Leslie Lynch King Jr. – The 38th President of the United States of America
Whether or not you are a student of history, you’re probably saying to yourself; I don’t remember a President King, and you would be right. However, Leslie Lynch King Jr was indeed the 38th president of these United States, so how could that be?
Leslie Lynch King Jr. was born 109 years ago this week (July 14, 1913) and he passed away just 15 years ago on the day after Christmas (December 26, 2006). He was an American politician who served as the 38th president of the United States from 1974 to 1977, and was the only president never to have been elected to the office of president or vice president. There are also a few more firsts; Leslie King Jr was the only president to have been a two-time National Champion in College Football. He was the only president to have once served on the Warren commission’s investigation of the assassination of president John F. Kennedy. He was the last intra-term president to date, and he was the only president to pardon another former president. The final first is when he was called to testify about the afore mentioned pardon. On October 17, 1974, he testified before Congress on the pardon. He was the first sitting president since Abraham Lincoln to testify before the House of Representatives.
By now, you’re probably figuring out that Leslie Lynch King Jr was in fact more commonly known as Gerald Rudolph Ford. Leslie Lynch King Jr was his name from birth until February 1, 2017 when his mother married her second husband Gerald Rudolph Ford. Because the first husband, and biological father was so abusive to Leslie and his mother, he would be referred to as Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr, from the wedding day on, even though he was never officially adopted by Gerald Ford Sr. Finally at age 22 ½, Leslie Lynch King Jr would have his name legally and officially changed to Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr.
How did Leslie King Jr become president without ever receiving a vote – you can thank five men, later identified as Virgilio Gonzalez, Bernard Barker, James McCord, Eugenio Martínez, and Frank Sturgis, aka the “Watergate Burglars.” In total, I guess you can blame more than just the five burglars. There were 69 people indicted and 48 people—many of them top Richard Nixon administration officials—convicted. In an effort to spy on the Democrats to influence the upcoming election, these Nixon followers and top officials, would be tried and convicted, which led to president Nixon resigning from office at noon on August 9, 1974.
Gerald Ford was the vice president when Nixon resigned, thus becoming president. But how did he never get a vote for vice president nor president?
Just prior to the Watergate scandal, the white house and Nixon’s staff were embroiled in another scandal. In 1973, then vice president Spiro Agnew was investigated by the United States Attorney for the District of Maryland on suspicion of criminal conspiracy, bribery, extortion and tax fraud. Agnew took kickbacks from contractors during his time as Baltimore County Executive and Governor of Maryland. The payments had continued into his time as vice president; they had nothing to do with the Watergate scandal, in which he was not implicated. After months of maintaining his innocence, Agnew pleaded no contest to a single felony charge of tax evasion and resigned from office. Nixon replaced him with House Republican leader Gerald Ford. Ford had never officially run for either office but was now president, therefore never receiving a vote for either office.
A study of Ford’s life shows he was a great man even if he wasn’t considered a great president. During his presidency, the US suffered the worst inflation since the great depression. Even though his pardon of former President Nixon, was hugely unpopular, it likely would be the most shining accomplishment of his presidency because it normalized the country and allowed the country to move on and put the Watergate fallout behind us. Ford would lose the upcoming election, widely believed to be because of Nixon’s pardon, but historians from all political parties believe the pardon was critical in stopping the growing tensions and division within our country at that time.
Ford does generally get credit for the US pulling out of Viet Nam, but it was really congress that went back on it’s promises to the Nixon White House and forced the pullout. When asked to provide the previously promised financial backing for the Department of Defense, congress suddenly refused to fund the war any longer even though they had previously committed the funds to former president Nixon. This led to the collapse of the Viet Nam security infrastructure, an immediate resignation from South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu, mass chaotic evacuations, and the eventual end of the war.
President Ford inherited an administration plagued by a divisive war in Southeast Asia, rising inflation, and fears of energy shortages. He faced many difficult decisions including replacing Nixon's staff with his own, restoring the credibility of the presidency, and dealing with a Congress increasingly assertive of its rights and powers.
He felt that through modest tax and spending cuts, deregulating industries, and decontrolling energy prices to stimulate production, he could contain both inflation and unemployment. This would also reduce the size and role of the federal government and help overcome the energy shortage. His philosophy was best summarized by one of his favorite speech lines, "A government big enough to give us everything we want is a government big enough to take from us everything we have." The heavily Democratic Congress often disagreed with Ford, leading to numerous confrontations and his frequent use of the veto to control government spending. Through compromise, bills involving energy decontrol, tax cuts, deregulation of the railroad and securities industries, and antitrust law reform were approved.
Much like George W. Bush had the events of September 11, 2001, thrust upon him just months after taking office, Gerald Ford was faced with the nearly impossible task of battling inflation, a hugely unpopular war, and trying to lead a country back to normalcy after an immense scandal. Add to it that he also had to survive two separate assassination attempts, in September of 1975 from would-be assailants Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme and Sara Jane Moore.
It's a shame the Nixon pardon kept Ford from continuing on as president. Because tax cuts, lover government spending, deregulation, and increased privatization would have been the key priorities for Ford, if he only had support from congress. As we look at the challenges in our country today, all of these strategies would serve us far better than our current state.
Ford never asked for the job nor did he ever campaign for it – but it was his due to circumstances he did not control. He would speak these very words upon becoming president, words that I think we would all love to get behind and support today – the difference is, with Ford they were not just words, they would have resulted in actions:
"I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your president by your ballots, and so I ask you to confirm me as your president with your prayers."
I have not sought this enormous responsibility, but I will not shirk it. Those who nominated and confirmed me as Vice President were my friends and are my friends. They were of both parties, elected by all the people and acting under the Constitution in their name. It is only fitting then that I should pledge to them and to you that I will be the President of all the people.
My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here, the people rule. But there is a higher Power, by whatever name we honor Him, who ordains not only righteousness but love, not only justice, but mercy. ... let us restore the golden rule to our political process, and let brotherly love purge our hearts of suspicion and hate.
God Bless You Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr, may you rest in peace until
we meet again!!!