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124 Gerald R. Ford 1913–2006  president from 1974 to 1977 If history considers Thomas Jefferson as an Episcopalian rather than as a Unitarian, then Gerald Rudolph Ford was the eleventh member of the Episcopal church to serve as president. That he was an active, believing Episcopalian was well known during his presidency. Raised in Illinois, Ford’s mother, Dorothy Gardner, attended finishing school and a year of college. In 1912, after a short relationship, she fell in love with and married her roommate’s brother, Leslie Lynch King Sr., the son of an affluent Omaha banker and businessman. The marriage began to disintegrate on the honeymoon when King struck his bride because she had nodded slightly at a man who had taken off his hat as a gesture of respect in a hotel elevator. Two weeks after their only child, Leslie Lynch King Jr., was born in his paternal grandfather’s mansion in 1913, the couple separated with the full supportof LeslieKing’s mother. With her two-week-old infant son,Dorothy went to live with her parents, who had moved from Chicago to the manufacturing city of Grand Rapids, Michigan. She never returned to King and would later rename her son after her second husband,Gerald Rudolph Ford. As Dorothy’s ex-husband would not pay the court-mandated child support , King’s father—Ford’s grandfather—paid it instead. These payments ended, however, after the grandfather died when Ford was seventeen. Ford met his biological father only once after infancy when King and his second wife surprised the sixteen-year-old in Grand Rapids and took him to lunch. By Ford’s report, the conversation was superficial, for father and son were complete strangers. At that meeting,King gave his biological son $25 (more than $300 in 2010 dollars) and encouraged him to buy something that he could not otherwise afford. Ever the athlete, Ford spent half of the money on an expensive pair Gerald R. Ford 125 of golf knickers. “Nothing could erase the image I gained of my real father that day,”Ford later wrote.“A carefree, well-to-do man who didn’t really give a damn about the hopes and dreams of his firstborn son. When I went to bed that night, I broke down and cried.” At the time of that meeting,Ford was still legally named after his biological father, but he was known in Grand Rapids as Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr. In 1916 his mother had married Gerald Rudolph Ford Sr.,a salesman and businessman whom she had met at a church social at Grace Episcopal Church. Ford later described his stepfather as an emotionally secure parent who was “a marvelous family man.” Years later Betty Ford’s first impression of her future father-in-law was equally high.“Jerry’s stepfather stood as straight as an arrow,” she wrote after having dinner at the Ford home for the first time, “and I had the immediate impression that he lived his life that way.” When Ford entered his teens, his mother revealed to him that he, unlike his brothers, was adopted by Gerald Ford Sr. and that his three brothers were therefore only his half-brothers. The information stunned him. He remembered repeating that night a passage from the Book of Proverbs that he had learned in the Sunday school of Grace Church:“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” In later years Ford frequently recited the passage. Although Ford was of English and Scots-Irish descent, he grew up in the heavily Dutch environment of Grand Rapids. From the 1840s on, the southwestern counties of Michigan adjacent to Lake Michigan had become the focus of immigration for thousands of conservative Dutch Calvinists. Located 180 miles from Chicago, Grand Rapids became full of Dutch American churches—either Dutch Reformed or the even more conservative Christian Reformed. The area had two of the principal institutions of higher education in Dutch American Protestantism, Calvin College and Hope College; the latter included a theological seminary. Names such as De Jong, De Vries, Huizenga, Vandenberg, Hogeboom, Luedtke, Meijer, Rozema,VanderVliet,and Schrader filled the phone books.The downtown area contained prominent locally owned department stores with names such as Herpolsheimer’s. 126 Gerald R. Ford Ford described his home town as “a strait-laced, highly conservative town . . . [where] almost everyone...


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