David Hume Kennerly's Blog

Pulitzer Prize Winning Photographer

David Hume Kennerly Blog

Ford’s First Week as President 40 Years Ago

President Gerald R. Ford in the oval office during his second full day as the nation's 38th chief executive.

When President Ford took over from Richard Nixon the country was ready for a little less drama emanating from the White House. Ford was just the guy to deliver normalcy. One of the first pictures I took of him at work showed a guy comfortable in his new role, even though the empty shelves behind him that had contained Nixon memorabilia were a clue to the abruptness of the transition. President Ford never displayed any anxiety about taking over the world's most difficult job, and my photos reflected that.


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President Ford is applauded by members of the cabinet in the Roosevelt Room

President Ford inherited the Nixon Cabinet, and gradually replaced most of them over the next year. He felt that it was important to put his own stamp on the White House team, and his appointees included Bill Coleman, the second African American to be appointed to a cabinet post, (the first in a Republican administration),  and Carla Hills, the third woman to ever serve in that capacity. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger wasn't replaced, and stayed throughout.

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One of Ford's first meetings is with George Biush, then head of the Republican National Committee

This moment, as many in the White House, is a combination of history and irony. George Bush, a fellow World War II Navy veteran, was one of President Ford's first meetings after he took office. Bush was head of the Republican National Committee, but was named the U.S. envoy to the People's Republic of China, something they discussed here, a few days later. Bush was then recalled from China to replace William Colby as head of the CIA. Bush was also on Ford's short list of candidates to become his vice president, but lost out to Nelson Rockefeller. He would go on to becoming Ronald Reagans VP, then the 41st President of the United States, so things didn't turn out so badly after all! He of course, is also the father of George W. Bush, the nation's 43rd president. John Adams, the 2nd president, and John Q. Adams, the 6th chief exec are the only two other father  and sons who were Presidents of the U.S.

President Ford, in his private hideaway adjoining the oval office, ponders resumes of possible Vice Presidents

This moment falls into weird presidential trivia: Who was the first president who had to pick someone to succeed him as vice president? The answer, of course, Gerald R. Ford, who became Nixon's VP after Spiro Agnew resigned, then replaced Nixon as president after he resigned, then chose Nelson Rockefeller to replace himself as vice president. Whew! And he did it with a bunch of resumes spread out on a couch in his office.

Here I am with President Gerald R. Ford shortly after he took office.

One more bit of presidential trivia. Who was the third civilian to ever hold the post of personal photographer to the president? That would be me . . .

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