AntiqueFootball Goes to Sea

Chris Hornung
July 20, 2016
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Ford's opposition to segregation and support for equal rights during his 25 years in the U.S. House of Representatives and terms as Vice President and President were shaped by a moral dilemma he faced his senior year at Michigan. Ford's roommate was Willis Ward, an African-American who was only the second black player to letter at Michigan and the first since 1890. Colleges in the deep south, which remained segregated until the 1960's, had a gentleman's agreement with northern schools that black athletes were not to participate in games played in southern venues. In 1934, legendary Michigan coach and southern sympathizer Fielding Yost, decided that Ward, the team's right end, wouldn't travel with the team to Georgia Tech in the Wolverines third game of the season. According to later accounts, Ford was deeply conflicted by this decision and threatened to sit out the game if Ward wasn't permitted to participate. Only at Ward's urging did Ford eventually agreed to play in the game, a 9-2 Wolverine victory.
When the $12.8 billion U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) is launched later this year, she will become the largest and most technologically advanced ship to ever enter U.S. Navy service. With a life expectancy of 50 years, the Ford Class aircraft carriers will replace the Nimitz-class nuclear carriers that have projected American power across the globe since 1968.
In 2006, the U.S. Senate authorized the naming of CVN 78 in honor of Gerald R. Ford, the 38th president of the United States, and a U.S. Navy veteran. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Ford enlisted in the Navy in April of 1942. He served as the assistant navigator on the U.S.S. Monterey, an Independence-class aircraft carrier that saw action in the Pacific theater of World War II between 1943 and 1945. After the war, Ford resigned from the Naval Reserves in 1946 to pursue a law degree.

Prior to his service in the Navy, Gerald Ford attended the University of Michigan, where he was a three-time letterman (1932-34) and a two-time National Champion (1932-33) for the Wolverine football team. As a center, Ford was selected as the team's most valuable player in 1934, and played in the East-West Shrine All-Star Game in January of 1935.
For More on Gerald Ford and Willis Ward
Click for Joey Nowak's 2011 article in the Grand Rapids Press
Gerald Ford & Willis Ward, 1934
1935 East-West Charity Game photo , National Chicle
Gerald Ford, 1934
1930's Helmet and Football Donated by AntiqueFootball
In January 2016, the Gerald Ford Presidential Foundation contacted AntiqueFootball for assistance in locating artifacts to commemorate Ford's Michigan football career. After considerable photographic and historical research, we were able to acquire a circa 1934 leather helmet matching the style worn by Ford during the 1934 season. The helmet and a 1930's collegiate football were donated to the Foundation by AntiqueFootball, and currently reside within the Captain's Inport Cabin on the U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford. The Inport Cabin is used for dignitaries and special guests to the ship, and the football artifacts will remain with the ship during her entire 50+ year service life.
Gerald Ford
Photo showing the Ford Football Display in the U.S.S. Gerald Ford Inport Cabin
Gerald Ford Presidential Foundation Newsletter
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