1. News & Issues

Gerald Ford: President and Park Ranger

Ford had fond memories, and great stories, about his summer as a park ranger

By

Gerald Ford as a park ranger in 1936.

Ranger Gerald Ford at Yellowstone National Park in the summer of 1936.

Photo courtesy of National Park Service
Gerald Ford, the 38th president of the United States, is best remembered for pardoning former President Richard M. Nixon after he resigned during the Watergate scandal, and for helping to heal the nation’s wounds following the Vietnam war. A lesser known fact about Gerald Ford is that he was the only American president ever to have served as a park ranger in the National Park Service.

Gerald Ford Was a "Darned Good Ranger"
In the summer of 1936, the summer he turned 23 years old, Gerald Ford worked as a seasonal park ranger at Yellowstone National Park. Ford later recalled his time as a park ranger as “one of the greatest summers of my life.” Canyon District Ranger Frank Anderson, Ford’s supervisor during his summer at Yellowstone, described the future president as “a darned good ranger.”

Gerald Ford and the Bear-Feeding Truck
While serving as a park ranger at Yellowstone, one of Gerald Ford’s duties was to serve as an armed guard on the bear-feeding truck, protecting other rangers who were distributing food to the park’s bear population. The National Park Service no longer feeds the bears in Yellowstone and other national parks, but Ford often regaled his friends and family with stories about his experiences on the bear-feeding truck.

Gerald Ford: Man of the People
During his summer as a park ranger, Gerald Ford also worked at the Canyon Hotel and Lodge, meeting and greeting VIPs. A man of the people even then, Ford told his supervisor it was “undemocratic and un-American to give special attention to VIPs.” Ironic, perhaps, for a man who would become president of the United States and one of the most important people of his generation, but it was consistent with the down-to-earth attitude Ford displayed throughout his long political career.

Gerald Ford Kept in Shape while Working as a Park Ranger
According to Wayne Repogle, Ford’s roommate during that summer at Yellowstone, one of the park ranger duties that Ford really liked was the early morning check. From 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. every morning, each automobile in camp had to be checked for make, model, state and license number. Repogle recalled that the park rangers had to run most of the time to get 150 to 200 cars checked and listed in just two hours. As a football player, Ford was very fit and saw this duty as an opportunity to stay in shape during the off season. Repogle said that Ford genuinely enjoyed, “everything we rangers had to do.”

President Gerald Ford and National Parks
As President of the United States, Gerald Ford oversaw an era when the National Park Service tightened the criteria for national parklands. Previously, for an area to be recommended for inclusion in the National Park System, it had to be considered nationally significant and lend itself to administration, preservation, and public use. The new emphasis would also consider whether the area was assured of adequate protection outside the National Park System and whether it would be available for public appreciation and use under such protection. During his time in office, President Ford added 18 new areas to the National Park System.

Areas Added to the National Park System under President Gerald R. Ford:

  • Boston National Historical Park, MA
  • Big Cypress National Preserve, FL
  • Big Thicket National Preserve, TX
  • Clara Barton National Historic Site, MD
  • John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, OR
  • Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site, ND
  • Martin Van Buren National Historic Site, NY
  • Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site, AL
  • Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area, OH
  • Canaveral National Seashore, FL
  • Chickasaw National Recreation Area, OK
  • Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, AK/WA
  • Valley Forge National Historical Park, PA
  • Ninety Six National Historic Site, SC
  • Obed Wild and Scenic River, TN
  • Congaree Swamp National Monument, SC
  • Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site, CA
  • Monocacy National Battlefield, MD
Source: National Park Service

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.