Taking the Ford Name

Official documentation of Ford's name change


Gerald Ford, Jr. graduated from the University of Michigan in 1935. He had to borrow money to pay his final university bills, so that summer he worked at his father’s paint company while he received coaching lessons at the YMCA as he prepared for his job at Yale University.


Ford’s father was happy for the help. He had given Junior every advantage he knew to give – a loving husband to Junior’s mother, support in scouting and sports, an example of service to his community and church. Senior had also given the young man his name, that is, in every way but in the way the law recognized.


Now, as Junior faced leaving home for a vocation of his own, he placed an ad in the Cedar Springs Clipper newspaper:


Please to Take Notice that on Saturday, the 7th day of September, 1935, at ten o’clock in the forenoon, at the office of the Judge of Probate at the Court House in the city of Grand Rapids, County of Kent, Michigan, I will make application to the Honorable Judge of Probate in and for said County, to change my name from Leslie King to Gerald Rudolph Ford, Junior.

                                                                       Signed, LESLIE KING


For perhaps the first, and certainly the last, time the boy who was born into that troubled Omaha house signed the name first given to him, in application to secure by legal means the name by which he was known to Grand Rapids, the name that was every bit as much his father’s (Gerald) and his family’s (Ford).


That November, just before Thanksgiving, he and his dad appeared before Judge John Dalton, who granted the son’s petition to take his father’s name. When Junior signed the petition, he did so using a name that the law now acknowledged was his own. But it had been his beginning as early as that February day in 1917, when Gerald Ford married Dorothy Gardner King and began by familial osmosis the process of transforming Leslie King, Junior into his own son. And in the transforming, Junior grew up grand, in every way that mattered to his mother and dad.