Gerald R. Ford


Gerald R. Ford


In 1976, Ford lost his bid for the presidency to Jimmy Carter by only a small margin. He consoled himself by noting that he had lost “a close one,” but he was tremendously disappointed all the same.

A few days after Jimmy Carter’s inauguration, the Fords flew to Houston to attend a dinner in memory of Vince Lombardi, the great football coach. The dinner was a benefit to raise money for cancer research, and Ford had agreed to be guest of honor when he was still President. As the plane neared Houston, Ford began brooding about his recent defeat and wondering whether the Houston fund-raisers would be let down by having an ex-President rather than a President at their banquet.

Betty and Jerry Ford

“They thought they’d be getting a sitting President,” he ruefully told his wife, Betty.

“Don’t worry, darling,” his vivacious wife said consolingly, “it’s me they’re coming to see.”

Biographical Note: 

Gerald Rudolph Ford was the 38th president of the U.S. On Aug. 9, 1974, Gerald Ford became the first vice president in American history to succeed to the nation’s highest office because of the resignation of a president. Ford was also the first man to occupy the White House without being elected either president or Vice President. Both events resulted from two of the worst scandals in American political history: the forced resignation of Vice President Spiro T. Agnew after he pleaded nolo contendere to a charge of income tax evasion, and the Watergate affair, which ultimately led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

Ford’s rise to become the 38th president followed a long career in the U. S. House of Representatives, where he was liked and respected by his colleagues. When he became president, his decency and integrity went far toward healing the wounds of Watergate. Inheriting a crippled economy ravaged by inflation and unemployment, Ford pursued cautious policies that achieved a partial recovery. He sought accommodations with the Soviet Union and China, and he helped preserve a tenuous Middle Eastern peace. But public desire for more vigorous leadership led to his defeat in the 1976 presidential election.