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Gerald R. Ford

An Honorable Life

James Cannon

Publication Year: 2013

“Not since Harry Truman succeeded Franklin D. Roosevelt twenty-nine years earlier had the American people known so little about a man who had stepped forward from obscurity to take the oath of office as President of the United States.” —from Chapter 4 This is a comprehensive narrative account of the life of Gerald Ford written by one of his closest advisers, James Cannon. Written with unique insight and benefiting from personal interviews with President Ford in his last years, Gerald R. Ford: An Honorable Life is James Cannon’s final look at the simple and honest man from the Midwest.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-8


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pp. viii-x

Part 1

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Chapter 1 - A Crisis of the Regime

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pp. 3-7

The day: Thursday, August 8, 1974. The hour: 11:10 a.m. With one fateful question dominating his thoughts, Gerald Ford waited in the sunny and deceptively calm reception room next to the Office of the President of the United States. The question: would Richard Nixon resign, or would he fight on and put himself, ...

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Chapter 2 - Resolve

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pp. 8-19

On the two-minute ride out the southwest gate and onto West Executive Avenue, Ford regained full control over his emotions. His earlier anxiety about what Nixon might do quickly turned into resolution about what he, the new President-to-be, must do. ...

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Chapter 3 - Transformation

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pp. 20-36

On the day he was to become President, Ford rose as usual soon after daybreak. He was rested. He was serenely confident. He was ready to accept the Constitutional responsibility thrust upon him by the mindless error of a President and the prescient wisdom of the legislators who wrote and passed the Twenty-Fifth Amendment. ...

Part 2

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Chapter 4 - Challenges

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pp. 39-57

Not since Harry Truman succeeded Franklin D. Roosevelt twenty-nine years earlier had the American people known so little about a man who had stepped forward from obscurity to take the oath of office as President of the United States. ...

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Chapter 5 - Advancing

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pp. 58-75

As American forces endured defeat after defeat on land, at sea, and in the air—Manila, Wake Island, Guam, all lost; the USS Houston sunk in the Java Sea; eighty-five P-40s and eighteen B-17s destroyed in the Philippines—Ford grew more and more impatient to put on a uniform and join the fight. ...

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Chapter 6 - Advancing

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pp. 76-91

Ford first joined the House Appropriations Committee at a special session of Congress on November 27, 1950. The date is significant, for the arc of Ford’s ascent to the Presidency began with that event. ...

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Chapter 7 - Passage

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pp. 92-107

The Republican National Convention of 1968 opened in Miami on August 5, 1968, to choose the party’s candidate for President. Richard Nixon, who had assiduously collected and banked the most delegates, was back, after eight years, as the near-certain nominee. ...

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Chapter 8 - Revelations

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pp. 108-133

The 93rd Congress opened on January 3, 1973, and elected Carl Albert of Oklahoma to his second term as Speaker, and Jerry Ford to his fifth term as Minority Leader. The speeches were unexceptionable. In the Senate, Majority Leader Mike Mansfield called for “complete disinvolvement” from Vietnam. ...

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Chapter 9 - Confirmation

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pp. 134-157

With Ford’s nomination, events moved swiftly on three parallel courses. In the House, on the morning after Nixon made the announcement, Bella Abzug, a splenetic New Yorker representing lower Manhattan, barged into the office of Speaker Albert. “Get off your goddamned ass,” she yelled, “We can take this Presidency.” ...

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Chapter 10 - Conflicted

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pp. 158-179

Ford liked his new job at first. Always comfortable with his fortune in life, his sunny outlook and buoyant spirits were lifted even higher by his election to the Vice Presidency. He was grateful that he had come into the office by such a commanding majority of his colleagues. To him, if to nobody else, it was the equivalent of an electoral landslide. ...

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Chapter 11 - Proposition

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pp. 180-200

“It is urgent that I see you as soon as possible,” Haig said. “Come over now,” Ford said. Hartmann, who neither liked nor trusted Haig, suggested that either he or Marsh be present as a witness to whatever Haig might tell Ford, or ask of him. ...


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pp. 212-227

Part 3

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Chapter 12 - Taking Charge

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pp. 203-219

Haig, assuming he would continue to wield the authority with Ford that he had in the Nixon White House, was waiting at the Oval Office door when Ford arrived at 8:30 a.m. that Saturday. On the previous afternoon, hours after Ford had taken the oath of office, Haig had denigrated Ford’s ability, telling Jerry Jones, ...

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Chapter 13 - Reaction

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pp. 220-234

If circumstances permit, a President never faces the White House press without careful preparation. Typically, he is drilled by his most aggressive press aides and best-informed senior staff, often on a mock stage. There he composes and rehearses his answers to the most contentious questions his aides expect that reporters will ask. ...

