Honorary Boot Hill Marshal Former President Gerald Ford

Kathie Bell
Special to the Globe
The 38th President of the United States Gerald Ford named Honorary Boot Hill Marshal. SUBMITTED PHOTO

When they named him Honorary Boot Hill Marshal, they had no idea that this particular congressman would someday be President of the United States.

The date Gerald R. Ford became a Marshal was September 10, 1966.

He was a Republican U.S. Representative from Michigan and the Minority leader of the House. He was in Dodge City along with fellow Republican Congressman Robert Dole, Kansas, for a Western Kansas GOP rally.

Ford's name at birth, on July 14, 1913 in Omaha, Nebraska, was Leslie Lynch King, Jr. His parents separated shortly after his birth. He and his mother Dorothy Gardner King moved in with her parents in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Dorothy married Gerald Rudolff Ford on Feb. 1, 1917. Though Ford never formerly adopted Leslie, they called him Gerald Rudolff Ford, Jr. and raised him as the elder Ford's son. It wasn't until Dec. 3, 1935 Gerald, Jr. officially changed his name to Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr.

Ford was a Boy Scout and earned the rank of Eagle - the only U.S. President to have achieved that goal. Ford was a star athlete at Grand Rapids South High School and in 1930 served on the Grand Rapids All-City team.

At the University of Michigan he played center, linebacker and long snapper for their football team which won national titles in 1932 and 1933. Though 1934 was a bad year for the Wolverines, Ford was their star player.

On Jan. 1, 1935 Ford played for the East in the Shriner's East-West game in San Francisco.

Early on, Ford was a champion of civil rights. In college he nearly quit the team because an opposing team pressured the Wolverines to drop an African-American player, Willis Ward.

Ford played only because Ward personally urged Ford to stay on the team. In 1935, Ford graduated with a BA in Economics.

In 1938, the prestigious Yale Law School admitted him and he graduated in 1941. Ford got interested in politics in law school, working for the 1940 Republican presidential campaign of Wendell Willkie. In May 1941, Ford began practicing law in Grand Rapids.

On Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japan.

Doing his part for the War effort, Ford enlisted in the Navy and was commissioned as an Ensign on April 13, 1942.

After serving as an instructor and athletic coach, he served in the Pacific on the carrier USS Monterey. He later worked at training commands. He received an honorable discharge at the rank of Lt. Commander in Feb. 1946. Soon after, Ford involved himself with Republican politics.

During his first U.S. congressional campaign, on Oct. 15, 1948, he married Elizabeth (Betty) Bloomer. They had four children, Michael, Jack, Steven and Susan. In Jan. 1949 he began his long career in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Eventually he reached the high position of House minority leader. He served in Congress until Dec. 6, 1973 when he became Vice President after the resignation of VP Spiro Agnew (who is also a Boot Hill Honorary Marshal). Due to Watergate, Richard M. Nixon's resigned his presidency and, on Aug. 9, 1974, Gerald R. Ford automatically became the 38th President of the U.S. Gerald Ford was the only U.S. president who was never elected to the offices of president or vice president.

Losing his bid for election to Jimmy Carter in 1976, his term of 895 days was the shortest of any president who didn't die in office. Gerald R. Ford died on Dec. 26, 2006 at the age of 93 at his home in California.

He is buried at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum in Grand Rapids beside his wife, Betty, who died on July 8, 2011 also at the age of 93.