Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr. (July 14, 1913 December 26, 2006) was the thirty-eighth President of the United States, serving from 1974 to 1977, and the fortieth Vice President of the United States serving from 1973 to 1974. He was the first person appointed to the vice-presidency under the terms of the 25th Amendment, and became President upon Richard Nixon's resignation on August 9, 1974. Ford was the fifth U.S. President never to have been elected to that position, and the only one never to have won any national election. Currently, he is also the longest-lived president in U.S. history, living to age 93.
As President, Ford signed the Helsinki Accords, marking a move toward détente in the Cold War. Compared with his predecessors, Ford's policies were less directed towards intervention in Vietnamese affairs. Domestically, the economy suffered from inflation and a recession during his tenure. One of his more controversial decisions was granting a presidential pardon to President Richard Nixon for his role in the Watergate scandal. In 1976, Ford narrowly defeated Ronald Reagan for the Republican nomination, but ultimately lost the presidential election to Democrat Jimmy Carter by a small margin.
Following his years as president, Ford remained active in the Republican party. After experiencing health problems and being admitted to the hospital four times in 2006, Ford died at his home on December 26, 2006.
His mother was the former Dorothy Ayer Gardner. Because of her husband's problems, Dorothy separated from him just sixteen days after her son's birth. She took her son with her to the Oak Park, Illinois home of her sister Tannisse and her husband, Clarence Haskins James. From there she moved to the home of her parents, Levi Addison Gardner and his wife, the former Adele Augusta Ayer, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Dorothy and Leslie King divorced in December 1913; she gained full custody of their son. Ford's paternal grandfather Charles Henry King paid child support until shortly before his death in 1930.
Gerald Ford later said his biological father had a history of hitting his mother. James M. Cannon, a member of the Ford administration, wrote in a Ford biography that the Kings' separation and divorce were sparked when, a few days after Ford's birth, Leslie King threatened Dorothy with a butcher knife and threatened to kill her, the baby, and the baby's nursemaid. Ford later told confidantes that his father had hit his mother first on their honeymoon, for smiling at another man.
After three years with her parents, on February 1, 1916 Dorothy King married Gerald Rudolff Ford, a salesman in a family-owned paint and varnish company. Later he became president of the firm. They then called her son Gerald Rudolff Ford, Jr. The future president was never formally adopted, however, and he did not legally change his name until December 3, 1935; he also used a more conventional spelling of his middle name. He was raised in Grand Rapids with his three half-brothers by his mother's second marriage: Thomas Gardner Ford (1918–1995), Richard Addison Ford (born 1924), and James Francis Ford (1927–2001).
Ford also had three half-siblings from his father's second marriage: Marjorie King (1921–1993), Leslie Henry King (1923–1976), and Patricia Jane King (born 1925. They never saw each other as children and he did not know them at all. Ford was not aware of his biological father until he was 17, when his parents told him about the circumstances of his birth. That same year his father Leslie King, whom Ford described as a "carefree, well-to-do man," approached Ford while he was waiting tables in a Grand Rapids restaurant. The two "maintained a sporadic contact" until Leslie King, Sr.'s death.
Ford maintained his distance emotionally, saying, "My stepfather was a magnificent person and my mother equally wonderful. So I couldn't have written a better prescription for a superb family upbringing."
Ford was immensely involved in The Boy Scouts of America, and attained that program's highest rank, Eagle Scout. He always regarded this as one of his proudest accomplishments, even after attaining the White House. In subsequent years, Ford received the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award in May 1970 and Silver Buffalo Award from the Boy Scouts of America. He is the only US president who was an Eagle Scout. Scouting was so important to Ford that his family asked that Scouts participate in his funeral. About 400 Eagle Scouts were part of the funeral procession, where they formed an honor guard as the casket went by in front of the museum, and served as ushers.
Ford attended Grand Rapids South High School and was a star athlete and captain of his football team. In 1930, he was selected to the All-City team of the Grand Rapids City League. He also attracted the attention of college recruiters.
