Gerald R. Ford, 38th President: The Only President Never Elected

Updated on December 13, 2019
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Angela loves history and feels it is essential to our future to know the past—or else be destined to repeat it.

Official Presidential Photo


The Early Years

Gerald Rudolph Ford, the 38th United States President, was the first Vice-President to gain office who was neither elected to become Vice-President nor President. Richard Nixon chose him as Vice-President after Spiro Agnew, his original VP resigned. With the approval of both the House and Senate, Ford replaced Agnew. He then became the 38th U.S. President when Nixon resigned. He was well-liked due to his friendly, open, honest nature.

In 1913, Gerald was born in Omaha, Nebraska. His mother initially named him after his birth father, Leslie Lynch King. After his birth father and mother divorced, his mother moved and raised him in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where there is a museum still there named after him. His mother remarried, this time to a man named Gerald Rudolph Ford. Although he never officially adopted Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr., they changed his name socially, and then in 1935, Ford legally changed his name to match the man who raised him.

He starred on the football team at the University of Michigan, where he earned the title Most Valuable Player. Later, Gerald attended Yale University Law School, where he worked as an assistant coach where he earned his law degree.

Although he was working as a lawyer when WWII began, he decided to join the Navy. He served four years in the South Pacific as a lieutenant commander. After the war, he returned to his hometown of Grand Rapids and practiced law, where he decided to enter politics as a Republican.

In 1948, he married Elizabeth Bloomer. They had four children together: Michael, John, Steven, and Susan.

Later in that same year, he was elected to Congress. He was re-elected twelve times, serving 25 years total. From 1965 to 1973, he was the House Minority Leader, where he earned a reputation of high integrity and openness.

Having such a great relationship within Congress, Congress easily approved him as Nixon's Vice-President. He became the first Vice President to be selected under the terms of the Twenty-fifth Amendment. Shortly after JFK's assassination, the Twenty-fifth amendment stated if the President becomes unable to do their job, the Vice President becomes the President.

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Twenty-Fifth Amendment Enacted a Second Time

Soon after that, Nixon resigned, which made Gerald R. Ford the first American President to succeed another due to a resignation. Ford took this duty very seriously and on August 9, 1974, declared, "I assume the Presidency under extraordinary circumstances...This is an hour of history that troubles our minds and hurts our hearts."

For a second time, the Twenty-fifth Amendment was enacted when Ford nominated the New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller as Vice-President. Congress accepted him. He gradually selected cabinet members of his own throughout his term, replacing those spots that were empty due to the Watergate Scandal.

After Nixon resigned, many were very hopeful for Ford's Presidency, although he quickly drew criticism from many when he decided to give Nixon a "full, complete, and absolute pardon" from the crimes he had committed.

Problems continued as the country became short on fuel, inflation occurred, and unemployment grew, which continued to hurt his popularity. Ford tried to curb Government spending as well as the Government intervention in societal and economic problems. He believed this would help economic conditions in the long run; therefore, he opted to reduce taxes on businesses for them to operate more freely. He also wanted to ease controls by regulatory agencies on businesses.

When it came to his conservative economic views, he stated, "We...declared our independence 200 years ago, and we are not about to lose it now to paper shufflers and computers." Unfortunately, people were looking for short answers, especially the Democratic Congress, who heavily opposed his plans, and the results did not quickly come.

He also felt that inflation needed to be tackled. When the recession became worse, he focused more on stimulating the economy while also attacking inflation by vetoing many non-military bills that would have furthered the budgetary deficit. He ended up vetoing 39 measures in 14 months. Most of these were sustained.

Since the Vietnam War had ended, he wanted to make sure that a new war was not going to break out. He had provided aid to both Israel and Egypt while insisting that they both accept an interim truce agreement, which they agreed to. Ford also met with Soviet leader Leonid I. Brezhnev and set a new limitation upon nuclear weapons- work that Nixon had started previously.

Then in 1976, when reelection time occurred, he won the Republican nomination. He ran against Jimmy Carter, the Georgian Democratic candidate. In a close election, he eventually lost. The new President did not overlook all that Ford had taken on as President. During Carter's inaugural speech, he declared, "For myself and for our Nation, I want to thank my predecessor for all he has done to heal our land."

Ford continued his excellent reputation throughout the rest of his life and died in 2006, the day after Christmas in his home in California.

Wedding Day

Gerald Ford and Betty Ford on their wedding day
Gerald Ford and Betty Ford on their wedding day | Source

Fun Facts

  • He was not born Gerald R. Ford; he was born Leslie Lynch King Jr. When his parents divorced, his mother took him and moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan. She married a man named Gerald Rudolph Ford. Although they did not legally change his name until 1935, they referred to him as Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr.
  • He was voted the most valuable player for the University of Michigan's football team and could have gone onto the NFL to be on both the Detroit Lion's or the Green Bay Packer's. He turned them down to be a coach for Yale's football team.
  • He was neither elected to become President or Vice-President. Since Nixon appointed him for Vice President after Nixon's original Vice-President had resigned due to being caught with Tax Evasion, then was appointed President, after Nixon resigned himself.
  • There were two different assassination attempts on his life in 1975, both while in California, both by women. Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme (a former follower of Charles Manson) attempted the first time and the other by a radical activist Sara Jane Moore. Both received life in prison, although Moore was released on parole in 2009.
  • His wife was diagnosed with breast cancer only two months after he got into office, and had a double mastectomy that brought awareness to cancer. She was also an avid women's rights lobbyist.

Excerpt from the History Channel

Basic Facts

July 14, 1913 - Nebraska
President Number
Military Service
United States Navy (Lieutenant commander)
Wars Served In
World War II
How Old at Presidency
61 years old
Term of Office
August 9, 1974 - January 20, 1977
How Long Served as President
3 years
None (Aug–Dec 1974) Nelson Rockefeller (1974–77)
Age and Year Died
December 26, 2006 (aged 93)
Cause of Death
arteriosclerotic cerebrovascular disease and diffuse arteriosclerosis

With Henry Kissinger

President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, conversing, on the grounds of the White House, Washington, D.C..
President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, conversing, on the grounds of the White House, Washington, D.C.. | Source

List of the United States Presidents

1. George Washington
16. Abraham Lincoln
31. Herbert Hoover
2. John Adams
17. Andrew Johnson
32. Franklin D. Roosevelt
3. Thomas Jefferson
18. Ulysses S. Grant
33. Harry S. Truman
4. James Madison
19. Rutherford B. Hayes
34. Dwight D. Eisenhower
5. James Monroe
20. James Garfield
35. John F. Kennedy
6. John Quincy Adams
21. Chester A. Arthur
36. Lyndon B. Johnson
7. Andrew Jackson
22. Grover Cleveland
37. Richard M. Nixon
8. Martin Van Buren
23. Benjamin Harrison
38. Gerald R. Ford
9. William Henry Harrison
24. Grover Cleveland
39. James Carter
10. John Tyler
25. William McKinley
40. Ronald Reagan
11. James K. Polk
26. Theodore Roosevelt
41. George H. W. Bush
12. Zachary Taylor
27. William Howard Taft
42. William J. Clinton
13. Millard Fillmore
28. Woodrow Wilson
43. George W. Bush
14. Franklin Pierce
29. Warren G. Harding
44. Barack Obama
15. James Buchanan
30. Calvin Coolidge
45. Donald Trump


  • Freidel, F., & Sidey, H. (2009). Gerald Ford. Retrieved April 22, 2016, from
  • Pruitt, Sarah. "9 Things You May Not Know About Gerald Ford." July 12, 2013. Accessed November 14, 2017.
  • Sullivan, George. Mr. President: A Book of U.S. Presidents. New York: Scholastic, 2001. Print.

© 2017 Angela Michelle Schultz


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    Post Comment
    • angela_michelle profile imageAUTHOR

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      2 years ago from United States

      I felt the same way. Fortunately, he was a good man, and he did well in the position. Still, it does make one uneasy to know that someone can become President without ever being elected into any position.

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 

      2 years ago from Ohio

      It is amazing that someone became both vice president and president without elections. I'm not really sure how I feel about that. Gerald Ford was well liked, I remember that.


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