Gerald R. Ford   (1913-2006)

By George Tames, 1975. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Frances O. Tames. © George Tames/The New York Times/Redux.

Thirty-eighth President, 1974-1977

Gerald Ford was perfectly happy with his lot as a Michigan congressman and House minority leader. When revelations of misconduct forced Spiro Agnew to resign the vice presidency in 1973, however, Ford's congressional career abruptly ended with his appointment by President Richard Nixon to succeed Agnew. Within a year, Ford's political fortunes took yet another sharp turn. On August 9, 1974, with Nixon himself forced to resign from office amid charges of wrongdoing, Ford became the only unelected Vice President to succeed to the White House. Ford's pardoning of Nixon shortly thereafter drew angry criticism. Nevertheless, Ford's conciliatory leadership succeeded in restoring a much-eroded confidence in the presidency. Summarizing the orderly way he came to office despite the unsettling events that put him there, he had said at his swearing-in: "Our Constitution works." In large measure, it was Ford who insured that it did.