Attending the University of Michigan as an undergraduate, Ford played center and linebacker for the school’s football team and helped the Wolverines to undefeated seasons and national titles in 1932 and 1933. The team suffered a steep decline in his 1934 senior year, however, winning only one game. Ford was the team’s star nonetheless, and after a game during which Michigan held heavily favored Minnesota (the eventual national champion) to a scoreless tie in the first half, assistant coach Bennie Oosterbaan later said, “When I walked into the dressing room at half time, I had tears in my eyes I was so proud of them. Ford and [Cedric] Sweet played their hearts out. They were everywhere on defense.” Ford himself later recalled, “During 25 years in the rough-and-tumble world of politics, I often thought of the experiences before, during, and after that game in 1934. Remembering them has helped me many times to face a tough situation, take action, and make every effort possible despite adverse odds.” His teammates later voted Ford their most valuable player, with one assistant coach noting, “They felt Jerry was one guy who would stay and fight in a losing cause.”
During the same season, in a game against the University of Chicago, Ford “became the only future U.S. president to tackle a future Heisman Trophy winner when he brought down running back Jay Berwanger, who would win the first Heisman the following year.” In 1934 Gerald Ford was selected for the Eastern Team on the Shriner’s East West Crippled Children game at San Francisco (a benefit for crippled children), played on January 1, 1935. As part of the 1935 Collegiate All-Star football team, Ford played against the Chicago Bears in an exhibition game at Soldier Field.
Ford retained his interest in football and his alma mater throughout life, occasionally attending games and on one occasion asking to be awakened to find out the score of an Ohio State-Michigan football game, while attending a summit in the Soviet Union as President. The University of Michigan retired Ford's #48 jersey in 1994.
Ford was also an avid golfer. In 1977, he shot a hole in one during a Pro-am held in conjunction with the Danny Thomas Memphis Classic at Colonial Country Club in Memphis, Tennessee. He received the 1985 Old Tom Morris Award from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, GCSAA's highest honor.
Ford hoped to attend Yale's law school beginning in 1935 while serving as boxing coach and assistant varsity football coach; and also teaching JV cheerleading, which he was very good at, as he knew how to do several tucks and back handsprings but Yale officials initially denied his admission to the law school, because of his full-time coaching responsibilities. He spent the summer of 1937 as a student at the University of Michigan Law School and was eventually admitted in the spring of 1938 to Yale Law School. Ford earned his LL.B. degree in 1941 (later amended to Juris Doctor), graduating in the top 25 percent of his class. His introduction to politics came in the summer of 1940 when he worked in Wendell Willkie's presidential campaign. While attending Yale Law School, he joined a group of students led by R. Douglas Stuart, Jr., and signed a petition to enforce the 1939 Neutrality Act. The petition was circulated nationally and was the inspiration for the America First Committee, a group determined to keep the U.S. out of World War II.
Ford graduated from law school in 1941, and was admitted to the Michigan bar shortly there after. In May 1941, he opened a Grand Rapids law practice with a friend, Philip Buchen, who would later serve as Ford's White House counsel. But overseas developments caused a change in plans, and Ford responded to the attack on Pearl Harbor by enlisting in the Navy.
Applying for sea duty, Ford was sent in May 1943 to the pre-commissioning detachment for the new aircraft carrier USS Monterey, at New York Shipbuilding Corporation, Camden, New Jersey. From the ship's commissioning on June 17, 1943 until the end of December 1944, Ford served as the assistant navigator, Athletic Officer, and antiaircraft battery officer on board the Monterey. While he was on board, the carrier participated in many actions in the Pacific Theater 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, the 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 the Philippine Sea. After overhaul, from September to November 1944, aircraft from the Monterey launched strikes against Wake Island, participated in strikes in the Philippines and Ryukyus, and supported the landings at Leyte and Mindoro.
Although the ship was not damaged by Japanese forces, the Monterey was one of several ships damaged by the typhoon that hit Admiral William Halsey's Third Fleet on December 18–19, 1944. The Third Fleet lost three destroyers and over 800 men during the typhoon. The Monterey was damaged by a fire, which was started by several of the ship's aircraft tearing loose from their cables and colliding on the hanger deck. During the storm, Ford narrowly avoided becoming a casualty himself. As he was going to his battle station on the bridge of the ship in the early morning of December 18, 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 he twisted into the catwalk below the deck. As he later stated, "I was lucky; I could have easily gone overboard."
Because of the extent of the fires, Admiral Halsey ordered Captain Ingersoll to abandon ship. Instead Captain Ingersoll ordered Ford to lead a fire brigade below. After five hours he and his team had put out the fire.
After the fire the Monterey was declared unfit for service, and the crippled carrier reached Ulithi on December 21 before proceeding across the Pacific to Bremerton, Washington where it underwent repairs. On December 24, 1944 at Ulithi, Ford was detached from the ship and sent to the Athletic Department of the Navy Pre-Flight School at Saint Mary's College of 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 October 3, 1945 he was promoted to Lieutenant Commander. In January 1946, he was sent to the Separation Center, Great Lakes to be processed out. He was released from active duty under honorable conditions on February 23, 1946. On June 28, 1946, the Secretary of the Navy accepted Ford's resignation from the Naval Reserve.
For his naval service, Gerald Ford earned the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with nine engagement stars for operations 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 Medal with two bronze stars for Leyte and Mindoro, as well as the American Campaign and World War II Victory medals.
Ford was a member of several civic organizations, including the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and AMVETS.Gerald R. Ford was initiated into Freemasonry on September 30, 1949. He later said in 1975, "When I took my obligation as a master mason — incidentally, with my three younger brothers — I recalled the value my own father attached to that order. But I had no idea that I would ever be added to the company of the Father of our Country and 12 other members of the order who also served as Presidents of the United States."
On October 15, 1948, at Grace Episcopal Church in Grand Rapids, Ford married Elizabeth Bloomer Warren, a department store fashion consultant. Warren had been a John Robert Powers fashion model and a dancer in the auxiliary troupe of the Martha Graham Dance Company. She had previously been married to and divorced from William G. Warren.
At the time of his engagement, Ford was campaigning for what would be his first of thirteen terms as a member of the United States House of Representatives. The wedding was delayed until shortly before the elections because, as The New York Times reported in a 1974 profile of Betty Ford, "Jerry was running for Congress and wasn't sure how voters might feel about his marrying a divorced ex-dancer.
The Fords had four children:
After returning to Grand Rapids, Ford became active in local Republican politics, and supporters urged him to take on Bartel J. Jonkman, the incumbent Republican congressman. Military service had changed his view of the world; "I came back a converted internationalist", Ford wrote, "and of course our congressman at that time was an avowed, dedicated isolationist. And I thought he ought to be replaced. Nobody thought I could win. I ended up winning two to one." During his first campaign in 1948, Ford visited farmers and promised he would work on their farms and milk the cows if elected—a promise he fulfilled. In 1961, the U.S. House membership voted Ford a special award as a "Congressman's Congressman" that praised his committee work on military budgets.
Ford was a member of the House of Representatives for twenty-four years, holding the Grand Rapids congressional district seat from 1949 to 1973. It was a tenure largely notable for its modesty. As an editorial in The New York Times described him, Ford "saw himself as a negotiator and a reconciler, and the record shows it: he did not write a single piece of major legislation in his entire career." Appointed to the House Appropriations Committee two years after being elected, he was a prominent member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. Ford described his philosophy as "a moderate in domestic affairs, an internationalist in foreign affairs, and a conservative in fiscal policy."
In November 1963, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Ford to the Warren Commission, a special task force set up to investigate the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Ford was assigned to prepare a biography of Lee Harvey Oswald, the accused assassin. The Commission's work continues to be debated in the public arena.
According to newly released records from Ford's FBI files, he secretly advised the FBI that two of his fellow members on the Warren Commission doubted the FBI's conclusion that John F. Kennedy was shot from the sixth floor of the Texas Book Depository in Dallas. A 1963 FBI memo that said Ford, then a Republican congressman from Michigan, had volunteered to keep the FBI informed about the panel's private deliberations, but only if that relationship remained confidential. The bureau agreed. Ford generally believed in single bullet and single assassin theory.
According to the same reports, Ford generally had a strong ties to FBI and J. Edgar Hoover.
In 1965, Republican members of the House elected Ford as its Minority Leader. During the eight years (1965–1973) he served as Minority Leader, Ford won many friends in the House because of his fair leadership and inoffensive personality. But President Johnson disliked Ford for the congressman's frequent attacks on the administration's "Great Society" programs as being unneeded or wasteful, and for his criticism of the President's handling of the Vietnam War. As Minority Leader in the House, Ford appeared in a popular series of televised press conferences with famed Illinois Senator Everett Dirksen, in which they proposed Republican alternatives to Johnson's policies. Many in the press jokingly called this "The Ev and Jerry Show". Johnson said of Ford at the time, "That Gerald Ford. He can't fart and chew gum at the same time." The press, used to sanitizing LBJ's salty language, reported this as "Gerald Ford can't walk and chew gum at the same time."
