Gerald R. Ford (The American Presidents Series: The 38th President, 1974-1977)

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9780805069099: Gerald R. Ford (The American Presidents Series: The 38th President, 1974-1977)

The "accidental" president whose innate decency and steady hand restored the presidency after its greatest crisis

When Gerald R. Ford entered the White House in August 1974, he inherited a presidency tarnished by the Watergate scandal, the economy was in a recession, the Vietnam War was drawing to a close, and he had taken office without having been elected. Most observers gave him little chance of success, especially after he pardoned Richard Nixon just a month into his presidency, an action that outraged many Americans, but which Ford thought was necessary to move the nation forward.
Many people today think of Ford as a man who stumbled a lot--clumsy on his feet and in politics--but acclaimed historian Douglas Brinkley shows him to be a man of independent thought and conscience, who never allowed party loyalty to prevail over his sense of right and wrong. As a young congressman, he stood up to the isolationists in the Republican leadership, promoting a vigorous role for America in the world. Later, as House minority leader and as president, he challenged the right wing of his party, refusing to bend to their vision of confrontation with the Communist world. And after the fall of Saigon, Ford also overruled his advisers by allowing Vietnamese refugees to enter the United States, arguing that to do so was the humane thing to do.
Brinkley draws on exclusive interviews with Ford and on previously unpublished documents (including a remarkable correspondence between Ford and Nixon stretching over four decades), fashioning a masterful reassessment of Gerald R. Ford's presidency and his underappreciated legacy to the nation.

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About the Author:

