Today is a great day to celebrate the happy birthday anniversary of President Gerald R. Ford. According to the Wikipedia article linked below, Ford was born on this day at Omaha, Nebraska in 1913. He was actually named Leslie Lynch King, Junior at birth. His parents separated in 1913 and his mother Dorothy, remarried in 1916. After his mother remarried, she called him Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr. in honor of her second husband. Apparently, the paperwork lagged for a few years. Mr. Ford did not change his name “officially” until December 3, 1935.
Mr. Ford grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He became an outstanding athlete in high school. He was captain of the 1930 Grand Rapids South High School football team and earned All-City honors. Ford drew attention from many colleges, but he chose to continue his education and his football at Michigan!
Gerald R. Ford did what everybody else did in the early-1930s. He spent his time on the freshman team and did his best to learn Coach Harry Kipke’s “Michigan Football System.” I am certain that young Gerry Ford applied himself with determination on the football field and in the classroom during the 1931 school year.
The good news was that Gerald R. Ford made Coach Kipke’s varsity in 1932. The bad news was that he was playing behind a future All-American center named Chuck Bernard. So, Gerald Ford played a lot of good football on offense and defense for Michigan. He didn’t earn any starts, but he earned a letter and was an important part of a Big Ten and National championship team in 1932. Michigan finished the season with perfect records of 8-0-0 overall and 6-0-0 in the Big Ten.
The 1933 Michigan Football season was like a replay for Gerald R. Ford. Once again, he played behind Chuck Bernard while the All-American center finished his Michigan Football career. Ford continued to play a lot at center and linebacker. He proved himself to be a tough, hard-working player who was respected by his teammates and his coaches. The Michigan Football team turned out to be another special team. They posted a final record of 7 wins 0 losses and 1 tie and went 5-0-1 in the conference. Michigan repeated as conference champions and National Champions. It was a great time to be a Maize and Blue Wolverine!
Finally, in 1934, Gerald R. Ford finally got what he wanted – a starting job as the center of the Michigan Football team. Unfortunately, the 1934 team was not very good. In fact, it was the first Wolverine football squad to lose seven games in one season. The Wolverines finished with a final record of 1 win 7 losses. They were the first team to lose all six conference games. Yes, it was pretty bad, but Gerald Ford was a ray of sunshine amidst all the darkness. He made a ton of blocks and tackles for Michigan that season and was elected at the Most Valuable Player on the 1934 Michigan Football team.
Of course, I would not be talking about Gerald R. Ford today if he wasn’t part of some Michigan football “firsts.” Here are three for “Gerald R. Ford:”
- Gerald R. Ford was a member of the first Michigan Football team to win six Big Ten games and a championship during the 1932 season.
- Mr. Ford was a member of the first Michigan Football team to lose six conference games in a single season in 1934.
- Gerald R. Ford played in the first, and only, game in Michigan Football History to play a game against Georgia Tech in 1934. Of course, this was the game where Georgia Tech said they would refuse to play if Ford’s Afro-American friend, Willis Ward was allowed to play in the game. Ford told the coaches that he would not play the game, but Ward asked him to do it and he played. Interestingly, that was Michigan’s only win (9-2) during the 1934 season.
- Of course, Gerald R. Ford went on to become the first, and only, Michigan Man to become President of the United States (#38) when he was sworn in on August 9, 1974.
So, on the one-hundred and fourth anniversary of his birth, let us remember a special Wolverine named President Gerald R. Ford. Mr. Ford epitomized the spirit of a true, blue Michigan Man. He was not the biggest man to ever play “center” at Michigan, but pound-for-pound – he may have been the toughest! He was that good. His teammates certainly appreciated his contributions to Michigan Football and so should too. Please take a moment today to think good things about Gerald R. Ford – the only Wolverine to become President of the United States! President Gerald R. Ford died on December 26, 2006 at the age of ninety-three. May President Gerald R. Ford continue to rest in eternal peace. Go Blue!