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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Former President Gerald Ford, 93, Dies

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Former President Gerald Ford and his wife of 58 years, former First Lady Betty Ford. Former President Ford died on Dec. 26.
Former President Gerald Ford, Jr. died Dec. 26 at the age of 93. Ford was the 38th president of the United States and was the longest living U.S. president at the time of his death. He died at Rancho Mirage, California.

Former First Lady Betty Ford issued a brief statement last night.

"My family joins me in sharing the difficult news that Gerald Ford, our beloved husband,father, grandfather and great grandfather has passed away at 93 years of age. His life was filled with a love of God, his family and his country."

President George Bush termed Ford "a great American."

Bush offered a written statement early Dec. 27.

"With his quiet integrity, common sense, and kind instincts, President Ford helped heal our land and restore public confidence in the Presidency," the statement read. "The American people will always admire Gerald Ford's devotion to duty, his personal character, and the honorable conduct of his administration."

Bush made a televised appearance and spoke about Ford this morning.

An Unelected President

Ford, a Republican, held both the Presidency and Vice-presidency without election to either.

Ford was nominated to serve as former U.S. President Richard M. Nixon's vice-president after former Vice-president Spiro Agnew resigned the post. He assumed the U.S. Presidency in Aug. 1974 after Nixon resigned the office after investigations into the Watergate scandal allegedly turned up information that directly implicated Nixon in a cover-up of the 1972 politically-motivated burglary.

Ford served as Vice-president for less than one year before he ascended to the Presidency. He served as President from Aug. 9 1974 to January 20, 1977. Ford was defeated during the 1976 Presidential election by former President Jimmy Carter.

Ford fell into political disfavor when he pardoned Nixon on Sept. 8 1974. Ford set up a Vietnam War conditional amnesty program for those who fled to other countries, including Canada, rather than serve in the military during the Vietnam era.

Under Ford's presidency, all remaining American troops were withdrawn from Vietnam during Operation Frequent Wind. Memorable evacuation scenes were recorded during April 29 and 30, 1975, when tumult ruled as the American Embassy in Saigon was evacuated. Saigon ultimately fell into the hands of the North Vietnamese.

"I Believe He Represented the Country Well"

Berkshires resident Marilyn Head, who is extremely active within the region's Republican party, remembered Ford as a good president. She noted that although most Democrats were upset over the Nixon pardon, "it was not such a problem for Republicans."

Ford served in two top jobs in the country knowing he did not have the formal, elected support of the citizens, she said.

"I believe that he represented the country well and he represented the [presidency] well," she said.

From Pigskin To Sheepskin

Republican Party member Michael McCabe was nine years old when Ford became President. Ford was a solid athlete while in college and was a star football player for the University of Michigan Wolverines, McCabe said, and noted that Ford was offered contracts by the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers professional football teams. Ford turned the offers down to attend Yale Law School.

"If you think back to the times, it wasn't as sexy to be in the NFL back then," McCabe said.

Ford restored respect the White House and the Office of the President, both of which sustained a ravaging of credibility and trust during the Nixon era, McCabe said.

"He brought the dignity back to the White House."

McCabe said that he does not believe Ford was driven by ideology.

"He was a career politician," McCabe said. "He was an inside man."

Area attorney Richard Taskin noted that Ford appointed U.S. Supreme Court Justice Paul Stevens to the Court during his tenure.

"Justice Stevens is actually my favorite justice," Taskin said, and noted an irony in Ford's appointing a justice known today as among the Supreme Court's more liberal justices.

"A Good Fellow"

"People honor him today because he pardoned Richard Nixon, but he might have had an even greater reputation if he'd pardoned those who refused to fight in Vietnam," Taskin said, and added that while Ford's pardon of Nixon is hailed by most in 2006, it was a significant factor in Ford's inability to be elected President in 1976.

Ford was viewed as someone from the "old school" of politics, Taskin said.

"I think he was an ally of [former Massachusetts U.S. Congressman] Silvio O. Conte," Taskin said. "It was an era that placed a greater emphasis on bi-partisanship."

Taskin recalled the bitterly divisive years that preceded Ford's presidency, and recalled a "morning-after" photo taken of Ford the day after he became President.

In the photograph, Ford was buttering his morning toast.

That photo seemed to indicate a passing of the bad times, Taskin said.

"Here was a [President] buttering his own toast," Taskin said. "It seemed like there was a normal guy in White House. I didn't vote for him but he seemed to be a good fellow."

President Gerald Ford Jr.

Born July 14 1913 in Omaha Nebraska

Spent most of his youth in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Became an Eagle Scout and received a Distinguished Eagle Scout Award

Graduate of University of Michigan

Earned a law degree at Yale Law School

Enlisted in the U.S. military after Dec. 7 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor

Married Elizabeth "Betty" Bloomer Warren on Oct. 15, 1948

Ford served as a U.S. Congressman from the Grand Rapids region for 24 years 1949-1973

Ford served as House Minority leader from 1965-1973

In 1974, Ford selected former President George H.W. Bush as Ambassador to the People's Republic of China. In 1975, he named Bush as the director of the CIA.

Ford selected Donald Rumsfeld as Secretery of Defense in 1975.

Ford's Chief of Staff was Richard "Dick" Cheney.

Ford was the subject of two assassination attempts. On Sept. 5, 1975, Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, a disciple of Charles Manson, tried to shoot him while in Sacramento, Calif.. Just 17 days later, Sara Jane Moore attempted to shoot Ford during a visit to San Francisco.

Ford secured the Republican nomination for President in 1976 after former California Governor, and later, former U.S, President Ronald Reagan withdrew from the Republican Convention in Kansas City, Missouri.

Ford was subsequently defeated in the November 1976 election.

In 1999, Ford was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by former President William J. Clinton. In 2001, Ford received a John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award.

Ford was hospitalized at least six times this year before his death.

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush@iberkshires.com or at 413-663-3384, ext. 29
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