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Chapter 14 - The Pardon

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pp. 235-250

The secret sworn to in the Oval Office was not kept. The next day, Saturday, August 31, 1974, Haig informed Nixon that a pardon was forthcoming—not directly, but through Ron Ziegler, Nixon’s chief of staff in California. From Haig, Ziegler learned not only that Ford would grant the pardon, but also that Nixon, in accepting the pardon, ...

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Chapter 15 - Testifying

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pp. 251-265

From the first moment of Ford’s pardon of Nixon, the question was bound to be asked: had there been a deal? The precipitousness of Ford’s action, one month after Nixon’s resignation; the timing, on a Sunday morning; the secretiveness, after Ford had promised an open Administration; ...

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Chapter 16 - Managing

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pp. 266-282

On September 27, 1974, Rumsfeld assumed the complex and exacting responsibility of managing Ford’s White House. What they found, his deputy Cheney said, was chaos: decisions were being made impromptu or not at all; lines of authority were tangled; scheduling was haphazard. ...

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Chapter 17 - Progress

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pp. 283-303

December 1974 marked the crossing of a great divide in Ford’s Presidency. He had climbed out of the debris left by Nixon and was looking ahead. His Presidency was going well. He was gaining confidence every day. He invested more time on foreign affairs, meeting in Washington with Canada’s Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau ...

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Chapter 18 - Challenges

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pp. 304-331

In the first hour of his Presidency, Gerald Ford had promised the American people straight talk and candor. Five months later, in his first State of the Union address, he kept that promise. “I’ve got bad news,” he said, his voice solemn but firm. “I must say to you that the State of the Union is not good. Millions of Americans are out of work. ...

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Chapter 19 - Ford’s Way

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pp. 332-351

When President Ford appointed me to be Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs and Executive Director of the Domestic Council, I did not know him well. That changed. I never met anyone so easy to like, or so comfortable with who he was. He was a man contented. He envied no one, wanted for no attribute or asset he did not have. ...

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Chapter 20 - Initiatives

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pp. 352-368

As the 41st Vice President of the United States, Nelson Rockefeller’s prime ambition was to rise above the first Vice President’s description of the job. It was, John Adams wrote, “the most insignificant office that ever the Invention of Man or his Imagination conceived.” ...

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Chapter 21 - Vietnam

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pp. 369-385

Truman made the first mistake. After U.S. and Allied forces liberated Southeast Asia from Japanese occupation at the end of World War II, Truman reinstated France as the colonial master of Indochina, which included Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. ...

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Chapter 22 - The Campaign Begins

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pp. 386-401

For a man who had won election to the House of Representatives thirteen times, who had twice chaired the Republican National Convention that nominated a President, who had served as Vice President and then succeeded to the Presidency, Gerald Ford was remarkably innocent of the seamy and improbable process of running for President. ...

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Chapter 23 - Nomination

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pp. 402-423

The removal of Rockefeller brought Ford no visible campaign benefit and gave conservative Republicans no evident comfort. If anything, the opposition saw it as a clear signal of Ford’s vulnerability. A fortnight later Reagan telephoned Ford. “Hello, Mr. President. I am going to make an announcement, and I want to tell you about it ahead of time. ...

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Chapter 24 - Election

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pp. 424-445

On the morning after his nomination, Ford rose early and motored to the Radisson Muehlebach Hotel to breakfast with some 150 members of the Republican National Committee. Confidence and enthusiasm marked the occasion, but for Ford, the exhilaration of the night before was giving way to reality. Prospects were grim. ...

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Chapter 25 - Epilogue

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pp. 446-464

There was a time when Washington governed reasonably well; when the two political parties competed but cooperated; when those elected to direct the affairs of the United States recognized the national interest and placed first priority on acting to fulfill it. Among their accomplishments were the GI Bill, the Marshall Plan, the Interstate Highway System, ...

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pp. 465-468

This book is in essence the one the author first set out to write in the early 1990s to chronicle the White House years of Gerald R. Ford. But President Ford’s compelling early life story distracted the author—my father—on that first attempt; the more he learned about the self-made Michigan man who rose to Congress and the presidency, ...


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pp. 469-482

E-ISBN-13: 9780472029464
E-ISBN-10: 0472029460
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472116041
Print-ISBN-10: 0472116045

Page Count: 536
Illustrations: 13 B&W Halftones; 4 Color Halftones
Publication Year: 2013

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Subject Headings

  • Ford, Gerald R., 1913-2006.
  • Presidents -- United States -- Biography.
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1974-1977.
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