Gerald R. Ford, the 38th President of the United States, has the distinction of being the only person appointed to both the positions of Vice President and President. Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned in December, 1973. President Richard Nixon resigned on August 8, 1974. Nixon’s resignation was a first for the United States. Presidents have been assassinated and have died while in office but none had ever resigned. Ford was in the right place at the right time to bring the county together.
Ford’s Presidential Library in Grand Rapids, Michigan, dedicated in April, 1981, is a tribute to his integrity as a man, politician and President. Ford understood the art of compromise and knew how to reach it. He is the only President to have been an Eagle Scout and he maintained a life-long association with the Boy Scouts of America.
Upon graduation from the University of Michigan, Ford attended Yale law school in 1941 and joined the Navy after the attack on Pearl Harbor. While underway to the Philippines on the USS Monterey, an aircraft carrier, he survived a harrowing experience of an onboard fire during a typhoon. That experience left an indelible mark on Ford, he was a survivor. After being discharged from the Navy with the rank of Lt. Commander, he returned to Michigan to marry Betty Bloomer (Ford) in 1948.
The captain of the football team in both high school and college, his first thought was to be a football coach but he turned to the law once he entering college. Truth be known, he had his sights set on becoming a Probate Judge in Grand Rapids. However, the political machine had someone else in mind so he chose to run for Congress instead. There he made his mark. He was as a man who took his job seriously and would get the job done. Ford won his first congressional seat in January, 1949, he would hold that seat until December, 1973, when he was appointed to the office of Vice President.
His presidency lasted only 895 days, the shortest of all presidents, who did not die in office. He led the county though a serious economic recession, gas shortages, the end of the Vietnam War, and the pardon of Richard Nixon for any wrongdoing in Watergate.
Upon his swearing in for the office of President, he asked that the country confirm him with their prayers and stated that “Our long national nightmare is over.” Ford would hit the ground running to deal with the economic and political issues that were left for him.
Although he beat Ronald Reagan in the 1976 Presidential Republican Primary, he would be defeated by Democrat Jimmy Carter in the 1976 race to the White House.
It is fitting that Ford’s library is maintained in two locations, in his home town of Grand Rapids and the place that shaped him and the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor. He also has an aircraft carrier named for him. The USS Gerald R. Ford was commissioned in 2017.
Ford died the day after Christmas in 2006 at the age of 93. He was our longest living President. Betty followed him in death in July, 2011. Both were laid to rest in the courtyard just outside the Grand Rapids museum.
The Ford Presidential Library sits beside the Grand River which runs through the heart of Grand Rapids just as Jerry Ford’s heart is forever linked to Grand Rapids. The library provides educational forums for children to adults and continuous traveling exhibits. Each of the Presidents since Jimmy Carter has visited the library. The staff hopes that President’s Obama and Trump will visit soon.