Ford was nominated to take Agnew's position on October 13, the first time the vice-presidential vacancy provision of the 25th Amendment had been implemented. The United States Senate voted 92 to 3 to confirm Ford on November 27. Only three Senators, all Democrats, had voted against Ford's confirmation: Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, Thomas Eagleton of Missouri and William Hathaway of Maine. On December 6, the House confirmed Ford by a vote of 387 to 35. One hour after the confirmation vote in the House, Ford took the oath of office as Vice President of the United States.
Ford's tenure as Vice President was little noted by the media. Instead, reporters were preoccupied by the continuing revelations about criminal acts during the 1972 presidential election and allegations of cover-ups within the White House. Ford said little about the Watergate scandal, although he privately expressed his personal disappointment in the President's conduct.
Following Ford's appointment, the Watergate investigation continued until Chief of Staff Alexander Haig contacted Ford on August 1, 1974, and told him that "smoking gun" evidence had been found. The evidence left little doubt that President Nixon had been a part of the Watergate cover-up. At the time, Ford and his wife, Betty, were living in suburban Virginia, waiting for their expected move into the newly designated vice president's residence in Washington, D.C. However, "Al Haig [asked] to come over and see me," Ford later related, "to tell me that there would be a new tape released on a Monday, and he said the evidence in there was devastating and there would probably be either an impeachment or a resignation. And she said, 'I'm just warning you that you've got to be prepared, that things might change dramatically and you could become President.' And I said, 'Betty, I don't think we're ever going to live in the vice president's house.'"
When Nixon resigned in the wake of the Watergate scandal on August 9, 1974, Ford assumed the presidency, making him the only person to assume the vice-presidency and the presidency without having been voted into either office. Immediately after taking the oath of office in the East Room of the White House, he spoke to the assembled audience in a speech broadcast live to the nation. Ford noted the peculiarity of his position: "I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your president by your ballots, and so I ask you to confirm me as your president with your prayers." He went on to state:
I have not sought this enormous responsibility, but I will not shirk it. Those who nominated and confirmed me as Vice President were my friends and are my friends. They were of both parties, elected by all the people and acting under the Constitution in their name. It is only fitting then that I should pledge to them and to you that I will be the President of all the people.
A portion of the speech would later be memorialized with a plaque at the entrance to his presidential museum.
On August 20 Ford nominated former New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller to fill the vice presidency he had vacated. Rockefeller's top competitor had been George H.W. Bush. Rockefeller underwent extended hearings before Congress, which caused embarrassment when it was revealed he made massive gifts to senior aides, such as Henry Kissinger. Although conservative Republicans were not pleased that Rockefeller was picked, most of them did vote for his confirmation, and his nomination passed both the House and Senate. However, some, including Barry Goldwater, voted against him.
The Nixon pardon was highly controversial. Critics derided the move and claimed, a "corrupt bargain" had been struck between the men. They claimed Ford's pardon was quid pro quo, in exchange for Nixon's resignation that elevated Ford to the Presidency. Nixon's Chief of Staff, Alexander Haig, did in fact offer a deal to Ford. Bob Woodward, in his book Shadow, recounts that Haig entered Ford's office on August 1, 1974 while Ford was still Vice President and Nixon had yet to resign. Haig told Ford that there were three pardon options: (1) Nixon could pardon himself and resign; (2) Nixon could pardon his aides involved in Watergate and then resign; or (3) Nixon could agree to leave in return for an agreement that the new president would pardon him. After listing these options, Haig handed Ford various papers; one of these papers included a discussion of the president's legal authority to pardon, and another sheet was a draft pardon form that only needed Ford's signature and Nixon's name to make it legal. Woodward summarizes the setting between Haig and Ford as follows: "Even if Haig offered no direct words on his views, the message was almost certainly sent. An emotional man, Haig was incapable of concealing his feelings; those who worked closely with him rarely found him ambiguous."
