Gerald R. Ford Ford was born to Leslie Lynch King and Dorothy Ayer Gardner in Omaha, Nebraska and was originally named Leslie Lynch King, Jr. His parents divorced five months after he was born (he is the only president whose parents have been divorced), and two years later his mother remarried Gerald Ford, Sr., after whom he was named despite never being formally adopted. Raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Ford was not aware of his adoption until shortly before turning fifteen. "My stepfather was a magnificent person", Ford stated, "and my mother equally wonderful. So I couldn't have written a better prescription for a superb family upbringing."
Ford joined the Boy Scouts and attained that program's highest rank: Eagle Scout. He always regarded this as one of his proudest accomplishments even after attaining the White House. In subsequent years, Ford received the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award and Silver Buffalo from the Boy Scouts of America. He attended school locally and was a star athlete, rising to the become captain of his high school football team and attracting the attention of college recruiters.
Attending the University of Michigan as an undergraduate, Ford became the center for the school's football team and helped the Wolverines to undefeated seasons in 1932 and 1933. His number 48 jersey has since been retired by the school. A member of the Michigamua secret society, Ford turned down contract offers from the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers of the National Football League following his graduation in 1935 in order to attend law school. As part of the 1935 Collegiate All-Star football team, Ford played against the Chicago Bears in an exhibition game at Soldier Field.
"I'm a Ford, not a Lincoln."
Gerald R. Ford, December 1973
While attending Yale Law School he joined a group of students led by R. Douglas Stuart, Jr. and signed a petition to enforce the 1939 Neutrality Act. The petition was circulated nationally and was the inspiration for America First, a group determined to keep America out of World War II. Ford's position on American involvement in the war would soon change.
Ford graduated from law school in 1941 and was admitted to the Michigan bar shortly thereafter. Before he could commence a law practice, though, overseas developments caused a change in plans. Like others, Ford responded to the attack on Pearl Harbor and joined the military.