THE ESTABLISHMENT AND FIRST USES OF THE 25TH AMENDMENT

An Online Exhibit of Documents, Photographs, and Videos



Prior to ratification of the 25th Amendment, the rules of succession to the Presidency were Constitutionally vague. The Constitution did not specify whether the Vice President would become President or Acting President if the President were to die, resign, be removed from office or become disabled.

Do to the lack of clarity, some Presidents and their Vice Presidents took it upon themselves to draft agreements for handling Presidential succession and inability.  These agreements specified the terms for declaring a President unable to perform the duties of office, and the terms for re-instatement once able to return to duty.

On January 6th, 1965, Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana and Representative Emanuel Celler of New York introduced joint resolutions in the Senate and House of Representatives aimed at clarifying and defining the rules on Presidential succession and inability in the Constitution.  The Bayh-Celler proposals, which formed the foundation of the 25th Amendment, refined the processes of declaring a President incapable of fulfilling the duties of office and filling a Vice Presidential vacancy.

Congress approved the 25th Amendment on July 6, 1965, the States completed ratification by February 10, 1967, and President Lyndon Johnson certified the amendment on February 23, 1967.

The first use of the 25th Amendment occurred in 1973 when President Richard Nixon nominated Congressman Gerald R. Ford of Michigan to fill the vacancy left by Vice President Spiro Agnew’s resignation.

In less than a year, the 25th Amendment would be used again.  This time, Vice President Ford became President after Richard Nixon resigned, and he nominated Nelson Rockefeller to fill the Vice Presidential vacancy left by him.

We invite you to learn more about this important period in history by exploring the interactive timelines about the creation and early uses of the 25th Amendment by clicking on the tabs below.  The timelines include links to Ford Presidential Library documents, photographs, and video, as well as external resources, used to illustrate and tell this interesting story.



DATE EVENT RESOURCES
01/06/1965 Senator Birch Bayh and Representative Emanuel Celler introduce joint resolutions proposing a constitutional amendment on Presidential succession and inability in the House and Senate.

Documents

02/19/1965 The Senate votes to pass S.J. Res. 1, a proposed constitutional amendment on Presidential succession and inability.

Documents

04/13/1965

The House votes to pass H.J. Res. 1, a proposed constitutional amendment on Presidential succession and inability.

Representative Gerald R. Ford speaks on the House floor in favor of the proposed amendment in H.J. Res. 1, never anticipating that he would one day be the first person to fill a Vice Presidential vacancy under such an amendment.

Documents

06/30/1965 Because the House and Senate passed different versions of the proposed amendment, a special committee is convened to work out the differences.

Documents

07/06/1965

The House votes to adopt the conference report on S. J. Res. 1, a proposed Constitutional amendment regarding Presidential succession and inability. After Congress passes the Joint Resolution to amend the Constitution, the amendment is forwarded to the States for ratification.

Documents

02/10/1967

The States complete ratification of the 25th Amendment.

 
02/23/1967 The 25th Amendment is certified by President Lyndon B. Johnson

Documents



On October 10th, 1973, Vice President Spiro Agnew, resigned after being indicted on charges of accepting bribes and evading income taxes while Governor of Maryland. Two days after Agnew's resignation, Nixon nominates Representative Gerald R. Ford of Michigan, who at the time is House Minority Leader, as Vice President. This would be the first time a Vice Presidential vacancy is filled using the 25th Amendment. Confirmation hearings by the Senate and House begin, soon leading to votes by both chambers to approve the nomination. Ford is sworn in as the 40th Vice President on December 6, 1973.

DATE EVENT RESOURCES
09/26/1973 House Minority Leader Ford gives his views on the charges against Vice President Agnew. He believes that a House investigation should be conducted in order to give Agnew a fair hearing, and that the House should act as soon as possible.

Documents

10/10/1973 Not knowing that Nixon would nominate him to be the next Vice President, Ford comments on Agnew's resignation, and what he thinks the next steps by Congress should be.

