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.”
BBC – Obituary.
Bloomberg – Ford became the 38th president on Aug. 9, 1974, immediately after Nixon’s resignation under threat of impeachment. When Ford took office, he said: “I assume the presidency under extraordinary circumstances. This is an hour of history that troubles our minds and hurts our hearts.”
“With his quiet integrity, common sense, and kind instincts, President Ford helped heal our land and restore public confidence in the presidency,” U.S. President George W. Bush said in a statement.
AP – 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.
The AP has a list of important dates in the President’s life: Dates in the life of Gerald Ford
Gerald Ford was the unlikeliest of presidents, a man brought to power by unprecedented circumstances without seeking the office, at a time when Americans — reeling from the Watergate scandal — were disillusioned and weary.
But in his very first speech as president in August 1974, after taking the oath of office, Ford vowed he would “not shirk” what appeared to be a thankless task. And he tried to set a tone of reconciliation and renewal by telling his countrymen that “our long national nightmare is over.”
“This is an hour of history that troubles our minds and hurts our hearts,” Ford said. “I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your president by your ballots, and so I ask you to confirm me as your president with your prayers.”
Over the next 2Â½ years, Ford tried to bind up the nation’s wounds in his plain-spoken, Midwestern manner, reminding Americans that “I’m a Ford, not a Lincoln” and providing a steady hand on the wheel during a turbulent time.
Yet, the enormously controversial decision he made in his first month in office to pardon his predecessor, Richard Nixon, is widely blamed for costing him an election in his own right in 1976, in one of the closest presidential elections in U.S. history.