At Yale, Ford rubbed shoulders with the sons of America's elite. His law school classmates included several future public officials, including Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, and Peace Corps director Sargent Shriver. While at Yale, Ford also met Phyllis Brown, a blonde, beautiful student attending Connecticut College for Women. The two shared a zest for life and fell in love, beginning what Ford later described as a "torrid four-year affair." The romance ended, however, when Ford decided to return to Grand Rapids to practice law and Brown stayed in New York to continue her modeling career.
Back in Michigan, Ford opened a successful law practice in 1941 with his friend (and future White House counsel) Philip Buchen. At the same time, he became increasingly interested in politics. A Republican, Ford had supported Wendell Willkie's unsuccessful run against President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1940 presidential election. Ford became active politically in Grand Rapids, joining a group of Republican reformers called the "Home Front," who opposed the local Republican machine headed by the arrogant and imperious boss Frank McKay.