Gerald Rudolph Ford (1913-2006)
"I'm a Ford, not a Lincoln."
Gerald Ford was born with the name Leslie King in Omaha, Nebraska. His parents divorced after his birth and eventually his mother remarried. In 1935 he formally changed his name to that of his adopted father, legally becoming Gerald R. Ford, Jr.
During his boyhood he joined the Boy Scouts, attaining the rank of Eagle Scout--the only president ever to hold that distinction.
He was a star football player at Grand Rapids High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He also played football for the University of Michigan, where he was known for being an excellent defensive player (check out his football photo at Wikipedia, it's pretty cool). His number--48--has been retired by U of M.
He graduated in 1935 with a degree in political science and economics. He turned down offers to play pro ball from both the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers so he could take a coaching position at Yale and apply to its law school.
He graduated from law school in 1941. During the 40s he also worked occasionally as a model. He received a commission as an ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve in 1942. The details of his military service are beyond the scope of this post, but can be found easily. For his service, he earned the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with nine engagement stars for operations in the Gilbert Islands, Bismarck Archipelago, Marshall Islands, Asiatic and Pacific carrier raids, Hollandia, Marianas, Western Carolines, Western New Guinea, and the Leyte Operation. He also received the Philippine Liberation Medal with two bronze stars for Leyte and Mindoro, as well as the American Campaign and World War II Victory Medals.
Ford became a congressional representative for the Grand Rapids district in 1949 and held that post for 24 years. During that time, he was a member of the House Appropriations Committee and the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. In 1963 he was elected Minority Leader. He was also appointed to the Warren Commission.
In 1973, Spiro Agnew resigned his position as Vice President, and Ford was nominated to fill the post in accordance with the vice-presidential vacancy provision of the 25th Amendment. When Richard Nixon resigned from the presidency in 1974, Vice President Gerald Ford became president. Thus he is the only president to hold that position without being elected to it.
As far as I can tell, Gerald Ford is the only president to pose for his official presidential portrait with a pipe.
In 1974, he gave former president Richard Nixon a full pardon, which cost him a lot of support and probably even cost him his chance at being elected during the next presidential run. At present, many believe that pardoning Nixon was actually the best thing he could have done for the country, although it was probably the worst thing he could have done to himself personally at the time.
In 1974 he was also voted People magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive."
His tenure in office was an eventful and perhaps even chaotic time. Most notable was the end of the Vietnam War and the fall of Saigon in 1975. In that year he also survived two assassination attempts.
In 1976, Ford defeated Ronald Reagan for the Republican nomination for president, but then lost in the general election to history's greatest monster. He remained close friends with Carter for the rest of his life.
On November 12, 2006 he officially became the longest-lived president by surpassing Ronald Reagan. Ford had the second-longest post-presidential life, after Herbert Hoover.
In my local area, Ford is also (in)famous for what is referred to as The Great Tamale Incident.
Gerald Ford passed away at his home on December 26, 2006.
See also Gerald Ford's Official Whitehouse Biography.
Thanks to JR of A Keyboard and a .45 for emailing me the photo at the top.