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Former President Gerald Ford remembered for healing a wounded America

Former President Gerald Ford remembered for healing a wounded America

Former President Gerald R. Ford, who picked up the pieces of Richard Nixon's scandal-shattered White House, was remembered by lawmakers, former presidents and world leaders as a man whose courage and integrity helped heal a country reeling from public loss of confidence in the government.
"With his quiet integrity, common sense and kind instincts, President Ford helped heal our land and restore public confidence in the presidency," President George W. Bush said in a statement to the nation from his Texas ranch Wednesday. "The American people will always admire Gerald Ford's devotion to duty, his personal character and the honorable conduct of his administration."
Ford, the 38th U.S. president, and the only one not elected to the presidency or the vice presidency, died Tuesday night at the age of 93. His office did not reveal the cause of death, which followed a year of medical problems in which he was treated for pneumonia in January and had an angioplasty and pacemaker implant in August.
The state funeral ceremonies will begin Friday in California and end with him being interred in a hillside tomb on Wednesday near his presidential museum in his home state of Michigan, a family representative said. Over the weekend, Ford will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol.
"His life was filled with love of God, his family and his country," his wife, Betty, said in a statement.
Former President Jimmy Carter described him Wednesday as "one of the most admirable public servants and human beings I have ever known." Former President Bill Clinton said, "all Americans should be grateful for his life of service." The former President George H.W. Bush said "Ford was, simply put, one of the most decent and capable men I ever met."
World leaders mourned his passing, and praised him for his role as a statesman.
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Ford would be remembered for his support of the world body and the 1975 Helsinki process, which reaffirmed the importance of human rights in world affairs. The Helsinki Accord, which grew out of the process, was seen as the first recognition that human rights were fundamental to the conduct of international relations.
In London, the Union flag over Buckingham Palace, the residence of Queen Elizabeth II, was to fly at half-staff all day Thursday.
A spokesman at the palace said that the Queen, who met Ford during a state visit to the United States in 1976 where she attended U.S. bicentennial celebrations with him, was saddened by the news of his death and was sending a private message to Ford's wife and Bush.
German President Horst Koehler offered his "deeply felt condolences" and described Ford as "a great American" who played an important role in advancing trans-Atlantic ties and as "one of the founding fathers of the world economic summits of the leading industrial nations."
Czech President Vaclav Klaus called Ford "an outstanding politician" whose work "was instrumental for freedom in my country and for the fall of the Iron Curtain in Europe."
In the United States, former President Clinton and his wife, Sen. Hillary Clinton, said their prayers were with the Ford family.
"Gerald Ford brought Americans together during a difficult chapter in our history with strength, integrity, and humility," the Clintons said. "All Americans should be grateful for his life of service.
"To his great credit, he was the same hardworking, down-to-earth person the day he left the White House as he was when he first entered Congress almost 30 years earlier."
Ford was an accidental, as well as accident-prone, president.
A Michigan Republican, Ford was elected to Congress 13 times before becoming the first appointed vice president in 1973 after Spiro Agnew left amid scandal. He became the first vice president appointed under the 25th amendment to the Constitution.
Ford took office on Aug. 9, 1974, moments after Nixon resigned in disgrace rather than face impeachment over the Watergate scandal and went into exile. After a lengthy investigation by a special prosecutor and congressional hearings, Nixon admitted he had been aware of a cover-up of a burglary involving employees of his re-election campaign at Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate apartment complex. The probe uncovered widespread evidence of political espionage by Nixon's campaign committee and illegal wiretapping of opponents.
"My fellow Americans," Ford said in his first speech to the nation after being sworn in as president, "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 for modesty, 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."
He revived the debate over Watergate a month later by granting Nixon a pardon for all crimes he committed as president. Some suggested the pardon was prearranged before Nixon resigned. But Ford, in an unusual appearance before a congressional committee in October 1974, said, "There was no deal, period, under no circumstances." The committee dropped its investigation.
The pardon, it was widely believed, contributed to Ford losing 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, and earned him a John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award in 2001. An ABC News poll taken in 2002 in connection with the 30th anniversary of the Watergate break-in found that six in 10 said the pardon was the right thing to do.
Ford's brief tenure in office was a difficult one, with the impact of the Watergate affair compounded by the U.S.'s defeat in the Vietnam War, which ended during his presidency with the fall of Saigon in April 1975.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Ford was critical of the current war in Iraq. In an embargoed interview in 2004, Ford told the the Post's Bob Woodward that the Iraq war was not justified. "I don't think I would have gone to war," Ford said, according to the Post. The former president said his comments could be published at any time after his death, Woodward said.
During Ford's presidency, two women, one a follower of murderer and cult leader Charles Manson and the other a political activist, tried to assassinate him. Ford was unhurt in both of the September 1975 attempts and the women are serving life terms in federal prison.
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Associated Press writer Harry F. Rosenthal, who retired from the AP Washington bureau, contributed to this report. AP Writer Edith M. Lederer contributed from the United Nations.
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On the Net:
http://www.ford.utexas.edu/