|Gerald Ford, the 38th President of the United States|
1. Gerald Ford was born Leslie Lynch King, Jr., in Nebraska in 1913, in the home of his wealthy grandfather, who was a prominent Omaha businessman. His parents separated just a few weeks after his birth, however, due to his father's alcoholism and abusiveness. Taken to Michigan, his mother gained full custody of her child and remarried in 1916 to salesman Gerald Rudolff Ford. Though he was never adopted by his step-father, the couple almost immediately began calling their child Gerald Rudolff Ford, Jr. His name was not officially changed, however, until 1935, at which time he altered the spelling of the middle name to "Rudolph."
2. A Boy Scout and later captain of his high school football team, Ford attended the University of Michigan, where he became a star defensive lineman and won two national championships in the 1930's. He would later specifically request the Michigan fight song to be played at his funeral. After graduating with a degree in Economics, he attended Yale Law School before setting up a law practice in Michigan.
3. Ford served in the Navy on an aircraft carrier during World War II, before returning home to his law practice in 1946. Shortly thereafter, he married Elizabeth Warren, a former model and dancer who had already been married and divorced once. By this time, Ford had decided to run for Congress, and the couple decided to put off their marriage until just before the election, fearing that marrying a divorced ex-dancer during the campaign would hurt his chances of winning a seat. The marriage happened in October, 1948, and Ford was elected to his first congressional term a few weeks later.
4. Gerald Ford served 13 consecutive terms in the House of Representatives, and became known as a moderate and mediator. Significantly, he never authored any major legislation during his time in Congress, choosing instead to work behind the scenes.
5. Ford was a member of the Warren Commission, which was slated by Lyndon Johnson to investigate the Kennedy assassination. A strong believer in the single-gunman theory, it was later discovered that Ford had worked secretly with the FBI to keep them informed of the commission's investigations, sometimes even reporting on other commissioners who were skeptical of the FBI's single-gunman theory.
6. During the mid-1960's, Ford was elected House Minority Leader for the Republicans, a position which he continued to hold after Richard Nixon was elected. Johnson and Ford frequently butted heads on issues of policy, with Johnson once quipping that Ford had played "too much football without a helmet."
7. In October of 1973, Spiro Agnew, vice-president under Nixon, resigned amid a bribery and tax evasion scandal. In such a situation, the 25th Amendment gives the president the authority to nominate a new vice-president, but the nominee must be approved by both houses of Congress. Nixon nominated Ford, and Ford was overwhelmingly approved by Congress. Ford took his oath of office on December 6, 1973.
8. Ford served as vice-president for only eight months. In early August of the following year, new evidence came out in what was by then the 2-year investigation of the Watergate scandal, and Nixon abruptly resigned. Ford was sworn in as president on August 9, 1974, the only person in U.S. history to assume the presidency without being elected to either the presidency or the vice-presidency.
9. Ford's 2-year presidency has generally gone down in history as unfavorable, aided largely by the fact that he unconditionally pardoned Richard Nixon about a month after entering office. Ford believed it was the best thing to do for the country's political state of affairs; most Americans saw it as unjust political cronyism at its worst, and Ford was even accused of making a backroom bargain with Nixon, promising a pardon if Nixon would resign. During the 1976 presidential campaign, Ford barely survived a run from Ronald Reagan for the Republican nomination, then went on to lose narrowly to Jimmy Carter.
10. Gerald Ford lived another 30 years after leaving the White House, and continued to be active in the public eye up until his death in 2006. He lived long enough to become the longest living president in U.S. history, surpassing Ronald Reagan. A moderate to the end, in his later years, Ford spoke in favor of both abortion and gay rights, and criticized the Bush administration for the war in Iraq.