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Gerald Ford

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Gerald Rudolph Ford was born Leslie Lynch King, Jr in Omaha, Nebraska in 1913 (the name change came about when his mother re-married while he was a child).

He grew up in Grand Rapids, Mich. and was an All-American footballer at college and graduated from Yale Law School.

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He served in the US navy between 1942 and 1946 and became a Republican representative from Michigan in 1948.

In 1965 he became House minority leader and permanent chair of the Republican national conventions in 1968 and 1972.

On 10 October 1973, Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned and pleaded no contest to criminal charges of tax evasion and money laundering, part of a negotiated resolution to a scheme wherein he accepted $29,500 in bribes while governor of Maryland.

Ford was appointed vice-president in December – at a time when Richard Nixon‘s re-election campaign was already being investigated for ‘dirty tricks’ – and became the 38th president of the United States the following August, upon Nixon’s resignation as a result of the Watergate scandal.

On 8 September 1974, Ford issued Proclamation 4311, which gave Nixon a full and unconditional pardon for any crimes he may have committed against the United States while President.

His first full year in office was as difficult for him as it was for the rest of the country.

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His wife Betty caused a stir when she lauded the US Supreme Court’s controversial 1973 Roe v Wade ruling legalising abortion as a “great, great decision”. Shortly thereafter, their son Jack (23) publicly admitted using marijuana.

Ford’s visit to Vladivostok in 1974 resulted in an agreement with the USSR on strategic arms limitation.

In September 1975, President Ford nearly fell victim to not one, but two assassination attempts – first in Sacramento, California by Manson follower Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, and two weeks later in San Francisco by estranged FBI informant Sara Jane Moore.

Perhaps most damaging of all the new President’s troubles were Chevy Chase’s impersonations on NBC’s new Saturday Night Live, which mercilessly lampooned his lumbering, slow-on-the-draw demeanour and his propensity for accidental pratfalls.

Domestically, Ford presided over what was then the worst economy since the Great Depression, with growing inflation and a recession during his tenure.

He was eventually defeated by Jimmy Carter in the 1976 election by a narrow margin. In August 1999 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

After experiencing health problems and being admitted to hospital four times in 2006, Ford died in his home on 26 December 2006.

He lived longer than any other US president, dying at the age of 93 years and 165 days. He is also the only US president never to have been elected as vice-president or president.