GERALD FORD ON HIS NOMINATION
OF JOHN PAUL STEVENS TO THE SUPREME COURT:
“I WORKED VERY HARD TO DO IT RIGHT”
GERALD R. FORD. Autograph Letter Signed to U. S. Senator Paul Simon, no place [Rancho Mirage CA], 13 June . 1 page, 6¼" x 8½", on his personal stationery.
A Michigan lawyer who served in Congress from 1949 to 1973, Gerald Ford became Vice President in December 1973, under the provisions of the Twenty Fifth Amendment, after the resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew. He assumed the Presidency the next year, on August 9, 1974, following the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Ford served out the rest of Nixon’s term, and his administration was notable for the pardon of Richard Nixon, the end of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, and economic problems including persistent inflation and a recession. After losing his bid for election to the Presidency in his own right in 1976, Ford retired to Rancho Mirage, California.
Ford also made one Supreme Court appointment during his Presidency – of John Paul Stevens, and here, in retirement, he comments on that choice. Ford writes to Illinois Senator Paul Simon, who had just published a book about the Supreme Court nomination process. “Thanks so much for a copy of your new book – Advice and Consent,” Ford states. “I am deeply grateful for the analysis of the John Paul Stevens nomination process. Ed Levi and I worked very hard to do it right. Justice Stevens has done a super job. I am very proud of his record on the Court even though I don’t always agree with his decisions.
“I miss Congress,” Ford concludes, “but I’m disappointed with its management and role. Thanks again.” He has signed, “With great respect Jerry Ford.”
When Justice William O. Douglas retired on November 12, 1975, President Ford asked his Attorney General, Edward H. Levi, to draw up a list of potential candidates. Among those highly recommended by Levi was John Paul Stevens, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Ford formally nominated Stevens on November 28, and the Senate confirmed his nomination by a vote of 98-0 on December 17, 1975. Stevens went on to become one of the longest-serving justices in the history of the Supreme Court.
Paul Simon’s book, Advice and Consent, was written in the wake of two long and bitter fights over the controversial Supreme Court nominations of Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas. A member of the Senate Judiciary Committee during those battles, Simon offered in his book both a history and a policy analysis of the Supreme Court appointment process, and he devoted several pages to a discussion of the process by which Gerald Ford chose John Paul Stevens. Although himself a Democrat, Simon praised Ford, a Republican, for his “careful process” in selecting Stevens, calling it a “well-handled nomination” and “an almost picture-perfect method to appoint a Supreme Court justice” (see pages 295-298 in Simon’s book). Simon pointed out that Ford ordered a comprehensive search for candidates, gave the task to an Attorney General who was highly-regarded and non-partisan, consulted in advance with members of Congress, and insisted on a nominee of unquestioned professional stature and integrity.
For the rest of his life, Ford maintained the view of Justice Stevens that he expresses in this letter. In 2005, the year before he died, Ford wrote, “I am prepared to allow history’s judgment of my term in office to rest...on my nomination thirty years ago of Justice John Paul Stevens to the U.S. Supreme Court” (as quoted in The New York Times, April 9, 2010).
The letter is written on Ford’s personal stationery that has his name printed in black and a gold-embossed eagle at the top. There is a small date-received stamp and a staple hole at the top, but the letter is in fine condition overall. It is accompanied by the original envelope which has a printed Ford free frank at the upper right. $3500.00
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