Ford was born by the name of Leslie Lynch King. His mother left his father when he was two years old and moved to Michigan where his mother married Gerald R. Ford Sr., and he adopted his stepfather's name. Ford studied liberal arts at the University of Michigan on a football scholarship. In 1935 Ford accepted a position at Yale University as assistant coach, where he later studied law and in 1941 he received his law degree as top third of his class. He then practiced law until the Second World War when in 1942, he enlisted in the army, and in December 1945 he was discharged as a lieutenant. He returned home where his political career started to take off. In 1948 Ford was elected to Congress and he was in the House of Representatives from 3 January 1949 to 6 December 1973. Ford became friends with Richard Nixon while in Congress and he was one of the first people who gave support to the idea of Nixon as Eisenhower's running mate in 1952. In 1961 Ford was appointed Chairman of the House of Representatives Conference, which was the number three leadership position in the party. In 1963 Ford became leader of the House, a post he would hold for eighteen years. In 1968 Nixon considered very seriously to add Ford to the ticket because of his increased popularity, but it was Ford's ambition to become Speaker of the House. When the Watergate scandals became public in 1972, Ford remained loyal to Nixon. Vice-president Agnew was mixed up in some scandals of his own and was forced to resign on 10 October 1973. He pleaded no contest to the charges of income tax evasion. Nixon was the first president to act under the twenty-fifth Amendment, and offered Ford the job of vice-president. Ford was sworn is as vice-president on 6 December 1973, and on 9 August 1974 Ford became the thirty-eighth president after Nixon was also forced to resign.
One month after Ford took office and after a lot of debate, he decided to give Nixon a full pardon. He thought that this was best for the country, but this decision made him lose the 1976 elections. Ford had a very unenviable presidency. He inherited an administration plagued by war in the Middle East, inflation, and fears of energy shortages. He also had to restore the credibility of the president and he had to try to rebuild the confidence in government after the Watergate scandals. During his administration tax and spending cuts were introduced to stimulate the economy, nuclear arms limitations were agreed with the Soviet Union, and aid was provided to Egypt and Israel resulting in continued peace. In 1976, Ford chose Robert Dole as his running mate in the reelection campaign, but they lost to Carter. It was one of the closest elections in history. After President Ford left the White House, he continued in a role as an elder statesman speaking out on major issues of the day and lending his expertise to both public and private sectors. In 1979 he published his autobiography, A Time to Heal. President Ford was on the board of several major American corporations.