The Rumsfeld Papers


About the Memos of Meetings with President Ford

After I started as White House Chief of Staff on October 1, 1974, I realized I had to have a system to record all the various topics President Ford and I would cover in the course of a day.  Some days I would meet with him five or six times and be tasked with action items ranging from getting curtains in the Oval Office to preparing nominee options for top cabinet positions.  I got in the habit of taking rough notes in our meetings, then first thing when I came out dictating a list of things I needed to do—or increasingly things I needed my deputy Dick Cheney to do.  I also on occasion recorded the substance of conversations I thought were important, and that the President or I might want to review down the road.

These memos are not reflective.  They were not designed as a journal or a diary—in fact they were not designed at all as anything but working documents.  They were my spoken notes typed up by my secretary who had little knowledge of the names or topics, and who was putting a priority on speed rather than precision.  They were never editied.  The results are riddled with errors and typos to the point that they may at times seem illegible.  But reading them now gives a first-hand sense of how the Ford White House functioned, and the sorts of issues we grappled with daily behind the scenes.

A video introduction to the Ford memos can be found here.