A man known for honor, the 38th President, Gerald Rudolph Ford (1913-2006) was born Leslie Lynch King, Jr. on this day in Omaha, Nebraska. His mother remarried and renamed Ford after his stepfather.
"My stepfather was a magnificent person," Ford remembered. "And my mother equally wonderful. So I couldn't have written a better prescription for a superb family upbringing."
Self-described as "disgustingly sane," an eagle scout and natural athlete who received offers to play pro football with the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers, Ford always had the reputation of being a nice, honest guy who approached life with good-humor and optimism.
He served 12 terms in the House of Representatives, never receiving less than 60% of the vote, and was minority leader in 1973 when Richard Nixon picked him to replace Spiro Agnew as vice president. Eight months later, Ford would replace Nixon, who resigned because of the Watergate scandal.
"I was dumbfounded by the stupidity of the Watergate break-in," Ford admitted.
In foreign affairs, Ford was the first president to visit Japan while in office and also negotiated an arms agreement with the Soviet Union on strategic weapons. "Indecision is often worse than wrong action," he once said.
His most controversial political decision was the pardoning of Nixon. "Our long national nightmare is over," he said at the time. Despite the furor of the decision that cost him the election to Jimmy Carter, the noble Ford said in retrospect, "I remain convinced that pardoning Nixon was the right thing to do."
Don't look back.