Douglas Brinkley is the director of the Theodore Roosevelt Center and professor of history at Tulane University. He is the author of biographies of Henry Ford, Jimmy Carter, Dean Acheson, James Forrestal, John Kerry, and Rosa Parks, and his most recent books include The Reagan Diaries, The Great Deluge, and The Boys of Pointe du Hoc. He is a contributing editor for Vanity Fair, the Los Angeles Times Book Review, and American Heritage and a frequent contributor to The New York Times, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic Monthly. He lives in New Orleans with his wife and children.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One Michigan Upbringing The executives at Harper & Row, Publishers were smart back in 1979 when they chose a black-and-white photograph of a relaxed Gerald Ford to adorn the cover of his memoir, A Time to Heal. Surrounding Ford were wisps of smoke from his trademark pipe, creating an ethereal aura around him. You could almost hear him go puff-puff-puff between sentences. The profile of his wide forehead and prominent jaw exuded vigor while his broad shoulders reminded everybody of his football years at the University of Michigan. The photograph, in fact, conveyed an inner steadiness of purpose, his low-key demeanor offering up an oddly calming sensation for an all-powerful commander in chief. But that, in a nutshell, was the genius of Ford. His decency was palpable. Following the traumas of the Vietnam War and Watergate, he was a tonic to the consciousness of his times, a Middle American at ease with himself and the enduring values of our Constitution. "Nobody really knows that my real birthname wasn’t Ford," the thirty-eighth president recalled. "People think of me as a brand name for even-keeledness. But I had plenty of adversity growing up. I just chose to accentuate the positive."1 When Gerald Ford came into the world on July 14, 1913, in an ornate Victorian house on Woolworth Avenue in Omaha, Nebraska, he was named Leslie Lynch King Jr.2 His mother, the former Dorothy Ayer Gardner, had been a nineteen-year-old college student when she met and soon married the well-to-do Leslie King Sr. the previous year. Her infatuation faded fast: she later charged that King punched her at the least provocation. When he flew into another violent rage two weeks after she bore their son, brandishing a knife and threatening to kill both her and the baby, Dorothy packed up her belongings and her son and fled Omaha in the cold glare of an afternoon. That she did so in an era of mores that favored spousal battery over divorce bespeaks the steel in the stock behind Jerry Ford. Baby in tow, Dorothy moved back to her parents’ house in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Comfortably prosperous thanks to its well-regarded furniture manufacturing industry, the state’s second-largest city was "one of those exceedingly agreeable, homelike American cities," with rows of neat houses tucked amid rolling hills of surrounding farmland.3 But Grand Rapids was also decidedly unsophisticated, lacking large-scale municipal projects or much in the way of cultural activity. Relatively recent Dutch immigrants accounted for about half the local population; another quarter claimed Polish descent. The area’s progress was fueled largely by these newcomers eager to work hard for a share in the American dream. Among the city’s residents was a descendant of early English settlers with a locally renowned surname. However, twenty-five-year-old Gerald Rudolf Ford was not related to the pioneering automaker Henry Ford, Michigan’s leading citizen. Ford was a paint salesman with little money and less education, having dropped out of the tenth grade, but he boasted all the bedrock virtues, including honesty, charity, and a deep-seated work ethic. Dorothy Gardner King recognized his merits immediately upon meeting him at an Episcopalian church social. Ford returned her interest. He was not put off by her status as a young divorcée with a son. The couple married on February 1, 1917, and settled into a loving home. Ford, however, never took out adoption papers for his stepson. Dorothy thought adoption would lessen her chances to procure child support from King. The couple did informally rename the child Gerald Rudolf Ford Jr. (His name would be legally changed on December 3, 1935, with the son choosing to spell his middle name "Rudolph" to give it a less Germanic cast.)4 The elder Fords told their son he had a different biological father when he was twelve or thirteen. But when Leslie L. King Sr. approached Jerry at Bill Skougis’s hamburger joint, located across from the high school, where the teen worked part-time after school, and told him he was his real father, Jerry was stunned.5 Although Jerry accepted King’s invitation to lunch, the encounter left him bitter at his birth father’s long absence and resentful of his apparent wealth. King, whose own father’s holdings included several businesses, land, and railroad stock, let out that he had come to Michigan from Wyoming to pick up a new Lincoln, detouring from Detroit to Grand Rapids on a whim to look up his abandoned son.6 The revelation of his true paternity made little impact, however, on the boy’s relationship with Gerald R. Ford Sr. Even at seventeen, the strapping youth had the good sense to recognize the firm but kind man who had raised him as his "real" dad. He admired the way his adoptive father plodded tirelessly through every detail of his business, always forgoing the quick buck in favor of steady progress toward measured financial success. He and Dorothy also devoted considerable time and effort to charitable undertakings. Among many such endeavors, the couple helped establish a community center in one of the city’s racially mixed, most disadvantaged neighborhoods. Western Michigan was a resource-rich area, and young Jerry Ford grew up seeing pine logs floating down the Grand River and wooden furniture being loaded onto trains. When Grand Rapids celebrated its centennial in 1926 the city had plenty to be proud of—a first-rate public school system, a bustling railroad depot, regular air service to Detroit, four huge movie theaters, hundreds of grocery stores, five golf courses, a low tax rate, a church on practically every city block, and a ranking as the number-one tree city in America. Virtually every lawn was manicured, and homes displayed the Stars and Stripes year-round. Visitors came to Grand Rapids for conventions and reunions, often filling all eight thousand hotel rooms to capacity.7 By the late 1920s, the Ford household included four sons. Jerry and his half brothers divided their time among schoolwork, chores, and family fun. Because Michigan was blessed with blue lakes and pristine forests, many hours were spent outdoors. Early in the autumn of 1929 Gerald Ford Sr. founded the Ford Paint & Varnish Company with a partner and moved his brood into a big new house on Lake Drive in prosperous East Grand Rapids. The stock-market crash that October decimated his new venture and drained his family’s carefully kept savings. The Fords left their fine new house for cheaper quarters. A Dreiserian grimness now entered the Ford household as they struggled to avoid debt. But during the Great Depression no one in the Ford family ever went to bed hungry—a tribute to the probity of Dorothy and Gerald Ford Sr. and their sons. In the first half of the twentieth century, Michigan was largely a Republican state. In Grand Rapids, most folks seemed to accept that they had been born into the GOP fold, and just stayed there. Long before Gerald Ford Jr. was old enough to understand the positions or even recognize the leaders of America’s two main political parties, he considered himself a diehard Republican. When Ford was growing up, Michigan’s leading political lights were its two U.S. senators, James Couzens and Arthur H. Vandenberg (from Grand Rapids)—both Republicans, naturally. Couzens, who had made a spectacular fortune as a founding partner in the Ford Motor Company, was irascible and politically independent. The consequences of Couzens’s deviation from the party by supporting Rooseve

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Book Description Times Books. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Hardcover. 224 pages. The accidental president whose innate decency and steady hand restored the presidency after its greatest crisisWhen Gerald R. Ford entered the White House in August 1974, he inherited a presidency tarnished by the Watergate scandal, the economy was in a recession, the Vietnam War was drawing to a close, and he had taken office without having been elected. Most observers gave him little chance of success, especially after he pardoned Richard Nixon just a month into his presidency, an action that outraged many Americans, but which Ford thought was necessary to move the nation forward. Many people today think of Ford as a man who stumbled a lot--clumsy on his feet and in politics--but acclaimed historian Douglas Brinkley shows him to be a man of independent thought and conscience, who never allowed party loyalty to prevail over his sense of right and wrong. As a young congressman, he stood up to the isolationists in the Republican leadership, promoting a vigorous role for America in the world. Later, as House minority leader and as president, he challenged the right wing of his party, refusing to bend to their vision of confrontation with the Communist world. And after the fall of Saigon, Ford also overruled his advisers by allowing Vietnamese refugees to enter the United States, arguing that to do so was the humane thing to do. Brinkley draws on exclusive interviews with Ford and on previously unpublished documents (including a remarkable correspondence between Ford and Nixon stretching over four decades), fashioning a masterful reassessment of Gerald R. Fords presidency and his underappreciated legacy to the nation. This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Hardcover. Bookseller Inventory # 9780805069099

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