Ford, Gerald Rudolph, 1913–2006, 38th president of the United States (1974–77), b. Omaha, Nebr. He was originally named Leslie Lynch King, Jr., but his parents were divorced when he was two, and when his mother remarried he assumed the name of his stepfather. Admitted to the Michigan bar in 1941, he was a member (1949–73) of the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served as the Republican minority leader (1965–73). Ford gained a reputation as a loyal Republican who supported his party on virtually all issues. A consistent proponent of a large defense budget, he led the Republican opposition to the Great Society programs of President Lyndon B. Johnson. He was permanent chairman of the Republican National Convention in 1968 and 1972.
In Oct., 1973, Ford was nominated by President Richard Nixon to succeed the disgraced Spiro T. Agnew as vice president of the United States; on Dec. 6, 1973, he was sworn in, becoming the first person to be appointed to the office under the procedures specified by the 25th Amendment. As vice president, Ford traveled widely around the country, attempting to rally for the Nixon administration the support that had eroded as a result of the Watergate affair. His tenure as vice president was short, however; when Nixon resigned on Aug. 9, 1974, Ford became president. He pledged to continue Nixon's foreign policy and to work to curb inflation. One month later he issued a complete pardon to Nixon for all criminal acts perpetrated by Nixon while he was president. In the 1974 congressional elections the Republicans suffered substantial losses, attributable both to Watergate and to the economy. To deal with the economic recession, Ford proposed (1975) tax cuts, limited social spending (with continued high defense expenditure), and heavy taxation on imported oil. The Democratic Congress opposed many elements of the program. Ford was defeated by Democrat Jimmy Carter in the 1976 presidential election.
See Ford's Selected Speeches, ed. by M. V. Doyle (1973); C. Fitzgerald, ed., Gerald R. Ford (1988).
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