald Ford

(1913—2006) American Republican statesman, 38th President of the US 1974–7


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1913–2006)

US Republican statesman and thirty-eighth president of the USA (1974–77).

Ford was born in Omaha, Nebraska. Two years later his parents were divorced, his mother remarried, and the boy was given the name of his adoptive stepfather, Gerald R. Ford. After graduating in 1935 from the University of Michigan, where he read economics and political science, he went on to study law at Yale and ultimately set up his practice in Grand Rapids, Michigan. During the latter part of World War II he served in the US navy.

Ford's political career began in 1948, when he was elected to the House of Representatives. In 1965 he became Republican minority leader in the House, and in 1973, on the resignation of Vice-President Spiro Agnew (1918–96), President Nixon nominated Ford as a possible replacement: he was sworn in later that year. The reputation for integrity and candour he had built up over his twenty-five years in the House of Representatives stood him in good stead during and after the discovery of Nixon's involvement in the Watergate scandal and the subsequent impeachment and resignation of the president. Ford succeeded to the presidency in 1974, becoming the first man to be sworn into that office without ever having won a presidential or vice-presidential election. He chose Nelson Rockefeller as vice-president and radically reorganized Nixon's cabinet, retaining only Henry Kissinger as secretary of state and two others in their former offices.

Having been welcomed for his openness and honesty in the early days of his administration, Ford aroused widespread hostility and suspicion by granting Nixon a free pardon just two months after his resignation. In October 1974 Ford appeared before Congress to justify this magnanimous but possibly premature decision. Over the next year, however, with his prompt reaction to the Cambodian seizure of the US ship Mayaguez and the airlift of thousands of Vietnamese refugees to the USA, President Ford regained some of his popularity. This was not sufficient, however, to carry him through the presidential election of 1976: he won the Republican nomination only narrowly from Ronald Reagan and lost to the Democratic nominee, Jimmy Carter, in the election itself.

Subjects: Politics.


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