“A Heartbeat Away”

The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is opening a new temporary exhibit tomorrow.  “A Heartbeat Away: The American Vice-Presidency” explores how moments of personal tragedy, national upheaval, and political change have shaped the duties and responsibilities of the office.  

This year marks the 50th anniversary of President Ford’s time as the 40th Vice President of the United States.  Nominated in October 1973 following the resignation of Spiro Agnew, Ford was confirmed and sworn-in as Vice President on December 6, 1973.  Ford would spend eight months in the role and later described it as “the worst job I ever had.”  Former Vice President Hubert Humphrey warned Ford “The office of the Vice-Presidency has been described in many ways, but one accurate characterization is to say that it is an awkward office at best.  The man who occupies it will have many responsibilities and no authority….”

Gerald R. Ford Vice Presidential Papers, Robert Hartmann’s Subject Files, Box 224, “Academic Information on the Vice President, 1973.”
Courtesy Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library

Ford’s nomination and confirmation to this office was the first time the 25th Amendment was used.  In the aftermath of President Kennedy’s assassination, Congress proposed and the states ratified this amendment specifically dealing with Presidential succession.  Article 2, in particular, laid out the process by which a vacancy in the office of the Vice President would be handled.

Following Senate and House confirmation, Gerald R. Ford was sworn-in by Chief Justice Warren Burger in the Senate Chamber as the 40th Vice President of the United States.  The next Vice President (Nelson Rockefeller) would experience the same process just one year later.

Oath of Office Certificate.
Courtesy Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library

Authors: Brooke Clement, Dr. Mirelle Luecke, and Geir Gundersen


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *