President Gerald Ford spent time in Chapel Hill on a couple of occasions as a young man. He was enrolled at the UNC Law School in the summer of 1938, and then returned to campus in 1942 to attend the U.S. Navy’s Pre-Flight School training program. Ford reflected on his time here in 1979 in response to questions sent by Mary Layne Baker, a UNC graduate student who was working on a thesis about the Pre-Flight School.
When he came for the Pre-Flight training, Ford and two other officers rented a “small cottage off the Durham Rd. about 3 miles out of Chapel Hill.” The future president remembered the university as “a beautiful, quiet but potentially a well-organized campus.” In regard to the general community, Ford said of Chapel Hill that “There was a good but not too demonstrative feeling of patriotism. It was wholesome & constructive.” And finally, it appears that he kept out of trouble when in town. In response to a question about the social life in Chapel Hill, Ford wrote that it was “Not too bad considering my heavy Navy schedule.”