Gerald Ford, RIP

Gerald R. Ford, 38th president of the United States, passed away Tuesday at the age of 93.

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.

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 is probably most famous to my generation from Chevy Chase’s bumbling impression of him on Saturday Night Live, even though his role in history–restoring honor to a party and office tainted by the criminal acts of Nixon’s underlings and Nixon’s cover-up of the same–was a critical one.

UPDATE (James Joyner): David Gerstman (aka Soccer Dad) links to a transcript of one of those SNL sketches and notes that Ford always took Chase’s ribbing with good grace. Ford marked the 5th anniversary of his library with a symposium on Presidential humor.

The event’s most memorable moment: the Jerry and Chevy show, in which Ford, just for the fun of it, literally tripped up Chase, who made a career on Saturday Night Live out of poking fun at the President. Chase claims he has two injured vertebrae from re-enacting Ford’s pratfalls. “Retribution,” said Chase, “has been had.” In spite of his professional injuries, Chase’s tongue is still sharp. “Thank you for having me here,” he told the man who pardoned Richard Nixon. “I’m kind of embarrassed (pause), and I hope you’ll pardon me.”

The NYT report has some excellent historical photographs and a long summary of Ford’s career.

President Gerald Ford Takes Oath of Office

President Bush praised Mr. Ford for his contributions to the nation “in an hour of national turmoil and division,” in a statement released early today from his ranch in Texas.

“With his quiet integrity, common sense, and kind instincts, President Ford helped heal our land and restore public confidence in the presidency,” Mr. Bush said. “The American people will always admire Gerald Ford’s devotion to duty, his personal character, and the honorable conduct of his administration.”

Mr. Ford, who was the only person to lead the country without having been elected as president or vice president, occupied the White House for just 896 days — starting from a hastily arranged ceremony on Aug. 9, 1974, and ending after his defeat by Jimmy Carter in the 1976 election. But they were pivotal days of national introspection, involving America’s first definitive failure in a war and the first resignation of a president.

After a decade of division over Vietnam and two years of trauma over the Watergate scandals, Jerry Ford, as he called himself, radiated a soothing familiarity. He might have been the nice guy down the street suddenly put in charge of the nation, and if he seemed a bit predictable, he was also safe, reliable and reassuring. He placed no intolerable intellectual or psychological burdens on a weary land, and he lived out a modest philosophy. “The harder you work, the luckier you are,” he said once in summarizing his career. “I worked like hell.”


When Mr. Ford took the oath of president in 1974, the economy was in disarray, an energy shortage was worsening, allies were wondering how steadfast the United States might be as a partner and Mr. Nixon, having resigned rather than face impeachment for taking part in the Watergate cover-up, was flying to seclusion in San Clemente, Calif.

There was a collective sense of relief as Mr. Ford, in the most memorable line of his most noteworthy speech, declared that day, “Our long national nightmare is over.”

President Bush issued a statement at 12:48 AM from his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

Laura and I are greatly saddened by the passing of former President Gerald R. Ford.

President Ford was a great American who gave many years of dedicated service to our country. On August 9, 1974, after a long career in the House of Representatives and service as Vice President, he assumed the Presidency in an hour of national turmoil and division. With his quiet integrity, common sense, and kind instincts, President Ford helped heal our land and restore public confidence in the Presidency.

The American people will always admire Gerald Ford’s devotion to duty, his personal character, and the honorable conduct of his administration. We mourn the loss of such a leader, and our 38th President will always have a special place in our Nation’s memory. On behalf of all Americans, Laura and I offer our deepest sympathies to Betty Ford and all of President Ford’s family. Our thoughts and prayers will be with them in the hours and days ahead.

Vice President Cheney, who served as Ford’s Chief of Staff, issued this statement:

I am deeply saddened by the death of former President Gerald R. Ford.

President Ford led an honorable life that brought great credit to the United States of America. Throughout his career, as a Naval officer, Congressman, Vice President and President, Gerald Ford embodied the best values of a great generation: decency, integrity, and devotion to duty. Thirty-two years ago, he assumed the nation’s highest office during the greatest constitutional crisis since the Civil War. In that troubled era, America needed strength, wisdom, and good judgment, and those qualities came to us in the person of Gerald R. Ford. When he left office, he had restored public trust in the presidency, and the nation once again looked to the future with confidence and faith.

I was proud to know President Ford, and to have served in the White House as his chief of staff. He was a dear friend and mentor to me until this very day. I feel a great sense of loss at his passing, and Lynne and our daughters join me in offering heartfelt sympathy to Betty Ford and her entire family.

