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tv   American Artifacts Early Life of President Gerald Ford  CSPAN  June 30, 2021 8:01pm-8:23pm EDT

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presidential museum in grand rapids, michigan to learn the life story of the college football player world war two navy veteran lawyer congressman vice president and president. this is about 45 minutes. here we're at the gerald r ford presidential museum in grand rapids, michigan, and we're in our new exhibits the exhibits opened. oh just a few weeks ago and it's a brand new exhibit on gerald ford his life and his times that took about six months to complete the museum spaces are broken down into his what we call his foundation years is youth we move into his congressional period 25 years in congress and then into his
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presidential and post presidential experience and so in the first gallery, we feature his foundational years gerald ford grew up in grand rapids, michigan, but he wasn't born in grand rapids, michigan. he was born in omaha. alaska his mother had married a businessman in omaha. by the name of leslie lynch king and so she was dorothy king. they had a child in july of 1913. they named leslie lynch king jr. and he's the person we know is gerald ford. and in this case we have his christening gown and a few other things of interest, but one of the things that we feature at this case is baby book. a lot of mothers keep books on their children even today and dorothy was no exception back in 1913. she began keeping a book on the
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baby's experience. and so we can't present the real thing. but what we present as a duplicate of it in a flip form and some of the things that you see here the first picture of dorothy with the baby he was born in a house in omaha, nebraska in his grandfather's house charles henry king's house some of the other interesting features about it. is that she records baby's first outings and the very first entry is his taxi cab ride and it occurred two weeks after his birth. and that was when dorothy king was fleeing leslie lynch king leslie lynch king proved to be a very abusive husband and that abuse began really on the wedding day through the honeymoon and extended into the time of her pregnancy as soon as she recovered her strength after the birth of the child. she secreted him into a taxi cab
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and drove him over to council bluffs, iowa where she then records the next entry which is babies first train ride. she puts him on a train and she takes him to chicago where her parents lived. just outside of chicago and harvard, illinois, so she has fled her husband her husband files suit for abandonment for divorce on grounds of abandonment, and then she countershews on grounds for abuse and the judge decides in her favor. this is 6:49 union a house. that's still exists in grand rapids. and that's the home of his youth dorothy brought junior two grand rapids because her parents were developing real estate in the area along with another partner of her father's and here she met a paint salesman by the name of
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gerald ford and by february 1917. they had gotten married and so they had themselves in the young child whom they continued to junior in time, he just became gerald ford jr. there would never was an adoption, but there was a family gerald's senior a loving father. and they would go on to have other children tom -- and jim the kids became very active in school and in social organizations each one of them became a boy scout gerald became a junior became an eagle scout by the time he was 14 years old. junior often is described as an as that boy scout as that ideal boy scout. that wasn't always the case ford
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brought with him into his youth some of the characteristics that his birth father leslie king exhibited one of those was his temper junior had an excitable temper. there was a story of that's told of him as a young child in his front yard where neighbor kids wanted to climb a tree but he claimed that is history and he wouldn't let them climb it. in fact, he stepped on their fingers as they grabbed for limbs and his mother was determined that that temper wasn't going to be carried with him into adulthood that he wasn't going to be he wasn't going to get away with the things that his birth father got away with and so she did a number of different things to help curb that she made him memorize poetry right your kipling's poem if was one that he carried with him into his
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adulthood. she made him memorize bible verses one became his favorite version that he would lean on well into his adulthood. he also was ridiculed by his mother when he when he bit of these tempers she would show him faces that he was making she would shame him in and show him the ridiculousness of his behavior, and he recalled all of these things in his in his adulthood and and recalled how that helped him to control a temper that never left him, but that didn't control him either junior lived in a what i guess we would call a lower middle class family dorothy married gerald ford senior who was a paint salesman, but ford was ambitious and he wanted to start his own company and he bought part of the company he worked for and turned it into the ford
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paint and varnish company. it was a company. he started two weeks before the stock market crash in october 1929. he was able to hold on to the company through the depression. in fact, it stayed in the family into the 1960s, but it was one that he struggled to hold on to but it was that type of family that ford grew up in ford himself was made to work to earn his money and one of the jobs that he had was at a burger joint across the street from south high a place called bill's place bill scudges was the proprietor of the store and he hired star athletes from the high school to entice other kids to come to his burgers joint at and spend their lunch money and one of the star athletes of course was a junior ford and so people would come to see the the
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friday night stars when they were eating their lunch, but it was at bill's place where one of the important events formative events in juniors life took place. he was 16 years old. it was in the spring of 1930 and he was working at bill's place one day when he noticed that a new car pulled up and stopped in front of this door that was unusual for this part of of grand rapids because nobody owned new cars and this one was a new brand new lincoln automobile, and this big fellow stepped out of it and stepped into the entryway of the store and paused there. for a long time and stared at junior and finally forward asked him if he could help him and he looked the man looked at him and said you're leslie lynch king jr.
