Gerald Rudolph Ford became our country's 38th President in August of 1974. He was the first and as of now the only President to have not been elected to office. He attained the Presidency by virtue of default when Richard Nixon was forced to resign following the Watergate scandal. Although the manner in which Ford became President is unique, the path he traveled to the office is not unlike the 37 Presidents that preceded him.
Gerald R. Ford was born Leslie Lynch King on July 14, 1913 in Omaha, Nebraska. His parents Dorothy and Leslie King remained married only a couple of years after Fords birth. His mother left his father and took her son to live with her parents in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It was there that she met Gerald R. Ford, the owner of a paint and varnish store, at a church function. They married and Leslie took his stepfathers name.
Gerald Ford Sr. paint store did well enough to support the family through the early years. He worked hard, paid himself the same salary that he paid his employees and taught young Gerald the value of work. As a child "Jerry"ÃÂ, as the President was called as a youth, worked in his fathers paint stores filling up paint cans and making labels. The family business was profitable enough to allow the Ford's a nice home in a good neighborhood. While teaching his children the value of a strong work ethic, Gerald Ford Sr. also introduced his children into the world of sports. Jerry soon found that he excelled at these activities, especially football.
The stock market crash in 1929 took it's toll on the family business. The Fords were able to salvage the business but had their home foreclosed on. They were forced to move to a smaller house in a less desirable neighborhood. Because of the move, Jerry was going to have to change schools during the middle of his high school career. He wanted to continue to play football and attend classes at his old school, he petitioned the local school board for this opportunity. In order to be at school on time he was required to leave for school several hours early so that he would make it across town in time. He then made the long trek home after football practice. Along the way he picked up an after school job at a local diner, it was at this job that he met his biological father for the first and only time. Ford says that a man came up to him and introduced himself as his father and asked if he would be willing to go to lunch. During the lunch Ford said that he felt angered and had wanted to express this to him but did not. His step father had taught him that it was sometimes better to keep your thoughts to yourself and to not let the situation get the best of you. Ford has said that his stepfather was the most influential person in his life. He had taught him to work hard, be honest and to keep a cool head. These traits served him well in his future career as a politician.
After high school Gerald Ford attended the University of Michigan on a football scholarship. He studied economics and political science while becoming captain of the football team. He was an All American center and was good enough to be offered to professional contracts by the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions. In those days, professional football was not as lucarative as it is now and Ford declined the two offers. He went to Yale University to be an assistant football coach and to attend Law school. At Yale his advisors told him they did not feel as though he was capable of working full time while going to school. Despite their lack of encouragement, Ford went on to finish in the upper third of his class.