Michigan Legal Milestones
29. Gerald R. Ford Jr., Michigan Lawyer
The 38th President of the United States. Before becoming the country's 38th president, Gerald R. Ford Jr. was a Michigan lawyer practicing in Grand Rapids. Throughout his years in the U.S. House of Representatives, Ford was a member of the Grand Rapids Bar Association and maintained close ties to the Grand Rapids legal community. He took the oath of office as the 38th president on August 9, 1974, shortly after President Nixon resigned. Dedicated September 20, 2004 at the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids.
Michigan Bar Journal
President's Page: Gerald R. Ford—Accidental Hero
In Memoriam: A Special Tribute
Complete Text on Milestone Marker
Gerald R. Ford Jr., Michigan Lawyer
Long before becoming the country's 38th president, Gerald R. Ford Jr. was a Michigan lawyer practicing in Grand Rapids.
A 1941 graduate of Yale Law School, Ford grew up in Grand Rapids. After turning down job offers in Philadelphia and New York, he returned to Grand Rapids to practice law with Philip W. Buchen. The two men had been friends since they were undergraduate fraternity brothers at the University of Michigan. Ford was sworn in as a member of the State Bar of Michigan in early June of 1941. On June 11, 1941, Ford paid his $10 dues and became a member of the Grand Rapids Bar Association.
The two new lawyers pooled their money to open an office. Buchen borrowed $1,000 from his father, and Ford contributed $1,000 he had saved. With that investment, they opened the office of Ford and Buchen at 621 Michigan Trust Building. The firm lasted less than a year due to the commencement of World War II. On December 8, 1941, the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Ford volunteered for the navy. He continued practicing until he was called to active duty in April of 1942.
In 1946, after his discharge from the navy at the end of World War II, Ford returned to his hometown, where he joined his former partner as a member of the law firm Law, Weathers & Richardson (formerly Butterfield, Keeney, and Amberg). Ford soon turned toward what would become the focal point of his life—politics. In 1948, Ford defeated Bartel J. Jonkman for the 5th Congressional District seat and remained in the House of Representatives for 25 years. Throughout his years in the House of Representatives, Ford was a member of the Grand Rapids Bar Association and maintained close ties to the Grand Rapids legal community.
On December 6, 1973, following the resignation of then Vice President Spiro Agnew, House Minority Leader Gerald R. Ford attained the second highest political office in the land. On August 9, 1974, shortly after President Richard Nixon resigned, the former Grand Rapids attorney took the oath of office as the 38th president of the United States.
Placed by the State Bar of Michigan and the Grand Rapids Bar Association, 2004.