Jan. 22 (Wednesday)

The 38th U.S. President
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 Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr.
Full Name: Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr.
Born: July 14, 1913 in Omaha, Nebraska
Died: Dec. 26, 2006 in Rancho Mirage, California

An example of life imitating art, Gerald Ford’s odd career is perhaps best summed up by a series of famous Saturday Night Live skits starring comedian Chevy Chase portraying Ford as a clumsy clown who tripped and stumbled across the stage. The irony is that Ford, who was a star football player, has been described as the most athletic U.S. President ever.

Yet Ford appeared to stumble into office, becoming the 40th U.S. Vice President (1973-74) after Spiro Agnew resigned, then becoming the 38th President (1974-77) following the resignation of Richard Nixon, whose presidency was torpedoed by the Watergate scandal.

Ford thus boasts a number of unusual records. He was the first person appointed to the Vice Presidency under the terms of the 25th Amendment and is the only person to have served as both U.S. Vice President and President without being elected. Ford’s presidency lasted 895 days, the shortest of all presidents who didn’t die in office. Yet Ford lived to the age of 93, longer than any other president.

Ford’s presidency marked the end of both Watergate and the war in Vietnam — or did it? Ford shocked and angered many people by pardoning Richard Nixon, one of the biggest de facto criminals in American history. He also retained Nixon’s foreign and domestic policy staffs, including Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who, like Nixon, is widely regarded as a war criminal. Ford also presided over the worst economy in the four decades since the Great Depression. Though not the worst President since World War II, Ford might be the most forgettable if not for Chevy Chase’s comedy routines.