Gerald R. Ford, Jr. was born July 14, 1918 with the name of Leslie Lynch, Jr. His biological father did not choose to be a part of his son’s life. The divorce was finalized before he was one year old. The details behind the scene could easily have turned tragic.
His mother, Dorothy Gardner, the 20 year-old daughter of the town mayor, married the brother of her college roommate. Deeply in love, she soon realized her husband had a dark side. During the honeymoon, she discovered she was married to a man in possession of a charming exterior that masked a vicious temper bubbling just beneath the surface. He threatened her, often exhibiting dangerous behavior.
Discovering she was pregnant, and fearing her husband, Dorothy obtained help from the child’s paternal grandparents. She was cared for in a room in their mansion with her newly-born son. One day the biological father stormed into the room with a butcher knife, and threatened to kill her, the baby, and the nurse. Police were called. Later, in an Omaha courtroom, a divorce was granted, a rare event for 1913. The court ordered the biological father to pay alimony and child support. He adamantly refused, paying nothing.
A Gracious Love
So, it was left to mother and son to journey through the world. Dorothy met an amiable bachelor employed as a paint salesman, and during the following months, fell in love again. When her son was in his 2nd year, she married Gerald Rudolph Ford. Loving Dorothy, he desired to adopt Leslie as his own son, renaming him Gerald R. Ford, Jr.
Later the couple had three additional sons, but the baby was his namesake. As her son grew, Dorothy discovered that he possessed a fiery temper. She had an idea, and hoped her solution was workable. When his temper flared, she made him repeat the poem, “IF,” authored by Rudyard Kipling. Mother’s strategy soothed the young man’s temper in time. The final stanza of this moving poem is given here:
“If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue / Or walk with kings, nor lose the common touch / If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you / If all men count with you, but none too much / If you can fill the unforgiving minute / With sixty seconds worth of distance run / Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it / And, which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son” Rudyard Kipling
Unification of a Family
The next few years increased the family by three more sons. Gerald did not learn the true story of his roots until he was twelve, but no issue was made of it. They possessed family closeness.
Choices and Achievements
He attended public schools and played football in high school. Viable possibilities for professional football lay ahead, but he opted for law, working his way through Yale Law School. He received his degree in 1941, and was admitted to the bar. Briefly involved in the practice of law, he then chose to join the Navy in 1942 after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Navy Life and Into Politics
The USS Monterrey, his Navy ship, took part in the recapture of the Philippines. Departing the Navy as a Lieutenant Commander, he returned to law. A few weeks before his election to Congress in 1948, he married Elizabeth Bloomer. They were to have four children, Michael, John, Steven, and Susan. In 1949 Ford began his term as a member of the US House of Representatives during which he was re-elected twelve times. In 1973, he was appointed Vice-President under Richard Nixon, due to the resignation of Spiro Agnew to avoid criminal charges. History was written as Gerald R. Ford assumed the office on December 6, 1973.
Assuming the Presidency, Pardoning Richard Nixon, and Defeat for Re-election
On September 8, 1974, President Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon. His decision was couched with the words, “It could go on and on and on or someone must write the end to it. I have concluded that only I can do that, and I must.”
It has been often stated that this action cost Gerald Ford the election when he lost his bid for the Presidency to Jimmy Carter from Georgia. This is undoubtedly true, but Gerald Ford had become a man who did what he thought he should do for the nation, and he did precisely that, with no regrets.
Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum
Unlike other Presidential libraries, the museum content is geographically separate from the library /archives. The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and houses the 1974-77 papers of President Ford and those of his White House staff, papers of Mrs. Ford, and more. The Museum is located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The permanent exhibit highlights the lives of President and Mrs. Ford.
Death of a President
Gerald Ford died at the age of 93. He is the longest living President in American history. He is survived by his wife, Betty Ford, three sons, Michael Gerald Ford, Steven Meigs Ford, Jack Gardner Ford, and one daughter, Susan Elizabeth Ford. His unique legacy was ‘rising to the occasion during a difficult time.’ President Ford, America thanks you for notable service in our time of need.