August 09 — On This Day, Gerald Ford Assumes Presidency

On August 9, 1974, Gerald Ford assumed the role of President under unique circumstances, as Richard Nixon departed Washington and Ford stepped into office without the direct endorsement of a presidential election.

Following Nixon’s departure, Ford took the presidential oath, shortly after seeing Nixon and his family off on a helicopter from the White House lawn. This marked Ford as the sole individual to ascend to the presidency without securing victory in a general election for either the role of President or Vice President.

The 25th Amendment to the Constitution facilitated Ford’s presidency. He was designated by Nixon to replace Spiro Agnew, the Vice President who had been elected on the 1972 Republican ticket but was compelled to resign due to an unrelated scandal.

Empowered by Section 2 of the 25th Amendment, Ford was granted the authority to nominate a new Vice President in the event of a vacancy. The confirmation of this nomination required the approval of the majority in both houses of Congress.

Nixon put forth Ford, then serving as the House minority leader, to succeed Agnew on October 12, 1973. With resounding support, the Senate confirmed Ford with a vote of 92 to 3 on November 27, 1973. On December 6, 1973, the House echoed this sentiment, confirming him by a vote of 387 to 35.

Upon taking the presidential oath from Chief Justice Warren Burger, Ford promptly acknowledged the gravity of the situation:

“The oath I have taken is the same one that George Washington and every President under the Constitution have taken. Nevertheless, I step into the Presidency amid unprecedented circumstances for the American people. This is a moment in history that weighs on our minds and tugs at our hearts,” Ford addressed the nation. “My fellow Americans, our prolonged national ordeal has come to an end. Our Constitution is effective; our great Republic functions as a government of laws and principles, not individuals. Here, the people govern.”

Ford had an illustrious 25-year tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives, including his involvement in the Warren Commission’s investigation into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Prior to his Vice Presidential role, Ford served as the House minority leader for eight years.

Ironically, one of Ford’s most memorable statements as a minority leader revolved around the topic of impeachment.

In 1970, during the House’s deliberations on charges against Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas for alleged financial misconduct, Ford articulated a notable viewpoint:

“At any given juncture in history, an impeachable offense is whatever the majority of the House of Representatives deems it to be,” Ford stated, providing insight into his perspective.

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