The Ford Foundation was chartered on January 15, 1936 with an initial gift of $25,000 from Edsel Ford, the only son of the industrialist/auto magnate Henry Ford, “to receive and administer funds for scientific, educational and charitable purposes, all for the public welfare.” The real purpose of the Foundation was to dodge the IRS’s steep inheritance tax on the Ford Motor Company’s stock. With that in mind, 95% of all company stock was placed under the charge of the Foundation. Although Edsel Ford initially envisioned small-scale philanthropic goals, the massive endowment of company equity made the Ford Foundation the largest at the time and the most influential charitable organization in the United States.

During its early years, the Ford Foundation operated in Michigan under the direction of Ford family members. The founding charter stated that resources should be used “for scientific, educational and charitable purposes, all for the public welfare.” Therefore the Foundation made grants to many different kinds of organizations. After the deaths of Edsel Ford in 1943 and his father (Henry Ford) four years later, Henry Ford II (Edsel’s son and Henry’s grandson) assumed leadership of the Foundation’s board of trustees. Over the next 33 years, Henry Ford II would serve the Foundation in various positions. Those being President, Chairman, and Board of Trustees member. Upon taking the helm of the trustees’ board, Mr. Ford II promptly appointed the Gaither Study Committee, headed by California attorney H. Rowan Gaither, to draft a long-term plan for the institution’s future. In its final report (published in 1950), the Committee recommended that the Ford Foundation should focus its philanthropy on groups and causes that:

  • “promise significant contributions to world peace and the establishment of a world order of law and justice”;

  • “secure greater allegiance to the basic principles of freedom and democracy in the solution of the insistent problems of an ever-changing society”;

  • “advance the economic well-being of people everywhere and improve economic institutions for the better realization of democratic goals”;

  • “strengthen, expand and improve educational facilities and methods to enable individuals to realize more fully their intellectual, civic and spiritual potential; to promote greater equality of educational opportunity; and to conserve and increase knowledge and enrich our culture”; and

  • “increase knowledge of factors that influence or determine human conduct, and extend such knowledge for the maximum benefit of individuals and society.”

As its influence was increasing rapidly, the Ford Foundation became separated from the Conservative views of the Ford family. Through divestiture, the Ford Motor Company became a public company in 1956. Other than its name, The Ford Foundation has not had any connections to the Ford Motor Company, nor the Ford family since. The Ford Foundation began to receive millions of dollars in dividends from the massive endowment of stock that had been bequeathed to it by Henry and Edsel Ford. Almost overnight, it transformed the Foundation into the country’s largest and most influential philanthropy. To oversee its newly lavish budget, the Foundation turned to Paul Hoffman, a corporate executive and a liberal Republican.

Hoffman was appointed as the Foundation’s president and immediately launched its political realignment with  a symbolic change of location, moving its headquarters from the Ford Company’s base in Dearborn, Michigan, to a location near his home in Pasadena, California, as well as to New York City. During Hoffman’s presidency, the Foundation became the subject of passionate complaint. A 1951 headline in the ultraconservative Chicago Tribune read: “Leftist Slant Begins to Show in Ford Trust.” The story denounced Hoffman as an evil man who had “given away $10 billion to foreign countries.” One of the leading conservative columnists of the day,  took up the cry:

“Henry Ford … made nearly all his money in this country, but Paul Hoffman, who is spending that money, seems to prefer to put that money into remote bottomless pits and to expend it for meaningless purposes such as an investigation as to why the world is full of refugees when, as a matter of fact, it always has been.”

These geographic changes heralded a shift in the nature and political direction of the Foundation’s charitable giving — changes which would reach new heights in 1966, when McGeorge Bundy began his 13-year stint as the Ford Foundation’s president. Another liberal Republican and who had served as a national security adviser to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. Bundy, who had initially advocated American intervention in Vietnam, came to regret his support for the war and migrated to the left politically.

Under Bundy, the Ford Foundation launched a new style of politicized giving and became a radical force in American life. Much evidence of their anti-democratic, anti-American, anti-capitalist, anti-Israeli activities  has been copious and well documented as you will find in future chapters of this blog.  Henry Ford II lamented this liberal turn when he resigned in disgust from the Foundation in 1977.  He claimed that it was hard to discern any trace of Capitalism “in anything the foundation does. It is even more difficult to find an understanding of this in many of the institutions particularly the universities that are the beneficiaries of the Foundation’s grant program.” The foundation is ignoring the very economic system whose abundance made it and all other philanthropic foundations possible.

Stay tuned from Part 2 of 8