Omaha’s Ford Birthplace and Gardens honors nation’s 38th President

Gerald Ford's Birthsite gardens

Gerald Ford was the United States’ 38th President. He served in the Oval Office from August 1974 until Jan. 20, 1977. His was one of the shortest administrations for a chief executive who didn’t die in office. He was also the first non-elected Vice President and President.

Ford, a Republican member of the House of Representatives from 1949 until December 1973, was sworn in as the 40th Vice President of the United States. The House Minority Leader succeeded Spiro Agnew as vice president, following the latter’s resignation from office amid scandal. His appointment as Vice President was approved by the US Senate.

Ford served as Vice President until August 1974, when he succeeded Richard Nixon as President. Nixon resigned amidst scandal for his role in covering up the break-in at the Watergate Building in Washington, DC.

Gerald Ford's birthsite in Omaha

Ford, who went on to lose the 1976 presidential election to Democrat Jimmy Carter, likely sealed his fate when he issued a presidential pardon for Nixon’s transgressions. It also didn’t help that the United States had just finished the Vietnam War and was mired in the worst economic recession since the Depression.

Ford was born Leslie Lynch King Jr. in Omaha July 14, 1913. While considered an Omaha native, he lived in Omaha for only about two weeks of his life. His mother left his father and moved in with her sister’s family in Illinois near the end of July. It was later reported that the Kings’ marriage involved domestic abuse. The Kings divorced later that year.

Ford’s mother later moved in with her parents. She met Gerald Rudolff Ford, and the two married. The new couple started calling the young man Gerald Rudolff Ford Jr. Though he was never formally adopted, the future president went by the name. He legally changed it in 1935.

Ford lived a successful life. He served in the military, played football at the University of Michigan. Following law school at Yale, Ford campaigned for the House of Representatives, where he served almost 13 consecutive terms until his appointment as Vice President.

Gerald Ford bust in the garden

He may not have grown up in Omaha, he did return to his hometown a few times after he left office. He developed a fondness for the city.

The Ford family lived in a mansion at 32nd and Woolworth. The home burned down in 1971.

Now, in its place is the Gerald R. Ford Birthplace and Gardens. Next door is the state historical society’s Gerald Ford Conservation Center.

Birthsite of Gerald Ford market in Omaha

The site is a beautiful attraction for Omaha. Flowers and plants abound with busts and other items honoring the president and his wife, Betty.

Garden at Gerald Ford's birthsite

The site opened in 1977. President Ford helped raise funds. He returned to Omaha in 1980 for the rose garden dedication.

The Ford Rose Garden

The site recognizes political leaders, from Nebraska’s territorial days to American presidents.


President Ford is the center of the political leaders on display, of course. A monument recognizing him as the 38th President stands prominently among the monuments.


The garden has beautiful flowers and plants on display.


A rose garden honors First Lady Betty Ford.  A bust of Mrs. Ford is located along a walkway in the rose garden.


As we strolled through the gardens, we witnessed some of the most beautiful floral and plant displays in the area.


We saw a bumblebee doing its thing among the lilacs.


Later, we watched a butterfly flutter about and land on a series of Chrysanthemums.


Leslie King Jr. may not have lived in Omaha long, but the memory of President Gerald Ford will live on in his true hometown.