Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr. was an American politician who served as the 38th president of the United States from 1974 to 1977. He previously served as the leader of the Republican Party in the House of Representatives from 1965 to 1973, when he was appointed the 40th vice president by President Richard Nixon, after the resignation of Spiro Agnew. Ford succeeded to the presidency when Nixon resigned in 1974, but was defeated for election to a full term in 1976. Ford is the only person to become U.S. president without winning an election for president or vice president.
Born in Omaha, Nebraska, and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Ford attended the University of Michigan, where he was a member of the school's football team, winning two national championships. Following his senior year, he turned down offers from the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers, instead opting to go to Yale Law School. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve, serving from 1942 to 1946; he left as a lieutenant commander. Ford began his political career in 1949 as the U.S. representative from Michigan's 5th congressional district. He served in this capacity for nearly 25 years, the final nine of them as the House minority leader. In December 1973, two months after the resignation of Spiro Agnew, Ford became the first person appointed to the vice presidency under the terms of the 25th Amendment. After the subsequent resignation of President Nixon in August 1974, Ford immediately assumed the presidency.
Domestically, Ford presided over the worst economy in the four decades since the Great Depression, with growing inflation and a recession during his tenure. In one of his most controversial acts, he granted a presidential pardon to Richard Nixon for his role in the Watergate scandal. During Ford's presidency, foreign policy was characterized in procedural terms by the increased role Congress began to play, and by the corresponding curb on the powers of the president. As president, Ford signed the Helsinki Accords, which marked a move toward détente in the Cold War. With the collapse of South Vietnam nine months into his presidency, U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War essentially ended. In the 1976 Republican presidential primary campaign, Ford defeated former California Governor Ronald Reagan for the Republican nomination, but narrowly lost the presidential election to the Democratic challenger, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter.
Following his years as president, Ford remained active in the Republican Party. His moderate views on various social issues increasingly put him at odds with conservative members of the party in the 1990s and early 2000s. In retirement, Ford set aside the enmity he had felt towards Carter following the 1976 election, and the two former presidents developed a close friendship. After experiencing a series of health problems, he died at home on December 26, 2006, at age 93. Surveys of historians and political scientists have ranked Ford as a below-average president, though retrospective public polls on his time in office were more positive.