Remembering President Ford

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 28, 2006

Gerald R. Ford, the 38th president of the United States, and the only man to ever assume the presidency without being elected to nationwide office, died Tuesday evening at his Rancho Mirage, Calif. home. He was 93.

Ford became president on Aug. 9, 1974 in the wake of the Watergate scandal and the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon.

He had been chosen in December 1973 by Nixon to fill the vacant vice president’s office, which became open with the resignation of then Vice President Spiro Agnew. Agnew resigned after pleading no contest to a charge of income tax evasion.


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At the time he moved into the vice president’s role, he had already served 25 years in Congress representing Michigan.

He was born in Omaha, Neb., in 1913, and grew up in Grand Rapids, Mich.

He attended the University of Michigan, where he excelled as a member of the Wolverines’ football team.

From there he went on to Yale University, serving as an assistant coach and earning his law degree.

During World War II, Ford reached the rank of lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy.

Following his military service, he returned to Grand Rapids and practiced law. It was there he got his first taste of politics and in 1948, was elected to his first term in Congress.

Ford married the former Elizabeth (Betty) Bloomer. They had four children, Michael, John, Steven and Susan.

&uot;With his quiet integrity, common sense and kind instincts, President Ford helped heal our land and restore public confidence in the presidency,&uot; President Bush said in a statement to the nation from his Texas ranch Wednesday. &uot;The American people will always admire Gerald Ford’s devotion to duty, his personal character and the honorable conduct of his administration.&uot;

Following his swearing in to the presidency, Ford said, I assume the presidency under extraordinary circumstances. This is an hour of history that troubles our minds and hurts our hearts.”

Of all the decisions he made in office, one perhaps more than all the rest stands out, and many say may have cost him the election against Democrat Jimmy Carter in 1976. Using the powers bestowed upon his office, Ford pardoned his former boss, Nixon, for his involvement in Watergate.

In 1999, the former president and his wife the Congressional Gold Medal for “helping heal a nation in torment.”

Ford was also the recipient of the Medal of Freedom, awarded to him by President Bill Clinton in August 1998.

Local leaders echoed national sentiments on the death of Ford, saying that he was a widely respected president who brought about unity in a time of division for the country.

Virginia Senator Frederick Quayle (R-13) lauded Ford as a president who was honest and accessible.

“I think that he served as president at a time when this nation needed to be brought together, and I think he did that,” said Quayle. “He was probably as good a person as could have accomplished what he did in bringing this country together.

“I have not known a president other than Ford who was as well-respected by both of the major political parties. A large part of that was he was so open and forthcoming with everyone and everything he did.”

Suffolk Vice Mayor Curtis Milteer said that “This nation has lost a great statesman” in Ford.

“He stepped in place and stabilized our government when the country had no elected leader,” said Milteer. “He was there to keep the country stable and moving forward, and needs to be commended for that.”

&uot;I went to an Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority meeting in Northern Virginia and he came to speak to us,” said Madelaine Wilson. “I was impressed with all the security there. He was interesting, but it was just such an honor to be in the same room as the President.&uot;

&uot;He was nice; he fixed up the scandal that Nixon left. But, all I remember is what they said about him on the television this morning,&uot; said Marie Williams.

Services for the president include First, a memorial service at the California church where he and his wife attended services. Then the president’s body will be flown to Washington. Finally, President Ford’s body will be taken to Grand Rapids, Mich., where he will be laid to rest at the Gerald Ford Museum.

Douglas Grant contributed to this article.