On this day in 1948, future President Gerald Ford marries Elizabeth Anne (“Betty”) Bloomer.
The handsome, blonde, blue-eyed Ford grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and went on to play football at the University of Michigan, where he was voted the team’s most valuable player in his senior year. He then worked as an assistant coach for Yale University’s football program while pursuing his law degree. After graduation in 1941, Ford earned extra money as a model. The next year, just after joining the Navy, Ford appeared on the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine in his uniform, but was not officially credited with posing. It was during one of his modeling jobs that he met his future wife, Elizabeth Anne Bloomer, who was called Betty.
Ford went on to serve in World War II from 1942 until the war ended in 1945.
Following the war, he began a law practice and became involved in Republican politics. His passion for football was so keen that during his honeymoon in 1948, Ford took his new bride to a Michigan State University Rose Bowl playoff game against Northwestern University. That same year, he was elected to Congress; his career included service on the Warren Commission that investigated President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. In December 1973, President Richard Nixon chose Ford as his vice president after Spiro Agnew resigned following charges of tax evasion. In 1974, Nixon himself resigned in the face of impeachment by Congress over the Watergate scandal. Ford took the oath of office on August 9, 1974.
Betty tried to keep a low profile during Ford’s presidency. However, in 1974, during Ford’s last days in office, she went public with the announcement that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer, helping to develop greater public awareness of the deadly disease and inspiring women to seek early detection and treatment. After Ford left office, Betty publicly shared another personal struggle—her battle with addiction to alcohol and painkillers. In 1982, she opened the now-famous Betty Ford Center, an addiction-treatment clinic at the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, California. In 2005, her husband presented her with the Gerald R. Ford Medal for Distinguished Public Service.
Gerald Ford died on December 26, 2006, at the age of 93. Betty died on July 8, 2011, also at age 93.