Gerald R. Ford Made a Stand Against Racism at the University of Michigan

As the nation honored the late Gerald R. Ford this past week, it is important to remember the stance against racism the nation’s 38th president made while a student at the University of Michigan.

In 1934 Georgia Tech was scheduled to come to Ann Arbor for a game against the University of Michigan. Ford was the center and captain of the University of Michigan team. Tech refused to play the game if Willis Ward, the only black player on the Michigan team, was allowed to play. The University of Michigan relented and barred Ward from playing.

Ford was furious that Georgia Tech made the demand and even angrier that the University of Michigan acceded to the demand. Ford refused to suit up for the game. Only after Willis Ward personally appealed to Ford did the future president agree to play.

Late in life Ford backed the University of Michigan in its efforts to uphold its affirmative action admissions policies.