The Children of Gerald Ford

President Gerald Ford had three boys and one daughter with his wife, Betty Ford. Many Americans perceived the First Family as lively, lively, youthful, and, most all, typical—attributes that helped the American public’s comfort level with Ford, a man they had not chosen as President.

He was the only President in American history who the people did not elect.

Betty Ford’s 1974 mastectomy, as well as her difficult–but ultimately successful–fight to overcome her husband’s alcohol and drug addiction after he left the White House, made her a figure of inspiration for women—and men—throughout the country. In this article, know the lives of Gerald and Betty Ford’s children.

Michael Gerald Ford

Portrait of Michael Ford

Michael Gerald Ford is the oldest of President Gerald R. Ford and Betty Ford’s four children. Mike was born in Washington, D.C., on March 14, 1950. Ford’s mother planned to name him after his father before he was born. Ford’s father, on the other hand, had always despised the moniker “Junior” and refused to “inflict it on any son.” So as a compromise, the Fords chose his name.

Mike Ford attended Alexandria, Virginia’s T.C. Williams High School, and Wake Forest University, where he was President of the Sigma Chi fraternity. In 1972, he received his bachelor’s degree with honors. Ford met Gayle Ann Brumbaugh when he was there. Following that, they continued their education in the nondenominational Christian community of L’Abri in Switzerland. On July 6, 1974, the pair married in Catonsville, Maryland, about a month before his father was elected President of the United States. Mike Ford and his wife then traveled to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, where Mike received his Master of Divinity in 1977.

Mike Ford stayed away from national politics for the most part. However, after Nixon’s resignation, he spoke out on the moral ramifications of what he had observed, adding that he would want to see Richard Nixon speak out and make a thorough confession of his part in Watergate.

Mike joined the Coalition for Christian Outreach at the University of Pittsburgh after finishing seminary. In 1981, he was assigned as the school’s director of student relations and, later, development. Later, he was appointed to the Gerald R. Ford Foundation in Grand Rapids, Michigan, as a trustee.

In 2018, Mike stepped down as Chairman of the Wake Forest Board of Trustees.

John Gardner Ford

Portrait of John Gardner Ford

John Gardner Ford was born on March 16, 1952, in Grand Rapids and was welcomed into his family as the “most significant” event of the year, exactly like his brothers. He graduated from T.C. Williams High School in 1970. He went on to Jacksonville University in Florida, Utah State University, and Utah State University, where he studied forestry while working as a fireman during the summer.

Despite his father’s efforts, Jack Ford claimed to lack a competitive disposition. Despite lettering in football, track, and crew in high school and receiving football scholarship offers, he turned them all down. Instead, he helped establish Outside magazine in 1977 and then set California Infoplace, a successful commercial venture.

He remained active in Republican Party politics, serving as executive director of the 1996 Republican National Convention host committee in San Diego, California.

He is the father of two children and is married.

Steve Meigs Ford

Portrait of Steve Meigs Ford

Steve Ford, born in Grand Rapids on May 19, 1956, adopted his elder brother Jack’s love of the outdoors and laid-back demeanor, preferring to go around the Washington, D.C., region on a motorbike or in his yellow jeep as a teenager. He was also a T.C. Williams High School alumnus who turned down the option to attend Duke University in the height of Watergate in favor of working as a ranch hand in the west. After that, he went to Utah State University to study range management and California Polytechnic University in Pomona to study equine studies. Steve Ford became a rodeo team roper, vice president of the Turfway Park Race Course in Kentucky, and a member of the National Cowboy Hall of Fame’s board of directors.

His career took a different path than expected; in the early 1980s, he was interested in acting but turned down his first opportunity, which was in the 1978 musical Grease; overall, he preferred television; he had a long-running role in the soap The Young and the Restless, as well as minor film roles in Escape from New York, Black Hawk Down, and Starship Trooper. Following his resignation, Steve joined the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation’s board of directors, where he hoped to pass on his father’s concept of leadership with “integrity.”

He was never married.

Susan Elizabeth Ford

Portrait of Susan Elizabeth Ford

In Washington, D.C., Susan, born on July 6, 1957, was the only child to spend considerable time in the White House. She volunteered there for a period when her father was still vice president, selling visitor guidebooks. In addition, she attended the elite Holton Arms school for girls in Bethesda, Maryland. She graduated in 1975 and enjoyed her senior prom in the East Room, as did many other presidential daughters. 

Susan lived “in blue jeans and other informal attire of girls her age,” unlike the more formal Luci and Lynda Bird Johnson and Tricia and Julie Nixon, and she continued to do so at the White House. However, she agreed to “dress up for ceremonial occasions.” Her Siamese cat “Shan Shein” joined the lengthy list of renowned White House pets, and she taught and liked modern dance. On the other hand, Susan Ford was portrayed as “bratty” by the media, and she even mocked herself by posing in Subaru advertising in a car called the Brat.

Before beginning a career in photography and journalism with Newsweek and Ladies Home Journal, she attended Mount Vernon College for Women, which is now the George Washington University: Mount Vernon Campus, and the University of Kansas. She went on to write two more mysteries after that. Susan married secret service agent Charles Vance, who had previously worked for her father, in 1979, despite her parents’ reservations; he was sixteen years her senior and had previously married. Before their divorce in 1988, they had two kids. Vaden Bales is her second spouse.

Susan Ford has always been especially committed to her mother’s legacy, having aided Betty Ford. She battles breast cancer and addiction and serves as Chair of the Betty Ford Center.