He was the nation's first appointed Vice President, chosen in October 1973 by President Richard Nixon under the terms of the recently ratified 25th Amendment to succeed the disgraced Spiro Agnew.
He became President after the resignation of Richard Nixon over the Watergate scandal.
He distinguished himself as both a student and football player in high school and at the University of Michigan. Ford then gained admittance to Yale University's law school, from which he graduated in 1941.
Ford worked hard to maintain détente with the Soviet Union but was unable to deliver the major arms agreement he sought. Nevertheless, on Ford's watch, the United States, the Soviets, and more than thirty other nations signed the Helsinki Accords, a hallmark of détente.
On Sunday morning, September 8, 1974, President Ford issued his pardon proclamation, declaring that Richard M. Nixon could not obtain a fair trial until considerable time had lapsed. Ford explained that the national "tranquility" would be unduly disrupted by "bringing to trial a former President of the United States."
As a result, Ford's popularity plummeted from 72 to 49 percent less than a month after coming into office. Politically he never recovered.
Ford ran for election two years later, in 1976, and lost to Jimmy Carter, the former Democratic governor of Georgia.
He was born Leslie Lynch King Jr on July 14, 1913, in Omaha, Nebraska. His mother married Gerald Ford, who adopted the boy and gave him his name.
Ford inherited a presidency presiding over a much-troubled nation. The wounds of the Vietnam War had not yet begun to heal, President Nixon's Watergate scandal had made a mockery of once-respected institutions, and the American standard of living was being steadily eroded by runaway inflation.
He was the first vice president in American history to succeed to the nation's highest office because of the resignation of a president, and he was the first person to occupy the White House without being elected either president or vice president.