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and he said no, i'm gerald ford jr. and he said well, you're my son. i'm your father. and i want to take you to lunch. of course that's shocked junior and he went back to see bill and he says this guy says he's my father and he wants to take me to lunch and bill said well, i guess you better go with him. and so they went to a place called the cherry in and they had lunch together junior his birth father and his birth father's wife margaret. and king told him about his life in wyoming. he lived outside riverton, wyoming in between riverton and shoshone and he wanted junior to come out and live with him. of course young ford had no interest in doing that. he lived in a very happy home. and why would he be at all eager
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to make a change? and so he he demurred said no. i'm happy here. he was later asked how difficult it was for him to hold his temper at that moment. and he said well there are times when you just have to bite your tongue and be polite and this was one of those moments because otherwise he was angry because he and he didn't understand what was going on that this fellow claimed to be his father if he had if he was his father. why wasn't he involved in his life? he this fellow was a stranger to him and he knew also that he was going to have to go home and tell his parents about it about the experience and he wasn't looking forward to that. it was a it was a hard dinner. at night afterwards. he took his parents into the living room and explained what had happened the experience. he had he said that there were
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tears that were shed in the living room as his mother told him the story about his birth father her leaving him and coming to grand rapids. ford's parents were in their own way ambitious ambitious to make something of themselves to be something in grand rapids junior ford also was very ambitious and one of the things that he wanted to be was a leader in his school and on the playing field in school what he wanted to be was president of the student council president of the senior class and so at the beginning of the senior year. students competed for these different offices just as they do today ford ran on the progressive ticket. he said that he did that because somebody got in front of him and claimed the republican ticket. and so the one that was left to him was to in this bull moose
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era at teddy roosevelt and bull moose era that he he was going to run on the progressive ticket and he put together a team on election what happened was that? remember of his team was elected to their offices, but he lost and he lost miserably to a fellow by the of leo van tassel. then tassel was elected president and was was elected that by an overwhelming margin and as everybody knows these offices are popularity contests. and so it raises the question. why in the world did the most popular student at south high lose and lose so terribly to somebody who wasn't that popular. well, it was because later revealed that his coach a fellow by the name coach gettings is football coach called the other athletes into a room and said i want you to torpedo that
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election because ford is the captain of the team of the football team and he needs to be on the practice field. he doesn't need to be wasting his time and student council meetings. the the other athletes took that to heart and went out and made sure that ford lost. ford was well known as an athlete. he made his name as an athlete. he was on the swim team at the ymca. he was on the track and field team at south high. he played basketball and senior year the south high, but he was best known on the football field. that's where he made his name. he was a star center for the state championship south high football team. and he was captain of the team, but he wasn't just an athlete. he was also a scholar in the classroom. he was solid in fact south high gave an award to both the outstanding male scholar and female scholar dorothy gray was
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the female scholar in gerald ford was named the male scholar for both his gpa and for his civic activity. he wanted to go to the university of michigan and the university of michigan was recruiting him as an athlete. he found it difficult. however, because his parents didn't have a lot of money and he didn't have enough money to pay the tuition his first year his but it became a community affair to get gerald ford two the university of michigan, but it was his principle paul krauss who steps in and says we're going to help you financially to get here and he starts a book sale a library book sale that establishes a scholarship to provide money to needy students and the first scholarship recipient is gerald ford. they give him $100 which pays his first years tuition at the university of michigan $50 per