Despite the situation, Ford never accepted the offer from Haig, and later decided to pardon Nixon on his own terms. Regardless, historians believe the controversy was one of the major reasons Ford lost the election in 1976, an observation with which Ford concurred. In an editorial at the time, The New York Times stated that the Nixon pardon was "a profoundly unwise, divisive and unjust act" that in a stroke had destroyed the new president's "credibility as a man of judgment, candor and competence."
Ford's first press secretary and close friend Jerald Franklin terHorst resigned his post in protest after the announcement of President Nixon's full pardon. Ford also voluntarily appeared before Congress on October 17, 1974 to give sworn testimony—the only time a sitting president has done so—about the pardon.
After Ford left the White House in 1977, intimates said that the former President privately justified his pardon of Nixon by carrying in his wallet a portion of the text of Burdick v. United States, a 1915 U.S. Supreme Court decision which stated that a pardon indicated a presumption of guilt, and that acceptance of a pardon was tantamount to a confession of that guilt. In 2001, the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation awarded the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award to Ford for his pardon of Nixon.
|The Ford Cabinet|
|Vice President||Nelson Rockefeller||1974–1977|
|Treasury||William E. Simon||1974–1977|
|Defense||James R. Schlesinger||1974–1975|
|Stanley K. Hathaway||1975|
|Thomas S. Kleppe||1975–1977|
|John Albert Knebel||1976–1977|
|Commerce||Frederick B. Dent||1974–1975|
|Labor||Peter J. Brennan||1974–1975|
|John Thomas Dunlop||1975–1976|
|William Usery, Jr.||1976–1977|
|F. David Mathews||1975–1977|
|HUD||James Thomas Lynn||1974–1975|
|Carla Anderson Hills||1975–1977|
|William Thaddeus Coleman, Jr.||1975–1977|
Other cabinet-level posts:
Other important posts:
Ford's transition chairman and first Chief of Staff was former congressman and ambassador Donald Rumsfeld. In 1975, Rumsfeld was named by Ford as the youngest-ever Secretary of Defense. Ford chose a young Wyoming politician, Richard Cheney, to replace Rumsfeld as his new Chief of Staff and later campaign manager for Ford's 1976 presidential campaign. Ford's dramatic reorganization of his Cabinet in the fall of 1975 has been referred to by political commentators as the "Halloween Massacre."
The economy was a great concern during the Ford administration. In response to rising inflation, Ford went before the American public in October 1974 and asked them to "Whip Inflation Now." As part of this program, he urged people to wear "WIN" buttons. In hindsight, this was viewed as simply a public relations gimmick without offering any effective means of solving the underlying problems. At the time, inflation was approximately seven percent.
The economic focus began to change as the country sank into a mild recession, and in March 1975, Congress passed and Ford signed into law income tax rebates as part of the Tax Reduction Act of 1975 to boost the economy. When New York City faced bankruptcy in 1975, Mayor Abraham Beame was unsuccessful in obtaining Ford's support for a federal bailout. The incident prompted the New York Daily News' notorious headline: "Ford to City: Drop Dead.
Ford was confronted with a potential swine flu pandemic. Sometime in the early 1970s, an influenza strain H1N1 shifted from a form of flu that affected primarily pigs and crossed over to humans. On February 5, 1976, an Army recruit at Fort Dix mysteriously died and four fellow soldiers were hospitalized; health officials announced that "swine flu" was the cause. Soon after, public health officials in the Ford administration urged that every person in the United States be vaccinated. Although the vaccination program was plagued by delays and public relations problems, some 25% of the population was vaccinated by the time the program was canceled in December of that year. The vaccine was blamed for twenty-five deaths; more people died from the shots than from the swine flu.
Despite his reservations about how this program ultimately would be funded in an era of tight public budgeting, Ford still signed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, which established special education throughout the United States. Ford expressed "strong support for full educational opportunities for our handicapped children" according to the official White House press release for the bill signing.
Ford was an outspoken supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment, issuing Presidential Proclamation 4383.
In this Land of the Free, it is right, and by nature it ought to be, that all men and all women are equal before the law.
Now, THEREFORE, I, GERALD R. FORD, President of the United States of America, to remind all Americans that it is fitting and just to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment adopted by the Congress of the United States of America, in order to secure legal equality for all women and men, do hereby designate and proclaim August 26, 1975, as Women's Equality Day.
