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Gerald R. Ford

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“I . . . realize that it will require personal sacrifice on your part

Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr., born Leslie Lynch King, Jr., 1913–2006.  38th President of the United States, 19741977.  Typed Letter Signed, Jerry Ford, one page, 6¾” x 8⅞”, on blind-embossed stationery of The White House, Washington, [D.C.], September 12, 1975.  With original envelope.

Ford’s genuinely signed White House letters are scarce due to his short presidency.  Here the embattled President thanks William J. McManus for taking on the task of serving as the Republican Party treasurer during the upcoming political season.

Ford, the only unelected President in American history, publicly announced on July 8, 1975, that he would seek election to the presidency in his own right in 1976.  In September 1975, when he wrote this letter, however, he faced monumental issues both at home and abroad.  The American economy had only begun to improve after being the worst since the Great Depression.  A 16-month recession, which had ended in March, had driven unemployment to 9% in May.  Inflation exceeded 9%.  Ford had already angered conservatives by appointing liberal Republican Nelson Rockefeller as Vice President.  In April, the United States evacuated Saigon, leaving the capital of South Vietnam to the North Vietnamese army, and in August Ford had signed the Helsinki Accords, a 35-nation agreement that established that the borders of Eastern European countries were “inviolable by force,” which conservatives strongly criticized as kowtowing to the Soviet Union.

By late August, Ford’s approval rating was 34%.  In September, former California Governor Ronald Reagan, the choice of the conservatives, began campaigning in key early primary states.  He would formally enter the race for the Republican presidential nomination, challenging Ford, in November.

Then, of course, the Democrats were poised to strike.  Ford took office under extraordinary circumstances, an unelected Vice President who acceded to the presidency upon the resignation of President Richard Nixon in the darkest days of the Watergate scandal.  As his first major act as President, Ford granted Nixon a full and unconditional pardon for any crimes that he might have committed against the United States while he was President.  Even though Ford explained his action in a statement at the time of the pardon and in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee—he was the first President since Abraham Lincoln to testify personally before Congress—the pardon was spectacularly unpopular, and Ford’s popularity dropped by 20 points in a week.  It was cannon fodder for the Democrats.

Facing not only a campaign for election as President, then, but also a challenge for the Republican nomination itself, Ford thanks McManus.  He writes, in full:  “I wish to personally thank you for assuming the duties of Treasurer of the Republican National Committee.  /  I sincerely appreciate your willingness to take on this important position and realize that it will require personal sacrifice on your part for the next many months.  /  Thank you again for your dedication to the Republican Party.  /  Warm personal regards . . . .”

McManus (1900–1998) was vice president of Byers-McManus Associates, Inc., a Washington, D.C., business consulting firm.  He lived more than 70 years in Washington.  A lawyer, he graduated from George Washington University’s National Law School and its School of Foreign Service.  He was a telephone company executive before becoming a consultant in 1965.  He served on numerous charitable boards, including the D.C. Society for Crippled Children and the American Red Cross, which awarded him its Lifetime Humanitarian Award.

Ford has boldly signed this letter in black felt-tip pen with a 2½” signature.  The letter has one horizontal mailing fold, which does not affect the signature.  There is a bit of damp staining, not obtrusive, in the left blank margin, and the letter shows a bit of handling.  The accompanying envelope has normal postal markings and has been opened cleanly at the top.  Overall the letter and envelope are in fine condition.

Unframed.  Please ask us about custom framing this piece.

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