Documents

  • News Release - Comment by Rep. Gerald R. Ford on Agnew Resignation
10/11/1973

Upon Agnew's resignation, President Nixon requests that members of the Cabinet and Congress submit to him their recommendations for a Vice Presidential nominee.

Congressman J. William Stanton of Ohio, submits a recommendation to President Nixon.

Ford submits his own recommendations to Nixon.

Documents

10/12/1973 President Nixon nominates House Minority Leader Ford to be Vice President. He is the first Vice President to be nominated under the 25th Amendment.

Documents

10/13/1973 The FBI begins background investigation of Ford, the largest and most intensive investigation ever of a candidate for public office. During its investigation, the FBI uses 350 special agents, interviews more than 1,000 witnesses, and compiles 1,700 pages of reports.

 

10/16/1973 Ford submits documents and information to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees for use in considering his nomination.

Documents

10/30/1973 Ford seeks advice from Hubert Humphrey, Vice President under President Lyndon B. Johnson. Humphrey writes Ford a letter explaining the responsibilities of the Vice President, the power they hold, and suggestions on what the Vice President should do while in office.

Documents

11/01/1973 The Senate Judiciary Committee begins its confirmation hearings on Ford's nomination as Vice President.

Documents

11/15/1973

The House Judiciary Committee begins its confirmation hearings on Ford’s nomination as Vice President.

Edward Hutchinson, Congressman from Michigan, and close friend of Ford, speaks to the House Judiciary Committee on his behalf.

Documents

11/19/1973 Ford writes an essay on what the Vice Presidency means to him.

Documents

  • Essay: What the Vice Presidency Means to Me
11/27/1973 The Senate confirms Ford’s nomination by a vote of 92-3.

Documents

12/06/1973

The House confirms Ford’s nomination by a vote of 387-35.

In front of a Joint Session of Congress, Ford is sworn in as 40th Vice President by Chief Justice Warren Burger.

Documents



After President Nixon resigns under threat of impeachment due to the Watergate scandal, Vice President Ford, is sworn in as the 38th President of the United States on August 9, 1974, leaving the Vice Presidency vacant once again. After some deliberation and conferring with leaders of Congress and the Cabinet, on August 20th, Ford nominates Nelson Rockefeller, the former Governor of New York, as his Vice President. After four months of extended hearings, Rockefeller, is confirmed as the 41st Vice President of the United States, the second person to fill the office under the 25th Amendment.

DATE EVENT RESOURCES
08/01/1974 As the Watergate scandal unfolds, Al Haig, Nixon’s Chief of Staff, advises Ford that he should prepare for a transition to the Presidency.

Documents

08/06/1974 Ford attends a Cabinet meeting and tells Nixon he will continue to support Nixon’s policies, but can no longer speak on the issue of Watergate to the media and the public.

Documents

08/08/1974

Nixon announces his decision to resign in a televised address.

Documents

08/09/1974 Ford is sworn in as the 38th President of the United States. In his swearing-in remarks, Ford announces “Our long, national nightmare is over.” Following the ceremony, President Ford goes immediately to work, meeting with Congressional leaders, senior White House staff, transition advisers, senior economic advisers, and foreign emissaries.

Documents

08/10/1973

The Vice Presidency is vacant for the second time in less than a year. Once again, the 25th Amendment will be invoked to fill this post.

President Ford, like his predecessor, asks leaders of Congress and the Cabinet for their Vice Presidential recommendations.

Documents

08/20/1974 President Ford nominates Nelson Rockefeller, former Governor of New York, to be his Vice President.

Documents

08/21/1974

Like Ford, Rockefeller undergoes an extensive FBI background investigation. He also seeks out advice from Congressional leaders on the implications of the 25th Amendment and the Vice Presidency.

Documents

11/13/1974

The Rockefeller confirmation process takes much longer than that of Gerald Ford, who is well liked by both conservatives and liberals. Rockefeller, on the other hand, is not deemed conservative enough by conservatives, while some liberals think his personal fortune will create a conflict of interest.

