Gerald R Ford

38th president - 1974-1977


If ever a president deserved a title such as "his accidency", it was Gerald Ford. A former naval officer and lawyer from Michigan, he had spent the previous 25 years in the House of Representatives (including two terms as Republican Minority Leader) before Richard Nixon called him to the vice-presidency to fill the gap left by Spiro Agnew. Agnew had resigned over a corruption scandal – involving tax evasion and money-laundering – that had nothing to do with Watergate but came to light, inconveniently, as the same time. When Nixon sought advice from senior Congressional leaders as a to a replacement, Ford's reputation for openness and decency made him an obvious selection. "We gave Nixon no choice but Ford," Carl Albert, the House Speaker, later claimed.

Within 10 months Nixon had resigned as well, and Ford had become the only president never to have been elected to any national office.

He started out with the nation's sympathy – but soon lost it. After a month in office, in the interests of ending the "national nightmare" of Watergate, he granted Richard Nixon a "full, free, and absolute pardon" for any criminal acts he might have committed while president. This decision caused Ford's popularity ratings to plummet: from 72 per cent approval to 49 per cent in a matter of days.

Meanwhile, it was becoming clear that he had inherited a far from healthy economy. Unemployment and inflation were soaring. Ford's response was to call for cuts in government spending. Congress – by then controlled by the Democrats – took the opposite view, calling for increased spending to boost the economy. The result was a conflict that would dominate Ford's administration: in two and a half years in office he vetoed more than 60 major bills.

Abroad, he tried – unsuccessfully – to extend emergency aid to the government of South Vietnam; oversaw the final evacuation of Americans from Vietnam; sent Marines to free the crew of the US merchant ship the Mayaguez when it was seized by the Cambodian regime; helped to bring about the 1975 Sinai Accord – an interim peace agreement between Israel and Egypt; and eased Cold War tensions by signing the 1975 Helsinki Accords, in which the US recognised the Eastern European boundaries established after the Second World War and agreed not to interfere in the internal affairs of Communist bloc nations – and they in turn agreed to respect human rights.

The troubled economy, and continuing revulsion with the Republican party over Watergate, made it unlikely that Ford would be re-elected. Yet, having narrowly beaten Ronald Reagan for the Republican nomination, he made surprising inroads into Jimmy Carter's initially huge lead in the polls. He outperformed Carter in the first of two televised debates, only to blunder in the second, stating that "There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and there never will be under a Ford administration."

Carter won narrowly, and Ford retired for what was to be the longest post-presidency since Herbert Hoover: 29 years and 11 months. He died in 2006. Although he was mocked while in office for his alleged intellectual limitations, it was subsequently widely acknowledged that he had discharged with considerable dignity a great responsibility that he had not sought. If he was not a great president, he is none the less remembered with honour as an honest man who steadied the presidential ship in one of its darkest hours.

In his own words

"I assume the presidency under extraordinary circumstances... This is an hour of history that troubles our minds and hurts our hearts."

"A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have."

"I believe that truth is the glue that holds government together, not only our government but civilisation itself. That bond, though strained, is unbroken... In all my public and private acts as President, I expect to follow my instincts of openness and candour with full confidence that honesty is always the best policy in the end."

"I'm a Ford, not a Lincoln."

"Our constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men."

"Inflation, our public enemy number one, will, unless whipped, destroy our country, our homes, our liberties, our property and finally our national pride as surely as will any well-armed wartime enemy."

In others' words

"In all the years I sat in the House, I never knew Mr Ford to make a dishonest statement nor a statement part-true and part-false. He never attempted to shade a statement, and I never heard him utter an unkind word." Martha W Griffiths

"For myself and for our Nation, I want to thank my predecessor for all he has done to heal our land." Jimmy Carter

"He's a nice fellow but he spent too much time playing football without a helmet." Lyndon B Johnson


Ford had a reputation for clumsiness, and he never recovered from an incident in 1975 when he tripped over getting out of the presidential jet in Austria.

He was a talented American football player (right), who turned down offers to play for the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears.

He was christened Gerald Rudolf Ford but signed himself Jerry with a “J” and changed the spelling of “Rudolf” to “Rudolph”.

In April 1942 he appeared on the front cover of Cosmopolitan magazine, posing in his navy uniform with his then girlfriend, the model Phyllis Brown.

Ford spent much of his retirement playing golf with Bob Hope.

He married his wife, the former dancer and model Elizabeth “Betty” AnneWarren (nee Bloomer) in 1948. Their two-day honeymoon included watching a football game and attending a Republican rally.

Betty Ford later became famous for the candour with which she publicly addressed her struggles with breast cancer and alcohol dependency. In 1982 she created the Betty Ford Center for drug and alcohol rehabilitation.

Lyndon B Johnson is often reported to have said of Ford that “He can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.” What he did say was “He can’t fart and chew gum at the same time.” The US media deliberately misrepresented the remark in the interests of decency.

Ford was the first vice-president to take office under the 25th Amendment (ratified in 1967), which allows the President to nominate a new Vice-President in the event of a vacancy. Hitherto, the Constitution made no provision for dealing with such eventualities as the resignation or death of a vice-president.

He and Jimmy Carter eventually became close friends. They agreed that whoever didn’t die first would speak at the other’s funeral – a promise honoured by Jimmy Carter in 2006.

Arts & Entertainment
Shaun Evans as Endeavour interviews a prisoner as he tries to get to the bottom of a police cover up
tvReview: Second series comes to close with startling tale of police corruption and child abuse
Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
Review: New 10-part series brims with characters and stories

Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
The star of the sitcom ‘Miranda’ is hugely popular with mainstream audiences
TVMiranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Manchester United manager David Moyes looks on during his side's defeat to Everton
footballBaines and Mirallas score against United as Everton keep alive hopes of a top-four finish
Tour de France 2014Sir Rodney Walker on organising the UK stages of this year’s race
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Brown Findlay as Mary Yellan in ‘Jamaica Inn’
TVJessica Brown Findlay on playing the spirited heroine of Jamaica Inn
YouTube clocks up more than a billion users a month
mediaEuropean rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents The ad shows Prince Charles attired for his coronation in a crown and fur mantle with his mouth covered by a criss-cross of white duct tape
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring in Liverpool's 3-2 win over Norwich
Football Vine shows Suarez writhing in pain before launching counter attack
People White House officials refuse to make comment on 275,000 signatures that want Justin Bieber's US visa revoked
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
Lukas Podolski celebrates one of his two goals in Arsenal's win over Hull
Arts & Entertainment
Quentin Tarantino, director
The speeding train nearly hit this US politican during a lecture on rail safety
news As the saying goes, you have to practice what you preach
Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (front) drives ahead of Red Bull Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia during the Chinese F1 Grand Prix at the Shanghai International circuit
Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Geography Teacher

£130 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Secondary Geography Teacher Lo...

Do you want to work in Education?

£55 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you a dynamic and energeti...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: SEN TAs, LSAs and Support Workers needed...

Private Client Senior Manager - Sheffield

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: The Sheffield office of this...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit