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Gerald R. Ford

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“It was a special pleasure to be able to make a return trip

to California during the closing weeks of the recent campaign."

Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr., 1913-2006.  38th President of the United States, 1974-1977.  Typed Letter Signed, Jerry Ford, on engraved, blind-embossed stationery of The White House, Washington, [D.C.], December 15, 1976. 

Ford's genuinely signed White House letters are scarce, owing to his short, 2½-year presidency.  In this one, he thanks California state Senator John Stull, a fellow Republican, for his help during Ford's final campaign trip to California.  In full:  “It was a special pleasure to be able to make a return trip to California during the closing weeks of the recent campaign.  I just want you to know how much I appreciate all that you did personally to ensure the success of the visit.  /  With my thanks and best wishes . . . ."

Ford toured California twice during the 1976 presidential campaign.  His first trip centered around the second presidential debate against Democratic challenger Jimmy Carter, and his second was in late October, shortly before the November 2 election. 

Fordʼs first trip was disastrous.  During the debate in San Francisco on October 6, Max Frankel, the New York Times' former Moscow bureau chief, suggested that the Helsinki Accords accepted Soviet Union "domination in Eastern Europe."  Ford defended the Accords, adding, emphatically, “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, and there never will be under a Ford Administration."  Ford saw the Accords as preserving the status quo of Eastern Europe and perhaps bettering its lot.  But the statement caused a firestorm in the press, and reporters dogged Ford questions for the next two days as he campaigned through the San Fernando Valley to Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, and Glendale, stopping at UCLA and USC, on October 7-8.  Fordʼs blunder dominated the coverage in the Los Angeles Times.  Ford finally clarified his statement, acknowledging that Soviet troops were stationed in Poland but saying that he did not believe “that the Polish people over the long run . . . will ever condone domination by any foreign force."  But the damage was done, and Ford later acknowledged that failing to clarify his statement immediately “was the worst mistake I ever made politically."

The press coverage irked Ford, who insisted that he won the second debate.  “But when the press started to interpret my comments on Poland,” he said, “they turned the public around.  The pundits sat around afterward and emphasized twenty seconds out of an hour and a half."  He insisted that subsequent events in Poland 12 years later proved him correct.  James Cannon, Gerald R.Ford: An Honorable Life 443-44 (2013).

Stull lent assistance when Ford returned to California late in October, speaking in Pasadena, Fountain Valley, and La Mesa before meeting reporters in San Diego.  He spoke again in San Diego on October 25 before heading for Oregon and Washington.  Stull (1920-2011) represented California's 80th Assembly District, covering North San Diego County, from 1967 to 1972.  Stull then won a special election to the California Senate in 1973 and represented the 38th Senate District until 1978.

Ford won California 170,000 votes and won San Diego County 56%-42%.  He also won more states than Carter, but Carter won the overall popular vote by 1.68 million votes and won the electoral vote 297-240.

This letter, which comes from Stull's estate, has never been offered on the autograph market before.  It is in very fine condition, and only the one horizontal mailing fold keeps it from being extra fine.  The blind-embossed presidential seal is at the top of the pale green Whitingʼs Woven Linen presidential stationery.  Ford has signed in black fountain pen. 





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