Ranked #34: Under extremely rare conditions, Gerald Ford became president without being elected to the office. Because of the collapse of the Nixon administration, he never stood a chance to get anything substancial done. It also didn't help that he pardoned Nixon of his crimes.
Summary: By almost all accounts, Ford was open, sincere, welcoming, unselfish and honest. He authentically liked people, which is rare for a guy who spent 30-plus years fighting political wars. Somehow, through all that, he made very few enemies in his career. According to a Grand Rapids reporter and friend, Bud Vestal, “Ford never in his life tried to outsmart anybody. But if from intellectual hubris a tormentor gave him a chance, Jerry would out-dumb him, swiftly and deadpan. It might be days before the attacker would realize he’d been had.”
Bio: Ford was 6 feet tall and 195 pounds as President. He more or less maintained his youthful trim, muscular appearance throughout his term. He was considered clumsy by the press and was made fun of by comedians while the truth was that he was the most athletic President of the 20th century. In fact he was a former all-star college football player who turned down an offer to play professionally and was also a male model who appeared on the cover of a 1942 Cosmopolitan magazine. He enjoyed swimming, golf, tennis and skiing. Before breakfast, he would often ride an exercise bike and lift weights.
Ford will go down in history as the only President to never be elected to the office. He spent 24 years as a Congressman in the US House of Representatives. It was in 1973 that he became the first Vice President appointed to that office, after Spiro Agnew resigned. Then in 1974, after President Nixon resigned, he became the President. To say the least, this was not to be an easy term in office for him. For starters, he pardoned Nixon of all crimes committed against the US. After which matters did not get better, as there were two attempts to assassinate him. One attempt was committed by a former Charlie Manson follower by the name of Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme who apparently got so close to him that she could have whispered in his ear. Lucky for Ford, there was no bullet in the chamber of her pistol despite having a full clip.
Ford attempted to run in the 1976 election for President. He was challenged for the Republican nomination by Ronald Reagan, and gained the nomination by a thin margin. The general election was also close and Ford lost by a 57 Electoral Vote margin. Overall, Ford’s Presidency was a massive challenge. He had to deal with a failing economy, a collapse in South Vietnam and a Democrat-controlled Congress. He also had to deal with congressional Republicans and Democrats who were trying to take back power from the executive branch, citing a weak presidency. Ford, for the most part, focused on getting the country past the general mistrust created by the Watergate crisis. With all of these challenges, one important thing that Ford accomplished was that the the American people believed he was a decent, trustworthy man who brought honor back the White House, restoring faith in the executive branch of government.
Pros: Brought back honor to the White House. A decent and good man.
Cons: Poor American economy. Below average foreign policy. Pardoned Nixon.
Born: July 14, 1913, Omaha, Nebraska
Died: December 26, 2006 (aged 93) in Rancho Mirage, California
Term: August 9, 1974 to January 20, 1977 (assumed term)
Political Party: Republican
Education: University of Michigan (1935); Yale University Law School (1941)