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Former President Ford dead at 93

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061227/ap_on_re_us/obit_ford Former President Ford dead at 93 1 minute ago LOS ANGELES - Gerald R. Ford, who picked up the pieces
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 26, 2006
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      Former President Ford dead at 93
      1 minute ago

      LOS ANGELES - Gerald R. Ford, who picked up the pieces
      of Richard Nixon's scandal-shattered White House as
      the 38th and only unelected president in America's
      history, has died, his wife, Betty, said Tuesday. He
      was 93.

      "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," Mrs. Ford said in a brief statement issued from
      her husband's office in Rancho Mirage. "His life was
      filled with love of God, his family and his country."

      The statement did not say where Ford died or list a
      cause of death. Ford had battled pneumonia in January
      2006 and underwent two heart treatments — including an
      angioplasty — in August at the Mayo Clinic in
      Rochester, Minn.

      He was the longest living president, followed by
      Ronald Reagan, who also died at 93. Ford had been
      living at his desert home in Rancho Mirage, Calif.,
      about 130 miles east of Los Angeles.

      Ford was an accidental president, Nixon's hand-picked
      successor, a man of much political experience who had
      never run on a national ticket. He was as open and
      straight-forward as Nixon was tightly controlled and

      He took office minutes after Nixon flew off into exile
      and declared "our long national nightmare is over."
      But he revived the debate a month later by granting
      Nixon a pardon for all crimes he committed as
      president. That single act, it was widely believed,
      cost Ford election to a term of his own in 1976, but
      it won praise in later years as a courageous act that
      allowed the nation to move on.

      The Vietnam War ended in defeat for the U.S. during
      his presidency with the fall of Saigon in April 1975.
      In a speech as the end neared, Ford said: "Today,
      America can regain the sense of pride that existed
      before Vietnam. But it cannot be achieved by
      refighting a war that is finished as far as America is
      concerned." Evoking Abraham Lincoln, he said it was
      time to "look forward to an agenda for the future, to
      unify, to bind up the nation's wounds."

      Ford also earned a place in the history books as the
      first unelected vice president, chosen by Nixon to
      replace Spiro Agnew who also was forced from office by

      He was in the White House only 895 days, but changed
      it more than it changed him.

      Even after two women tried separately to kill him, the
      presidency of Jerry Ford remained open and plain.

      Not imperial. Not reclusive. And, of greatest
      satisfaction to a nation numbed by Watergate, not

      Even to millions of Americans who had voted two years
      earlier for Richard Nixon, the transition to Ford's
      leadership was one of the most welcomed in the history
      of the democratic process — despite the fact that it
      occurred without an election.

      After the Watergate ordeal, Americans liked their new
      president — and first lady Betty, whose candor charmed
      the country.

      They liked her for speaking openly about problems of
      young people, including her own daughter; they admired
      her for not hiding that she had a mastectomy — in
      fact, her example caused thousands of women to seek
      breast examinations.

      And she remained one of the country's most admired
      women even after the Fords left the White House when
      she was hospitalized in 1978 and admitted to having
      become addicted to drugs and alcohol she took for
      painful arthritis and a pinched nerve in her neck.
      Four years later she founded the Betty Ford Center in
      Rancho Mirage, a substance abuse facility next to
      Eisenhower Medical Center.

      Ford slowed down in recent years. He had been
      hospitalized in August 2000 when he suffered one or
      more small strokes while attending the Republican
      National Convention in Philadelphia.

      The following year, he joined former presidents
      Carter, Bush and Clinton at a memorial service in
      Washington three days after the Sept. 11 attacks. In
      June 2004, the four men and their wives joined again
      at a funeral service in Washington for former
      President Reagan. But in November 2004, Ford was
      unable to join the other former presidents at the
      dedication of the Clinton presidential library in
      Little Rock, Ark.

      In January, Ford was hospitalized with pneumonia for
      12 days. He wasn't seen in public until April 23, when
      President Bush was in town and paid a visit to the
      Ford home. Bush, Ford and Betty posed for
      photographers outside the residence before going
      inside for a private get-together.

      The intensely private couple declined reporter
      interview requests and were rarely seen outside their
      home in Rancho Mirage's gated Thunderbird Estates,
      other than to attend worship services at the nearby
      St. Margaret's Episcopal Church in Palm Desert.

      In a long congressional career in which he rose to be
      House Republican leader, Ford lit few fires. In the
      words of Congressional Quarterly, he "built a
      reputation for being solid, dependable and loyal — a
      man more comfortable carrying out the programs of
      others than in initiating things on his own."

      When Agnew resigned in a bribery scandal in October
      1973, Ford was one of four finalists to succeed him:
      Texan John Connally, New York's Nelson Rockefeller and
      California's Ronald Reagan.

      "Personal factors enter into such a decision," Nixon
      recalled for a Ford biographer in 1991. I knew all of
      the final four personally and had great respect for
      each one of then, but I had known Jerry Ford longer
      and better than any of the rest.

      "We had served in Congress together. I had often
      campaigned for him in his district," Nixon continued.
      But Ford had something the others didn't, he would be
      easily confirmed by Congress, something that could not
      be said of Rockefeller, Reagan and Connally.

      So Ford it was. He became the first vice president
      appointed under the 25th amendment to the

      On Aug. 9, 1974, after seeing Nixon off to exile, Ford
      assumed the office. The next morning, he still made
      his own breakfast and padded to the front door in his
      pajamas to get the newspaper.

      Said a ranking Democratic congressman: "Maybe he is a
      plodder, but right now the advantages of having a
      plodder in the presidency are enormous."

      It was rare that Ford was ever as eloquent as he was
      for those dramatic moments of his swearing-in at the
      White House.

      "My fellow Americans," he said, "our long national
      nightmare is over. Our Constitution works. Our great
      republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here
      the people rule."

      And, true to his reputation as unassuming Jerry, he
      added: "I am acutely aware that you have not elected
      me as your president by your ballots. So I ask you to
      confirm me with your prayers."

      For Ford, a full term was not to be. He survived an
      intraparty challenge from Ronald Reagan only to lose
      to Democrat Jimmy Carter in November. In the campaign,
      he ignored Carter's record as governor of Georgia and
      concentrated on his own achievements as president.

      Carter won 297 electoral votes to his 240. After
      Reagan came back to defeat Carter in 1980, the two
      former presidents became collaborators, working
      together on joint projects.

      Even as president, Ford often talked with reporters
      several times a day. He averaged 200 outside speeches
      a year as House Republican leader, a pace he kept up
      as vice president and diminished, seemingly, only
      slightly as chief executive. He kept speaking after
      leaving the White House, generally for fees of $15,000
      to $20,000.
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