Celebrate National Veep Day with a toast to Gerald Ford

Aug. 9 is recognized as National Veep Day, a day set aside to give recognition to the succession plan of the president of the United States.

It is listed on the National Day Calendar because Aug. 9, 1974, is the day Vice President Gerald Ford became the 38th U.S. president upon the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

Most Michiganders know that Ford – who was born Leslie Lynch King Jr. in Omaha, Nebraska – grew up in Grand Rapids. His mother moved to the southwest Michigan city shortly after Ford’s birth.

So how did Leslie King become Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr.? His mother married Gerald Rudolff Ford Sr. in 1916, when the younger Ford was 2 years old. He grew up with the Ford name despite never being formally adopted by Ford Sr. The future president legally changed his name to Ford Jr. in 1935, at age 22, when he also adopted the more common spelling of his middle name.

Perhaps the most noteworthy fact about Ford’s succeeding Nixon to the Oval Office is that Ford is the only U.S. president to have never been elected to either the vice presidency or presidency. He did serve in the U.S. House of Representatives representing Michigan’s 5th Congressional District for 25 years. He attained the office of House Minority Leader before being tapped as vice president as a result of Sprio Agnew resigning from that office.

That’s just one of the little-known facts about the only U.S. president to call Michigan home. It’s just the tip of the trivia iceberg about No. 38:

  • He was the only president to attain the rank of Eagle Scout.
  • After his college football career at University of Michigan, the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers drafted Ford to play in the National Football League. Instead of playing pro football, he took a job as the boxing coach and assistant varsity football coach at Yale University and applied to its law school.
  • Ford served in the U.S. Navy as an ensign. He was stationed on the aircraft carrier USS Monterey, which participated in many battles in the Pacific Theater, including the battle to regain Wake Island.
  • In November 1963, he was appointed to the Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He was assigned to prepare a biography of Kennedy’s accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald.
  • In September 1974, Ford granted Nixon a full and unconditional pardon of any crimes he may have committed while president.
  • Ford was the target of two failed assassination attempts while he was president. In Sacramento, Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, a follower of Charles Manson, tried to shoot him. Seventeen days later Sara Jane Moore fired a shot at Ford in San Francisco, missing him by a few feet.
  • Ronald Reagan, the Republican presidential nominee in 1980, offered to name Ford as his vice president, but the arrangement fell through.
  • Ford, on his death Dec. 26, 2006, was the longest-lived president in history, at 93 years and 120 days.


Photo credit: “DSC_5193” by petejordan is licensed under CC BY 2.0


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