Gerald R. Ford, Jr., with the family dog, Spot and Peck, in Grand Rapids, 1915

Beginning Anew in Grand Rapids


Following the separation of Leslie and Dorothy King, the latter temporarily stayed with her sister, Tannisse, and her husband in Oak Park, Illinois. There, she filed for divorce from King, who was found “guilty of extreme cruelty” and was ordered to pay three thousand dollars alimony and twenty-five dollars a month in child support until their son reached the age of twenty-one. Stubborn and deeply in debt, King refused to pay a dime. His father Charles was troubled by the situation, and agreed to pay the child support for Leslie, though the alimony fee remained. But the marriage was at an end, and Dorothy was able to carry on with her life.


During this time, Dorothy’s parents moved from Harvard, Illinois, to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where Levi had invested in real estate. They invited their daughter and grandson to come live with them at 457 Lafayette Street. The city itself had a reputation for morality and prosperity--a great place to raise a family. No sooner had they arrived in the town on the Grand River had Dorothy met someone, a man named Gerald R. Ford.


She met him at a Grace Episcopal Church social event in 1915, and they quickly showed an interest in each other. Ford was a twenty-four year old bachelor who was considerate and even-tempered. Gerald's father, George Ford, moved to St. Louis in 1898, leaving his family in Grand Rapids. Gerald left school after completing the eighth grade to pursue a trade and help support the family, a responsibility made more immediate when his father was killed in a train accident in 1909. By the time he had met Dorothy, Gerald had a good sales job, selling paint and varnish to furniture factories in town. The two had a courtship that lasted almost a year, until they were married where they met, at Grace Church, on February 1, 1917.


Although he was not legally adopted by his new father, Leslie L. King, Jr. was now being called "Junior" Ford, and eventually, Gerald R. Ford, Jr. In every way that mattered, the man his mother married was his real dad. “He was the father I grew up to believe was my father,” said Ford, “the father I loved and learned from and respected.” After years of upheaval, Gerald R. Ford, Jr.’s place was now set.