Thursday, September 30, 2010

President Ford and Liberty

President Gerald Ford was born on July 14, 1913, but of course he was not the president then.  In fact, he was not even named Gerald Ford then.  It turns out that when he was born, his name was Leslie Lynch King, Jr.  But then what happened was that Baby Leslie's mother left his father 16 days after the baby was born.  And the reason she did that was because her husband used to hit her, and also he threatened to kill her and the nursemaid and the baby with a butcher knife.  So it seemed like a good idea to get away from there.

Anyway, the mother of the president-to-be went and lived with some relatives for a while and then she eventually married Gerald Rudolff Ford, and they changed the name of their son to Gerald Rudolf Ford, Jr., even though his stepfather never officially adopted him.  And President Ford grew up in a happy home in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with three half-brothers.  But here's something funny to think about:  if the baby's name had never been changed, he would have ended up being President King, and that would make him have two titles instead of just one!

While he was growing up, Mr. Ford became an Eagle Scout, and he played football in high school, and he did some boxing.  Then he went to the University of Michigan, where he also played football.  And another thing he liked to do was play golf.

He graduated with a degree in economics, and then he got a law degree from Yale in 1941.  After that, he went back to Grand Rapids and opened a law office, and he worked to try to keep America out of the war, but after Pearl Harbor happened, he enlisted in the Navy.  For a while, he taught at a pre-flight school, and then he was on a battleship from 1943 until 1944.

After the war, in 1948, Mr. Ford married Elizabeth Warren, who was mostly called "Betty."  She was a fashion consultant and before that, she had been a dancer.  They had four kids whose names were Michael, John, Steven, and Susan.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ford got elected to the House of Representatives, and he had that job for 25 years.  He was really good at getting people to work out their differences, and everybody thought he was a very nice man.  Eventually, he got to be the House Minority Leader while President Johnson was in office.  And after that, when Mr. Nixon got to be the president, Mr. Ford helped him get laws through Congress.

Then a surprising thing happened, which was that Vice-President Spiro Agnew resigned because of some bad stuff he had done back in Maryland.  So Mr. Ford got chosen to be the new vice-president.  And then awhile later, President Nixon also resigned because of some scandal thing called Watergate, and Mr. Ford became President Ford.  Which meant he was the only person ever in U.S. history to be the vice-president and also the president without getting elected either time.

But now I can tell you the most important thing about President Ford, which was that he had a golden retriever named Liberty.  But when he first got to be president, he didn't have a dog.  All the Ford family had was a Siamese cat named Shan.  In the past, the Fords had had golden retrievers, and one lived to be 13 years old, and the next one lived to be 9.  So Mr. Ford's daughter, Susan, and the White House photographer, David Kennerly, decided that the president really needed a dog to keep him company while he was doing his lonely and stressful job.

So they got an 8-month-old puppy from a breeder in Minnesota who had a lot of champion dogs.  And this puppy's name was Honor's Foxfire Liberty Hume, and she was born on February 8, 1974.  Mr. Ford decided to call her "Liberty," because that seemed like a good name for a First Dog.

Anyway, Liberty really loved her dad, and she didn't care whether he was the president or just an ordinary person.  She liked to follow him around, and she hung out with him in the Oval Office.  Also she got photographed on the south lawn, which seems to be a place that every First Dog gets its photo taken.  And Liberty had a rubber stamp with her pawprint, so that she could autograph her photos for her fans.

One time President Ford took Liberty out late at night for a little walk on the White House lawn, and he didn't tell the Secret Service he was going out, so they locked the doors and the elevator, and the president and his dog could not get back in.  But they made a lot of noise in the stairwell, and then the guards let them come in.

Oh, and here's a clever trick that Liberty could do.  If her dad was talking to somebody in the Oval Office, and he didn't really want to talk to them anymore, he gave Liberty a signal, and she would go over to the guest and wag her tail and that would make a break in the conversation.

On September 14, 1975, Liberty had a litter of 8 puppies in the White House, and everyone was very proud of her.  Mr. Ford kept one of these puppies, who was named Misty.

In the 1976 election, President Ford ran against Jimmy Carter, and he lost the election, probably because people never quite forgave President Ford for pardoning President Nixon.  Anyway, after that, Mr. Ford went back home to Michigan, and he did a lot of good things, including a lot of stuff for the Republican Party.  And he also wrote his autobiography.  He and President Carter even got to be good friends, and they did a lot of things together.

President Ford died on December 26, 2006, and at that time he was 93 years old, which made him the oldest former president ever.  


  1. There's a politician I always liked....not making a comment on his politics; but he and Jimmy Carter always seemed to be good men to me. The main reason I liked GF is that his family were fond of the outdoors and they liked...make that loved dogs!! :)
    Love, AP

  2. Mom also liked Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, but she voted for Mr. Carter instead of for Mr. Ford because she's mostly a Democrat. I wasn't even born then, so it's all ancient history, if you ask me!
    Love, Piper