President Ford writes to Congress to encourage them to speed up the confirmation process for the sake of "carrying out the clear intention of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution." Ford goes public and gives speeches about the intentions of the 25th Amendment, and how the nation needs a "Vice President at all times."

Senator Hugh Scott, in his opening statement to the Senate, comments on President Ford's letter to Congress urging them to fill the vacancy as quickly as possible, and on the implications of the 25th Amendment. He also comments on the importance of having open proceedings.

From the time that Rockefeller is nominated, to the time he is confirmed, approximately four months pass.

Documents

12/10/1974 Rockefeller is confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 90-7.

Documents

  • Senate Vote #1092 : Vote to confirm the nomination of Nelson A. Rockefeller to be Vice-President of the U.S. (external link)
12/06/1973

Rockefeller is confirmed by the House by a vote of 287-128.

 

Documents

  • House Vote #1070: Vote to agree to H.Res. 1511, confirming Nelson A. Rockefeller as Vice President of the United States (external link)
12/19/1974 Rockefeller is sworn in as the 41st Vice President of the United States.

Documents

Below are image galleries for both Ford and Rockefeller's nomination and confirmation as Vice President.

Click on a tab below to view the galleries.


Images from Ford's Nomination and Confirmation as Vice President

Click on thumbnail for a high resolution image.

THUMBNAIL DESCRIPTION IMAGE NUMBER
Spiro Agnew, Vice President Spiro Agnew, Vice President

T25035c1-27

Ford meeting with Nixon right before nomination announcement Ford meeting with Nixon right before nomination announcement

h33-4b

View of Ford and Press

View of Ford and Press

2C3-12a

Betty Ford at confirmation hearing Betty Ford at confirmation hearing 2C4-13a
Ford giving testimony Ford giving testimony T26143_2C4-30a
Senator Howard Cannon, Chairman Senator Howard Cannon, Chairman T26143_2C4-31a
Ford greeting members of Senate committee Ford greeting members of Senate committee T26286c3-16
Ford at House Judiciary Committee hearings Ford at House Judiciary Committee hearings T26289c5-2
Ford giving testimony Ford giving testimony T26289c5-16
Ford at House Judiciary Committee hearings Ford at House Judiciary Committee hearings T26289c5-18
Ford being sworn in as the 40th Vice President of the United States Ford being sworn in as the 40th Vice President of the United States T26817c1-10
Ford's first press conference as Vice President Ford's first press conference as Vice President T26826c1-3
Ford at first press conference Ford at first press conference T26826c1-11
Images from Rockefeller's Nomination and Confirmation as Vice President

Click on a tab to view the galleries

THUMBNAIL DESCRIPTION IMAGE NUMBER
Announcement of Vice President-designate Announcement of Vice President-designate

A0237-11A

Ford and Rockefeller meeting with Bipartisan Congressional Leadership Ford and Rockefeller meeting with Bipartisan Congressional Leadership

A0238-17

Ford, Rockefeller and the First lady in the President's private office

Ford, Rockefeller and the First lady in the President's private office

A0238-31

Announcement of Vice President-designate Announcement of Vice President-designate A0239-14A
Rockefeller's Press Conference Rockefeller's Press Conference A0239-20A
Rockefeller and Ford in Oval Office Rockefeller and Ford in Oval Office A0250-19
Rockefeller being sworn in by Chief Justice Burger Rockefeller being sworn in by Chief Justice Burger A2548-09
Rockefeller signing Senate book to be able to address the joint assembly. Rockefeller signing Senate book to be able to address the joint assembly. A2548-11
Rockefeller addressing the joint assembly after being sworn in as Vice President. Rockefeller addressing the joint assembly after being sworn in as Vice President. A2548-12

Below is a playlist including video from both Ford and Rockefeller's nomination and confirmation as Vice President.

Click on playlist in the video box to view all the videos in the playlist.
If the player fails to load, please go to our YouTube page.




Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum