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Published: Wednesday, 12/27/2006

Ford was frequent northwest Ohio visitor

BLADE STAFF
President Gerald Ford is accompanied by Ohio's U.S. Rep. Del Latta during a 1976 presidential campaign stop at BGSU. President Gerald Ford is accompanied by Ohio's U.S. Rep. Del Latta during a 1976 presidential campaign stop at BGSU.
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Gerald Ford was no stranger to northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan and visited as a congressman with leadership aspirations; as U.S. House minority leader; as President of the United States, and as an elder statesman.

He grew up in Grand Rapids, Mich., and became a football standout at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

One of his last visits to the area was Nov. 12, 2004, at a groundbreaking ceremony for the Joan and Sanford Weill Hall at UM. The building in August, 2006, became the new home for the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, founded in 1914 and named in 1999 to honor the former president and UM alumnus.

"When I came to the university in 1931," Mr. Ford said at the ceremony, "I brought a $100 check from a principal of a high school who wanted to make darn sure that I went to a school in Ann Arbor.

"I never would have thought when I plunked that $100 down 73 years ago that I'd be involved in a ceremony of this kind," he said. "But strange things happen."

Mr. Ford visited the area frequently during his 30-year retirement. With the exception of a campaign swing in October, 1982, through the Fifth Congressional District in support of his friend and former colleague, then-U.S. Rep. Delbert Latta (R., Bowling Green), Mr. Ford was in elder statesman mode, assessing national and international affairs, often for paying audiences.

Gerald Ford won three varsity letters at the University of Michigan as a lineman and was the MVP in <b>1934</b> at center. Ford helped the Wolverines to undefeated seasons in <b>1932</b> and <b>1933</b>. His number <b>48</b> jersey has since been retired by the school. While at UM, Ford turned down contract offers from the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers of the National Football League. As a member of the <b>1935</b> Collegiate All-Star football team, Ford played against the Chicago Bears in an exhibition game at Soldier Field. Gerald Ford won three varsity letters at the University of Michigan as a lineman and was the MVP in <b>1934</b> at center. Ford helped the Wolverines to undefeated seasons in <b>1932</b> and <b>1933</b>. His number <b>48</b> jersey has since been retired by the school. While at UM, Ford turned down contract offers from the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers of the National Football League. As a member of the <b>1935</b> Collegiate All-Star football team, Ford played against the Chicago Bears in an exhibition game at Soldier Field.
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During campaign stops in northwest Ohio that October, Mr. Ford described Mr. Latta as a "classy, first-class, outstanding member of Congress [who] never backed off from facing the tough decisions."

His early visits were decidedly partisan. In 1963 as chairman of the U.S. House's Republican Conference, he spoke at a McKinley Club dinner in Norwalk. In an April, 1967, lecture at the Collingwood Temple in Toledo, he indicated support for President Lyndon Johnson's handling of the Vietnam War, criticized the President's handling of the economy, and predicted Republicans would win if they remained united and pointed out Democrats' errors.

The next month, Mr. Ford spoke at the opening of Greek Week at Bowling Green State University and proclaimed a "new Republican Party" with much to offer the younger generation.

Mr. Ford took questions at both events - as he would for decades to come - about the Warren Commission, of which he was a member. He asserted that there was no evidence to undermine the commission's conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in assassinating President John F. Kennedy.

Appointed vice president in 1973 when Spiro Agnew resigned, Mr. Ford became President when Richard Nixon resigned Aug. 9, 1974.

Mr. Ford's second address outside Washington was Aug. 30, 1974, when he spoke at an Ohio State University commencement in Columbus. He received a doctor of laws degree, the university's first honorary degree to the nation's chief executive.

In his speech, Mr. Ford declared inflation public enemy No. 1. To great applause, he reminded the crowd that in an earlier visit to campus, the UM football team on which he played was defeated by Ohio State, 34-0.

As he sought the Republican nomination in 1976, Mr. Ford embarked on a 288-mile motorcade in June from one end of Ohio to the other. He closed the tour with a speech before 5,000 in BGSU's Anderson Arena - 5,000 more waited outside - and a rally before another 5,000 at Toledo Express Airport. His motorcade had stopped earlier in Findlay and Lima, Ohio.

Mr. Ford was shaken, briefly, as he was leaving Anderson Arena when a camera flashcube malfunctioned with a loud pop, sending the President into a crouch and the Secret Service into action. Mr. Ford had faced two assassination attempts the previous September.

At Toledo Express, Gov. James A. Rhodes introduced Mr. Ford as "the fighting, two-fisted president who will be the next president."

Mr. Ford fended off a challenge by Ronald Reagan and received the Republican nomination. But he lost the presidency to Jimmy Carter. His Ohio campaign manager said afterward that an east-to-west campaign swing on the final day of the campaign along Lake Erie, ending in Toledo, might have changed enough votes to deliver the state to Mr. Ford.

The former president was part of political drama nearly four years later, at the 1980 Republican national convention, where there was talk that he would be nominated as vice president, but become in effect Mr. Reagan's co-president. Mr. Reagan chose George H.W. Bush as his running mate instead.

Mr. Ford returned in Ann Arbor in April, 1981, for the dedication of the Gerald R. Ford Library at UM. A highlight of the event was a reconvened session of his Cabinet. In June, 1981, Mr. Ford spoke at The Andersons grain dealers appreciation dinner in the Great Hall of the Masonic Complex in Toledo. He was generally approving of his onetime rival, Mr. Reagan.

The Wood County Cancer Society expected Mr. Ford two months later for a golf fund-raiser and a speech at BGSU. What they got instead was disappointment, as the former president's office said the week before the event that there was no such trip on his calendar - even though local organizers received a letter with his signature.

Mr. Ford was in his hometown of Grand Rapids, Mich., in September, 1981, for the dedication of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. The guest list included President Reagan and Vice President Bush as well as congressional leaders and world leaders.

The post-presidency collaboration of Mr. Ford and Mr. Carter made an early appearance in February, 1983, at a conference on public policy at the Ford Library in Ann Arbor. Mr. Ford agreed to reciprocate at sessions on foreign policy at the Carter Library, and the pair appeared again in Ann Arbor in 1988.

Mr. Ford was the second speaker in November, 1986, in the Junior League of Toledo's Town Hall evening lecture series. The next February, he was the first speaker in the University of Findlay lecture series named for another onetime colleague, the late U.S. Rep. Tennyson Guyer (R., Findlay).

He spoke to dinner guests of the former Trustcorp in 1988 at the then-Hotel Sofitel.

In October, 1994, surrounded by his family and cheered by tens of thousands, he stood on the field at Michigan Stadium as the university retired his football number during halftime ceremonies.

Mr. Ford came to UM in September, 2000, a month after suffering a stroke, for the official announcement that the public policy school was renamed for him.

Three years later, he was in Ann Arbor to dedicate the site of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill lauded Mr. Ford's career as illustrating the values needed in leaders.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. Former President Gerald R. Ford, who declared Our long national nightmare is over as he replaced Richard Nixon but may have doomed his own chances of election by pardoning his disgraced predecessor, has died. He was 93.

The nation s 38th president, and the only one not elected to the office or the vice presidency, died at his desert home at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday.

His life was filled with love of God, his family and his country, his wife, Betty, said in a statement.

Mr. Ford was the longest living former president, surpassing Ronald Reagan, who died in June 2004, by more than a month.

Mr. Ford s office did not release the cause of death, which followed a year of medical problems. He was treated for pneumonia in January and had an angioplasty and pacemaker implant in August.

The state funeral for Mr. Ford will begin Friday in California, with the late president then to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol over the weekend, a family representative said today.

Giving the first details of funeral arrangements for the 38th president, Gregory D. Willard said events will last until Wednesday, when Mr. Ford will be interred in a hillside tomb near his presidential museum in Michigan.

Ceremonies begin Friday, with a private prayer service for the family at St. Margaret s Church in Palm Desert, Calif., visitation by friends and a period of public repose.

On Saturday, Mr. Ford s body will be flown to Washington in late afternoon, his hearse pausing at the World War II memorial in joint tribute to the wartime Navy reserve veteran and his comrades in uniform, Mr. Willard told a news conference in Palm Desert.

The state funeral will be conducted in the Capitol Rotunda that evening and after that, the public will be able to file in to pay last respects. Mr. Ford was expected to lie in state until Tuesday morning.

In a departure from tradition meant to highlight Mr. Ford s long service in Congress, his body will also lie in repose outside the main door of the House and, later, outside the main doors of the Senate chamber.

The last major event in Washington will be Tuesday morning, with a funeral service at the National Cathedral. Mr. Ford s remains will leave shortly after noon for a service and interment near his Grand Rapids, Mich., museum.

It will be only the nation s third state funeral in more than 30 years.

Mr. Ford is to become the 11th president to lie in state in the Rotunda.

One open question was how involved the funeral procession to the Capitol, often the most stirring of Washington s rituals of mourning, would be for a man whose modest ways and brief presidency set him apart from those honored with elaborate parades.

Planners are guided by the wishes of the family and any instructions from the president himself on how elaborate the events will be, how much of it takes place in Washington and more.

Ex-presidents routinely are involved in their funeral planning with the Military District of Washington, which turned to the task quietly but with increasing urgency as Mr. Ford went through several bouts of ill health in recent years.

The nation has only witnessed two presidential state funerals in over three decades those of Ronald Reagan in 2004 and Lyndon Johnson in 1973.

Mr. Nixon s family, acting on his wishes, opted out of the Washington traditions when he died in 1994, his presidency shortened and forever tainted by the Watergate scandal.

What happens in Washington, particularly, unfolds according to guidelines that go back to the mid-1800s and have been shaped over time.

No longer are government buildings draped in black, as they were in the time of Abraham Lincoln and before.

But if a chosen ceremony requires mourners to be seated, for example, seating arrangements are detailed with a precision dictated by tradition. The presidential party is followed by chiefs of state, arranged alphabetically by the English spelling of their countries.

Royalty representing chiefs of state come next, and then heads of governments followed by other officials.

The American people will always admire Gerald Ford s devotion to duty, his personal character and the honorable conduct of his administration, President Bush said in a statement Tuesday night.

Mr. Ford was an accidental president. A Michigan Republican elected to Congress 13 times before becoming the first appointed vice president in 1973 after Spiro Agnew left amid scandal, Mr. Ford was Mr. Nixon s hand-picked successor, a man of much political experience who had never run on a national ticket. He was as open and straightforward as Mr. Nixon was tightly controlled and conspiratorial.

He took office moments after Mr. Nixon resigned in disgrace over Watergate and went into exile.

My fellow Americans, Mr. Ford 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.

He revived the debate over Watergate a month later by granting Mr. Nixon a pardon for all crimes he committed as president.

That single act, it was widely believed, contributed to Mr. 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.

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, Mr. 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.

Mr. Ford 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, his presidency remained open and plain.

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

Even to millions of Americans who had voted two years earlier for Mr. Nixon, the transition to Mr. 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.

In a long congressional career in which he rose to be House Republican leader, Mr. 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 Mr. Agnew resigned in a bribery scandal in October 1973, Mr. 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, Mr. Nixon recalled for a Ford biographer in 1991. I knew all of the final four personally and had great respect for each one of them, 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, Mr. Nixon continued. But Mr. Ford had something the others didn t: he would be easily confirmed by Congress, something that could not be said of Mr. Rockefeller, Mr. Reagan and Mr. Connally.

So Mr. Ford became the first vice president appointed under the 25th amendment to the Constitution.

On Aug. 9, 1974, after seeing Mr. Nixon off, Mr. 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.

In 1976, he survived an intraparty challenge from Ronald Reagan only to lose to Democrat Jimmy Carter in November. In the campaign, he ignored Mr. Carter s record as governor of Georgia and concentrated on his own achievements as president.

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

Ronnie and I always considered him a dear friend and close political ally, Nancy Reagan said in a statement Tuesday.

At a joint session after becoming president, Mr. Ford addressed members of Congress as my former colleagues and promised communication, conciliation, compromise and cooperation. But his relations with Congress did not always run smoothly.

He vetoed 66 bills in his barely two years as president. Congress overturned 12 Ford vetoes, more than for any president since Andrew Johnson.

In his memoir, A Time to Heal, Mr. Ford wrote, When I was in the Congress myself, I thought it fulfilled its constitutional obligations in a very responsible way, but after I became president, my perspective changed.

Some suggested the pardon was prearranged before Mr. Nixon resigned, but Mr. 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.

Mr. Ford s standing in the polls dropped dramatically when he pardoned Mr. Nixon. But 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.

The late Democrat Clark Clifford spoke for many when he wrote in his memoirs, The nation would not have benefited from having a former chief executive in the dock for years after his departure from office. His disgrace was enough.

The decision to pardon Mr. Nixon won Mr. Ford a John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award in 2001, and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, acknowledging he had criticized Mr. Ford at the time, called the pardon an extraordinary act of courage that historians recognize was truly in the national interest.

While Mr. Ford had not sought the job, he came to relish it. He had once told Congress that even if he succeeded Mr. Nixon he would not run for president in 1976. Within weeks of taking the oath, he changed his mind.

He was undaunted even after the two attempts on his life in September 1975.

Lynette Squeaky Fromme, a 26-year-old follower of Charles Manson, was arrested after she aimed a semiautomatic pistol at Ford on Sept. 5 in Sacramento, Calif. A Secret Service agent grabbed her and Mr. Ford was unhurt.

Seventeen days later, Sara Jane Moore, a 45-year-old political activist, was arrested in San Francisco after she fired a gun at the president. Again, Mr. Ford was unhurt.

Both women are serving life terms in federal prison.

Asked at a news conference to recite his accomplishments, Mr. Ford replied: We have restored public confidence in the White House and in the executive branch of government.

As to his failings, he responded, I will leave that to my opponents. I don t think there have been many.

In office, Mr. Ford s living tastes were modest. When he became vice president, he chose to remain in the same Alexandria, Va., home unpretentious except for a swimming pool that he shared with his family as a congressman.

After leaving the White House, however, he took up residence in the desert resort of Rancho Mirage, picked up $1 million for his memoir and another $1 million in a five-year NBC television contract, and served on a number of corporate boards. By 1987, he was on eight such boards, at fees up to $30,000 a year, and was consulting for others, at fees up to $100,000. After criticism, he cut back on such activity.

Mr. Ford spent most of his boyhood in Grand Rapids, Mich.

He was born Leslie King on July 14, 1913, in Omaha, Neb. His parents were divorced when he was less than a year old, and his mother returned to her parents in Grand Rapids, where she later married Gerald R. Ford Sr. He adopted the boy and renamed him.

Mr. Ford was a high school senior when he met his biological father. He was working in a Greek restaurant, he recalled, when a man came in and stood watching.

Finally, he walked over and said, I m your father, Mr. Ford said. Well, that was quite a shock. But he wrote in his memoir that he broke down and cried that night and he was left with the image of a carefree, well-to-do man who didn t really give a damn about the hopes and dreams of his firstborn son.

Mr. Ford played center on the University of Michigan s 1932 and 1933 national champion football teams. He got professional offers from the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers, but chose to study law at Yale, working his way through as an assistant varsity football coach and freshman boxing coach.

Mr. Ford got his first exposure to national politics at Yale, working as a volunteer in Wendell L. Willkie s 1940 Republican campaign for president. After World War II service with the Navy in the Pacific, he went back to practicing law in Grand Rapids and became active in Republican reform politics.

His stepfather was the local Republican chairman, and Michigan Sen. Arthur H. Vandenberg was looking for a fresh young internationalist to replace the area s isolationist congressman.

Mr. Ford got twice as many votes as Rep. Bartel Jonkman in the Republican primary and then went on to win the election with 60.5 percent of the vote, the lowest margin he ever got.

He had proposed to Elizabeth Bloomer, a dancer and fashion coordinator, earlier that year, 1948. She became one of his hardest-working campaigners and they were married shortly before the election. They had three sons, Michael, John and Steven, and a daughter, Susan.

Mr. Ford was the last surviving member of the Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963 and concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin.



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