Gerald Ford never imagined becoming president of the United States. Yet, that happened on August 9, 1974.
Born in Nebraska, Ford moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, with his mother a few weeks after his birth. Nicknamed “Junior,” Ford became an Eagle Scout and attended South High School. A good football player, he won a scholarship to play for the University of Michigan in 1931. After graduation, he had a chance to play professional football. Instead, Ford entered Yale University and earned a law degree.
During World War II, Ford served in the South Pacific aboard an aircraft carrier. His closest brush with death came during a terrible typhoon in December 1944 when he almost was swept overboard. After the war, Ford returned to Grand Rapids and became a lawyer.
In 1948, Ford entered politics and was elected to Congress. He was reelected 12 times. After Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned his office in late 1973, President Richard Nixon tapped Congressman Ford to become the new vice president.
At this time, President Nixon was being criticized for his actions in a scandal called the Watergate affair. During the summer of 1974, Congress charged Nixon with obstruction of justice and misusing the power of his office. Nixon faced being impeached, so on August 9, 1974, he resigned the presidency. At the same time, Vice President Ford was sworn in as the nation’s 38th president.
When Ford became president the country was facing many problems, especially rising inflation, unemployment and energy shortages. However, one of Ford’s biggest challenges was restoring the credibility of the presidency.
The country liked the Fords: Gerald, his wife Betty and their children, Michael, John, Steven and Susan. But one month after Ford became president he pardoned Richard Nixon for “crimes he committed or may have committed.” Ford believed that Americans needed to stop discussing Watergate. However, the pardon left many Americans angry with Ford, which may have led to his 1976 loss to former Governor Jimmy Carter of Georgia.
After leaving the presidency, President and Mrs. Ford moved to California where they live today.
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