As president, Ford's position on abortion was that he supported "a federal constitutional amendment that would permit each one of the 50 States to make the choice. This had also been his position as House Minority Leader in response to the 1973 Supreme Court case of Roe v. Wade, which he opposed. Ford came under criticism for a 60 Minutes interview his wife Betty gave in 1975, in which she stated that Roe v. Wade was a "great, great decision. During his later life, Ford would identify as pro-choice.
Ford continued the détente policy with both the Soviet Union and China, easing the tensions of the Cold War. In his meeting with Indonesian president Suharto, Ford gave the green light through arms and aid to invade the former Portuguese colony East Timor.
Still in place from the Nixon Administration was the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT). The thawing relationship brought about by Nixon's visit to China was reinforced by Ford's December 1975 visit to the communist country. In 1975, the Administration entered into the Helsinki Accords with the Soviet Union, creating the framework of the Helsinki Watch, an independent non-governmental organization created to monitor compliance that later evolved into Human Rights Watch.
Ford also faced a foreign policy crisis with the Mayaguez Incident. In May 1975, shortly after the Khmer Rouge took power in Cambodia, Cambodians seized the American merchant ship Mayaguez in international waters. Ford dispatched Marines to rescue the crew, but the Marines landed on the wrong island and met unexpectedly stiff resistance just as, unknown to the U.S., the Mayaguez sailors were being released. In the operation, 41 U.S. servicemen were killed and 50 wounded while approximately 60 Khmer Rouge soldiers were killed.
Ford attended the inaugural meeting of the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized nations (initially the G5) in 1975 and secured membership for Canada. Ford supported international solutions to issues. "We live in an interdependent world and, therefore, must work together to resolve common economic problems," he said in a 1974 speech.
Ford faced two assassination attempts during his presidency, occurring within three weeks of each other: while in Sacramento, California on September 5, 1975, Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, a follower of Charles Manson, pointed a Colt 45-caliber handgun at Ford. As Fromme pulled the trigger, Larry Buendorf, a Secret Service agent, grabbed the gun and managed to insert the webbing of his thumb under the hammer, preventing the gun from firing. It was later found that, although the gun was loaded with four cartridges, it was a semi-automatic pistol and the slide had not been pulled to place a round in the firing chamber, making it impossible for the gun to fire. Fromme was taken into custody; she was later convicted of attempted assassination of the President and was sentenced to life in prison.
In reaction to this attempt, the Secret Service started to keep Ford at a more secure distance from anonymous crowds, a strategy that may have saved his life seventeen days later: as he left a hotel in downtown San Francisco, Sara Jane Moore, standing in a crowd of onlookers across the street, pointed her pistol at him. Just before she fired, former Marine Oliver Sipple grabbed at the gun and deflected her shot; one person was injured. Moore was later sentenced to life in prison. She was paroled from prison on December 31, 2007, having served 32 years.
In addition to the pardon dispute and lingering anti-Republican sentiment, Ford had to counter a plethora of negative media imagery. Chevy Chase often did pratfalls on Saturday Night Live, imitating Ford, who had been seen stumbling on two occasions during his term. As Chase commented, "He even mentioned in his own autobiography it had an effect over a period of time that affected the election to some degree.
President Ford's 1976 election campaign had the advantage that he was an incumbent President during several anniversary events held during the period leading up to the United States Bicentennial. The Washington, D.C. fireworks display on the Fourth of July was presided over by the President and televised nationally. On July 7, 1976, the President and First Lady served as hosts at a White House state dinner for Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip of the United Kingdom, which was televised on the Public Broadcasting Service network. The 200th anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts gave Ford the opportunity to deliver a speech to 110,000 in Concord acknowledging the need for a strong national defense tempered with a plea for "reconciliation, not recrimination" and "reconstruction, not rancor" between the United States and those who would pose "threats to peace". Speaking in New Hampshire on the previous day, Ford condemned the growing trend toward big government bureaucracy and argued for a return to "basic American virtues".
