Gerald R. Ford and Grand Rapids

Gerald R. Ford was the 38th President of the United States, and a played a key role in the history of Grand Rapids. Although Ford was born in Nebraska he was raised in Grand Rapids throughout all his life. Ford was a student at “Grand Rapids South High School and was an all-star athlete as well as a captain of his football team, and was good enough to become a part of the All-City team of the Grand Rapids City League.” After high school graduation Ford attended the “University of Michigan where he played football and was even titled the Most Valuable Player” throughout his college career. Although Ford had the talent and skill for a professional career in football he decided to go on and attend law school at Yale instead. After gaining his law degree from Yale Ford returned home to Grand Rapids to pursue his career in law. However, things didn’t really go as planned with the outbreak of World War II.

Ford enlisted in the United States Navy and fought throughout the war, and upon his arrival home to Grand Rapids after the war was awarded “the the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, the Philippine Liberation Ribbon, the American Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.” Despite an amazing career in the Navy, Ford decided to continue where he left off, and continue practicing law in Grand Rapids. “Ford decided to run for Congress to represent his Michigan district (District 5).” Ford won the seat was a member of the House of Representatives for 25 years, holding the Grand Rapids congressional seat from 1949 to 1973.

In 1973 Ford was contemplating retirement until the current Vice President of the United States at that time resigned under allegations of income tax evasion and bribery, thus allowing President Nixon to nominate Ford for Vice President. After around two months he was named the 40th Vice President of the United States. Although Ford did very well as Vice President, Nixon resigned from presidency after the watergate scandal broke out, allowing for Ford to step up and become the 38th President of the United States. Although he accomplished a lot throughout his presidency Ford was most known for the strides he made with Japan. “Ford was the first U.S. president to visit Japan” and despite this great accomplishment he was often thought of as “clumsy, due to several trips, falls and gaffes that were immortalized in parody by Chevy Chase on Saturday Night Live.”

Although President Ford died at his home in California he still made his legacy continue throughout Grand Rapids as well as the State of Michigan. In Grand Rapids alone, there is a statue in his commemoration as well as a museum dedicated to his success and participation in the Grand Rapids community. The whole museum is dedicated to different aspects of Ford’s presidency such as life in the white house, a Cabinet room, a watergate gallery, and even different gifts that were given to Ford from different diplomats both foreign and domestic. President Ford was and still continues to be a large part of the tradition of the city of Grand Rapids.


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