Late President Ford a frequent visitor to Vermont

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(Host) The late President Gerald Ford was not unfamiliar with Vermont.

Ford first came to the state to ski when he was a student at Yale Law School.

And, as VPR’s Steve Zind reports, he would return many times in the course of his long political career.

(Zind) In 1974, just two months after he assumed the Presidency, Gerald Ford came to Vermont to speak at a dinner honoring Senator George Aiken.

In his speech, Ford poked fun at his own oratorical skills by recalling a visit to Vermont some years earlier, when he had been a member of the U.S. House. Ford said on that visit he was approached by an elderly Vermont woman who took his hand and said, “I heard you gave a speech here tonight.” Ford responded, “Oh, it was nothing.” The woman replied, “Yes, that’s what I heard.”

Richard Mallory says Ford was never a dynamic speaker. Mallory says the late President’s political skills lay in his low key, non-confrontational approach and his consensus building abilities.

Mallory was a newly arrived Congressman from Vermont in 1972 when he first met Ford.

(Mallory) “When I first went down to Washington, the person who met me at the door and ushered me up to the front to be sworn in was Gerald R. Ford. He was then the minority leader in the house, the Republican minority leader.”

(Zind) Mallory remembers Ford’s 1974 speech in Vermont in honor of George Aiken. It was one month after Ford had pardoned former President Richard Nixon and there were protests over the pardon. Vermont voted for Jimmy Carter when Ford lost the Presidency in 1976.

Four years later, Vermont Governor Richard Snelling launched a national campaign to gather support for another Ford presidential campaign. Snelling’s wife, Barbara remembers the period.

(Snelling) “And we saw a fair amount of the President during that campaign and he was a wonderful person. Very outgoing and friendly. Someone who had high integrity.”

(Zind) Ford would later return to Vermont to campaign for Snelling and other Republican candidates.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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