Democratic nominee and former Georgia governor Jimmy Carter campaigned as an outsider and reformer, gaining support from voters dismayed by the Watergate scandal and Nixon pardon. After the Democratic National Convention, he held a huge 33-point lead over Ford in the polls. However, as the campaign continued the race tightened, and by election day the polls showed the race as too close to call. Carter's decline in the polls, and Ford's surge, is usually credited to three events. First, Carter promised a "blanket pardon" to Vietnam War draft dodgers in a speech before the American Legion, an act which angered many conservatives who viewed the draft dodgers as traitors. Second, Playboy magazine published a controversial interview with Carter; in the interview Carter admitted to having "lusted in his heart" for women other than his wife, which cut into his support among women and evangelical Christians. Finally, on September 24, Ford performed well in what was the first televised presidential debate since 1960. Polls taken after the debate showed that most viewers felt that Ford was the winner. Carter was also hurt by Ford's charges that he lacked the necessary experience to be an effective national leader, and that Carter was vague on many issues.
Presidential debates were reintroduced for the first time since the 1960 election. While Ford was seen as the winner of the first debate, during the second debate he inexplicably blundered when he stated, "There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and there never will be under a Ford Administration." Ford also said that he did not "believe that the Poles consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union". In an interview years later, Ford said he had intended to imply that the Soviets would never crush the spirits of eastern Europeans seeking independence. However, the phrasing was so awkward that questioner Max Frankel was visibly incredulous at the response. As a result of this blunder, Ford's surge stalled and Carter was able to maintain a slight lead in the polls.
In the end, Carter won the election, receiving 50.1% of the popular vote and 297 electoral votes compared with 48.0% and 240 electoral votes for Ford. The election was close enough that had fewer than 25,000 votes shifted in Ohio and Wisconsin – both of which neighbored his home state – Ford would have won the electoral vote. Though he lost, in the three months between the Republican National Convention and the election Ford managed to close what was once a 34-point Carter lead to a 2-point margin. In fact, the Gallup poll the day before the election showed Ford held a statistically insignificant 1-point advantage over Carter.
An article published in Newsweek shortly after Ford's death in 2006 discussed the former President's spiritual beliefs and cited evidence that Ford's preference not to openly express his Episcopalian faith in public contributed to his loss to Southern Baptist former Sunday school teacher Jimmy Carter. Ford's lowest level of support was in the Bible Belt states of the Deep South (Carter won every Southern state that year except Virginia).
Ford remained relatively active in the years after his presidency and continued to make appearances at events of historical and ceremonial significance to the nation, such as presidential inaugurals and memorial services. In 1977, he reluctantly agreed to be interviewed by James M. Naughton, a New York Times journalist who was given the assignment to write the former President's advance obituary, an article that would be updated prior to its eventual publication. In 1979, Ford published his autobiography, A Time to Heal, (Harper/Reader's Digest, 454 pages). A Foreign Policy review describes it as, "Serene, unruffled, unpretentious, like the author. This is the shortest and most honest of recent presidential memoirs, but there are no surprises, no deep probings of motives or events. No more here than meets the eye".
During the term of office of his successor, Jimmy Carter, Ford received monthly briefs by President Carter’s senior staff on international and domestic issues, and was always invited to lunch at the White House whenever he was in Washington, D.C. Their close friendship developed after Carter had left office, with the catalyst being their trip together to the funeral of Anwar el-Sadat in 1981. Until Ford's death, Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, visited the Fords' home frequently. In 2001, Ford and Carter served as honorary co-chairs of the National Commission on Federal Election Reform.
Like Presidents Carter, Bush Sr. and Clinton, Ford was an honorary co-chair of the Council for Excellence in Government, a group dedicated to excellence in government performance and which provides leadership training to top federal employees.
After securing the Republican nomination in 1980, Ronald Reagan gave serious consideration to his former rival Ford as a potential vice-presidential running mate, but negotiations between the Reagan and Ford camps at the Republican National Convention were unsuccessful. Ford conditioned his acceptance on Reagan's agreement to an unprecedented "co-presidency", giving Ford the power to control key executive branch appointments (such as Henry Kissinger as Secretary of State and Alan Greenspan as Treasury Secretary). After rejecting these terms, Reagan offered the vice-presidential nomination instead to George H. W. Bush.
In 1977, he established the Gerald R. Ford Institute of Public Policy at Albion College in Albion, Michigan, to give undergraduates training in public policy. In 1981, he opened the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, and the Gerald R. Ford Library in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In 1999, Ford was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Bill Clinton. In 2001, he was presented with the John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award for his decision to pardon Richard Nixon to stop the agony America was experiencing over Watergate. In retirement Ford also devoted much time to his love of golf, often playing both privately and in public events with comedian Bob Hope, a longtime friend.
In October 2001, Ford broke with conservative members of the Republican party by stating that gay and lesbian couples "ought to be treated equally. Period." He became the highest ranking Republican to embrace full equality for gays and lesbians, stating his belief that there should be a federal amendment outlawing anti-gay job discrimination and expressing his hope that the Republican Party would reach out to gay and lesbian voters. He also was a member of the Republican Unity Coalition, which The New York Times described as "a group of prominent Republicans, including former President Gerald R. Ford, dedicated to making sexual orientation a non-issue in the Republican Party".
On November 22, 2004, New York Republican Governor George Pataki named Ford and the other living former Presidents (Carter, George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton) as honorary members of the board rebuilding the World Trade Center.
In a pre-recorded embargoed interview with Bob Woodward of The Washington Post in July 2004, Ford stated that he disagreed "very strongly" with the Bush administration's choice of Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction as justification for its decision to invade Iraq, calling it a "big mistake" unrelated to the national security of the United States and indicating that he would not have gone to war had he been President. The details of the interview were not released until after Ford's death, as he requested.
Ford died at the age of 93 years and 165 days on December 26, 2006 at 6:45 p.m Pacific Standard Time (02:45, December 27, UTC) at his home in Rancho Mirage, California of arteriosclerotic cerebrovascular disease and diffuse arteriosclerosis.
With their father's health failing, all four of Gerald and Betty Ford's children visited their parents' home shortly before Christmas. Mrs. Ford and their three sons, who had celebrated Christmas the day before at home, were at Ford's bedside when he died. The couple's daughter, Susan, had returned to Albuquerque, New Mexico, the day before Christmas to spend the holiday with her family. No local clergy were present but Ford's eldest son, Michael, is an Evangelical minister and he performed last rites.
At 8:49 p.m., Ford's wife, Betty, issued a statement that confirmed his death: "My family joins me in sharing the difficult news that Gerald Ford, our beloved husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather, has died at 93 years of age. His life was filled with love of God, his family and his country. The statement was released by President Ford's Office. The body was taken to the Eisenhower Medical Center, where it remained until the start of the funeral services on December 29, 2006.
On December 30, 2006, Ford became the 11th U.S. President to lie in state. The burial was preceded by a state funeral and memorial services held at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. on January 2, 2007. Ford was eulogized by former President George H. W. Bush, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former NBC Nightly News anchorman Tom Brokaw and current President George W. Bush. On December 28, 2006, the New York Times reported that, at Ford's request, former President Jimmy Carter would deliver a eulogy. Decades ago, "Mr. Ford asked whether his successor might consider speaking at his funeral and offered, lightheartedly, to do the same for Mr. Carter, depending on who died first. Carter delivered an emotional eulogy at the funeral service at Grace Episcopal Church in East Grand Rapids on January 3, 2007. Ford was also eulogized by Donald Rumsfeld, who was Ford's defense secretary, and Richard Norton Smith, Presidential historian. The invitation-only list of attendees included Vice President Dick Cheney, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, and U.S. Senators from Michigan Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow. After the service, Ford was interred at his Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Ford was the longest-lived U.S. President, his lifespan being 45 days longer than Ronald Reagan's. He was the third-longest-lived Vice President, falling short only of John Nance Garner, 98, and Levi P. Morton, 96. Ford had the second-longest post-presidency (29 years and 11 months) after Herbert Hoover (31 years and 7 months).
Ford died on the 34th anniversary of President Harry Truman's death, the second U.S. President to die on Boxing Day, which Ford's pastor, The Rev. Dr. Robert Certain, noted when he referred to December 26 as its traditional Christian reference, St. Stephen's Day. He was the last surviving member of the Warren Commission.
On November 12, 2006 upon surpassing Ronald Reagan's lifespan, Ford released his last public statement:
The length of one’s days matters less than the love of one’s family and friends. I thank God for the gift of every sunrise and, even more, for all the years. He has blessed me with Betty and the children; with our extended family and the friends of a lifetime. That includes countless Americans who, in recent months, have remembered me in their prayers. Your kindness touches me deeply. May God bless you all and may God bless America.