Leslie Lynch King, Sr.

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Leslie Lynch King, Sr.
Leslie Lynch King Sr.jpg
Leslie Lynch King, Sr. circa 1900
Born Leslie Lynch King
(1884-07-25)July 25, 1884
Chadron, Nebraska, United States
Died February 18, 1941(1941-02-18) (aged 56)
Tucson, Arizona, United States
Resting place
Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale
Glendale, California, United States
Known for Biological father of U.S. President Gerald Ford
Spouse(s) Dorothy Ayer Gardner (1912—1913)
Margaret Atwood (1919—1941)
Children Gerald Ford (1913–2006)
Marjorie B. King (1921—1993)[1]
Leslie Henry King (1923-1976)[1]
Patricia Jane King (b. 1925)[1]
Parents Charles Henry King
Martha Porter King

Leslie Lynch King, Sr. (July 25, 1884 — February 18, 1941) was the biological father of U.S. President Gerald Ford. Because of his alcoholism and abusive behavior, his wife, Dorothy Gardner left him sixteen days after Ford's birth. King is believed to have seen Ford only once while he was in high school.

Personal life[edit]

King was born in Chadron, Nebraska, the son of businessman Charles Henry King and Martha Alicia (née Porter) King. His father founded several small trading towns in Nebraska and Wyoming along the railroad. He also became a banker and was very successful. In 1908, the family moved to Omaha, Nebraska, where his parents commissioned the construction of a large Victorian mansion. He became a wool trader, probably working with his father.

Marriage and family[edit]

First marriage[edit]

While one of his sisters was at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, King met and courted her roommate, Dorothy Ayer Gardner of Harvard, Illinois. They were married on September 7, 1912. Dorothy and King returned to Omaha where King was working.

They lived with his parents at 3202 Woolworth in the Hanscom Park neighborhood, a central part of the city. Their son, Leslie, Jr., was born on July 14, 1913. Dorothy had quickly learned that King was abusive, short-tempered and had trouble with alcohol. A few days after their son's birth, King gestured at his wife and son with a knife and threatened to kill them. Dorothy quickly completed plans to leave her husband; she would not tolerate the abuse nor threats to their son's safety.[2]

Sixteen days after the birth, Dorothy Gardner King left Omaha with her son for Oak Park, Illinois, home of her sister Tannisse and brother-in-law Clarence Haskins James. From there, she moved to the home of her parents Levi Addison Gardner and Adele Augusta (née Ayer) in Grand Rapids, Michigan.[dead link][3] On December 19, 1913, an Omaha court granted a divorce to the Kings. Leslie King refused to pay child support.

On February 1, 1917, Dorothy Gardner King married Grand Rapids businessman Gerald Rudolff Ford. They called her son Gerald Ford, Jr., although he was not formally adopted. In honor of his stepfather, in 1935 at the age of 22, young Gerald legally changed his name to Gerald Rudolph Ford, adopting the more-common spelling of his middle name. The Fords also had three sons together.

Second marriage[edit]

King married Margaret Atwood in Reno, Nevada, in 1919. They had three children:

  • Marjorie B. King (1921 — April 8, 1993)[1]
  • Leslie "Bud" Henry King (March 28, 1923 — December 2, 1976)[1]
  • Patricia Jane King (born 1925)[1]

Later years and death[edit]

Ford's paternal grandfather, Charles Henry King, took care of his first grandson and paid Ford's mother child support until shortly before his death in 1930. Ford's mother and stepfather did not tell him of his biological father until shortly before he turned fifteen in 1928. Ford described his biological father as "a carefree, well-to-do man who didn't really give a damn about the hopes and dreams of his firstborn son".

King met his firstborn son again for the first time when he was a senior in high school. He visited him where Ford was working at a restaurant in Grand Rapids. They had a superficial conversation. King, who had never paid child support, handed Ford $25. It is believed that the two had no further contact.[4]

King died on February 18, 1941 in Tucson, Arizona. He was buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, in Glendale, California near his parents. In 1949, his widow Margaret King married Roy Mather.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f University of Texas Ford Genealogy[dead link]
  2. ^ "Gerald R. Ford", excerpt from an essay on Gerald Ford by James M. Cannon for Character Above All: Ten Presidents from FDR to George Bush (Wilson, Robert A., editor (1995)), essay hosted on PBS website , accessed August 21, 2009
  3. ^ [dead link]Gerald R. Ford Genealogical Information - University of Texas
  4. ^ "Nebraska-born, Ford Left State as Infant", The Associated Press, The New York Times, December 27, 2006 (website registration required)