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semester. he's 18 years old when he gets to the university of michigan and he's as most 18 year olds. he wants to have fun as well as apply himself to his studies. he earns very solid grades at the university of michigan and he excels on the football field once he's given the opportunity to perform as a starter as senior year, but it's at the decals where he has this fun. he pledges to a fraternity delta kappa epsilon and delta. kappa epsilon has a certain reputation at the university of michigan and it's the fun house. it's the party house and you wonder why this otherwise serious student would want to pledge to deke? it's it's probably as much a case that deke wants him as he wants deep. deke is constantly being threatened with expulsion their
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gpa is traditionally the lowest among the greek fraternity the greek houses on the university of michigan, and there was hope among some of the deep brothers that if they could get ford there he could help their gpa and that he could help write their ship. in fact, they give him the responsibility by his senior year of turning their budget around one of the other things that in this depression era was that the decals was financially strapped and they were in the red so they turned the treasurer's responsibilities over to ford and by the time ford graduates, he may not have helped their g. that much he does help keep them on campus and he and he puts them in the black. he puts them on a paying basis. so by the time that gerald ford leaves the university of michigan he wants to enter law school. he'd really like to enter law school at the university of michigan's law school of the problem is they don't have a job
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for him and ford needs a job in order to go to school. he still has to pay his tuition some way and he's coming out of the university of michigan somewhere around a thousand dollars in debt. the football coach at the university of michigan coach kipke introduces him to the coach at yale. ducky pond and ducky pond has a job for ford coaching varsity a junior varsity football line coaching for the varsity team and coaching boxing at yale. and that earns ford a paycheck. it does not get him into yale law school. however, he approaches yale law school and the law school assesses him and says, he'd be a fine student but not if he has a job and because you can't go to yale law school take on the load of study that is demanded by them and hold a job. so the reasoning goes well ford
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also talks with his coaches about that who tell him that well you can't really go to law school and fulfill your coaching responsibilities. so he has these dynamics working against his ambition to become a lawyer. so he just goes he takes. provisional classes elsewhere to demonstrate that he can do the work and using that he gets himself admitted into yale law school. he doesn't tell them that he has this other job, and he doesn't tell the other his his other coaches that he's going to go to law school and by this this means he's able to do both he ends up graduating in the top 25% of his yale loss school while fulfilling this coaching responsibilities gail law school represents more than just him attaining the means for him to fulfill a profession. it means him opening up he
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spends six years at yale. during that time. he meets a woman by the name of phyllis brown. betty ford will be the great love of gerald ford's life. betty ford is not his first love. however, phyllis brown is a professional model younger than he she's about 21 years old, but she's one of the top models in new york city. the coaches have an term for her have a name for her. they call her pb brown perfect body, brown and and ford is competing for her attention and he he says that in order to compete for her attention. he has to take on her interests and her interests largely revolve around his strength, which is sports. she plays tennis. she plays golf and she skis all
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of these things are rather new to gerald ford, but he takes them up and he becomes more than proficient at each one of them and by that means he's able to catch her eye and and they date such that by 1938. it's presumed that they are going to be trade he brings her back to michigan for a couple of summers. he visits her parents up in maine they attend. any number of events and broadway plays in new york she goes out on modeling shoots. he follows her on those shoots in at times. he ends up in the magazines alongside her these are photographs from one of those shoots where she's on the ski slopes in vermont and there he is alongside with her in one of the national magazines. phyllis brown represents to gerald ford and opening up a
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broadening of his experiences of his vision. he sees the west coast. she introduces him to a large part of that. he sees new york city. she's there at his side to guide him through those experiences. she is urbane. she's witty, he's midwestern and if not plotting at least solid in his in his attitude, so she does a lot to broaden his horizons, but when it comes down to a decision of returning to grand rapids to start his life as an attorney or staying in new york where she has her modeling career. that's where a part of the ways comes in. so she remains in new york city. he returns to grand rapids to begin his career as an attorney.

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