WaPo reports on the funeral arrangements:

Funeral services will take place in Washington and Grand Rapids, Michigan, his boyhood home, the wire service reported, and public viewings will be held in California, Washington and Grand Rapids. More details are expected later today. The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library, in Ann Arbor, and the Ford museum, in Grand Rapids, will open their lobbies for extended hours so people can sign condolence books. People can also send messages of condolence, or donate to a memorial fund, through the Gerald Ford memorial website.

They also note that Ford’s short tenure was marked by significant accomplishments:

In the 2 1/2 years of his presidency, Ford ended the U.S. involvement in the war in Vietnam, helped mediate a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Egypt, signed the Helsinki human rights convention with the Soviet Union and traveled to Vladivostok in the Soviet Far East to sign an arms limitation agreement with Leonid Brezhnev, the Soviet president. Ford also sent the Marines to free the crew of the Mayaguez, a U.S. merchant vessel that was captured by Cambodian communists.

On the domestic front, he faced some of the most difficult economic conditions since the Great Depression, with the inflation rate approaching 12 percent. Chronic energy shortages and price increases produced long lines and angry citizens at gas pumps. In the field of civil rights, the sense of optimism that had characterized the 1960s had been replaced by an increasing sense of alienation, particularly in inner cities. The new president also faced a political landscape in which Democrats held large majorities in both the House and the Senate.

But Ford’s overriding priority was ending the constitutional and political crisis known as Watergate. It had begun June 17, 1972, when five operatives of Nixon’s reelection campaign were caught breaking into Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate office building.

Reactions from around the blogosphere:

  • Dean Esmay recalls “the first President I clearly recognized as a child.”
  • Michelle Malkin has an interesting roundup, including photos of the two assassination attempts Ford survived.
  • Ed Morrissey takes the now-minority (but then overwhelming majority) view that Ford should not have pardoned Richard Nixon.
  • Jack and Charmaine Yoest come down on opposite sides of that question.
  • Pam Spaulding notes Ford was the highest ranking Republican ever to issue an unequivocal statement in favor of gay marriage.
  • GayPatriotWest recalls working on Ford’s (re?)election campaign as a 13-year-old.
  • Rick Moran recalls meeting Ford while working on a congressional campaign in 1980.
  • Mac Ranger met Ford in 1975 and has fond memories.
  • Ron Chusid meet an elderly Ford at the University of Michigan and observes that, “As one example of how the world has changed since Ford’s college days, Ford turned down NFL offers in order to attend Yale Law School.
  • Gaius never met Ford but is proud to have voted for him.
  • Jim Lynch voted for him, too.
  • Gun Toting Liberal loved Ford, mostly because of the SNL sketches.
  • PunditGuy Bill has a nice roundup of Ford stories.
  • Mustang Bobby notes that Ford was of a different era, “before the politics of personal destruction and character assassination became the accepted practice.”
  • See-Dubya calls Ford “Best President of the 1970’s.”

President Gerald Ford Receives Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton PhotoPresident Gerald Ford Speech from Oval OfficeGerald Ford in University of Michigan Football Uniform PhotoPresident Gerald Ford in Black Sportcoat PhotoLieutenant Commander Gerald R. Ford (Photo)

FILED UNDER: Obituaries, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Chris Lawrence
About Chris Lawrence
Chris teaches political science at Middle Georgia State University in Macon, Georgia. He has a Ph.D. in political science (with concentrations in American politics and political methodology) from the University of Mississippi. He began writing for OTB in June 2006. Follow him on Twitter @lordsutch.


  1. have a special place in our Nation’s memory. On behalf of all Americans, Laura and I offer our deepest sympathies to Betty Ford and all of President Ford’s family. Our thoughts and prayers will be with them in the hours and days ahead. Other reactions: Outside The Beltway Michelle Malkin Wizbang Powerline Captain’s Quarters ***UPDATE*** Ford meets the Simpsons:

  2. Jules Crittenden, A Blog For All , Redstate, Power Line, Wizbang, The Right Angle, Don Surber bRight & Early, Blue Crab Boulevard, Scared Monkeys, The Jawa Report, The Sundries Shack, Althouse, Say Anything, Outside The Beltway, Wake up America, Gay Patriot, The Moderate Voice, PunditGuy, The Political Pitbull, TigerHawk, Democracy Project, Reasoned Audacity, Blogs of War, Hot Air, Macsmind, Polimom Says, Right Wing Nut House

  3. by my friend Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice. As usual, Joe’s analysis is right on the mark, and he links to and quotes many of the best reactions from around the blogosphere. Other good posts come from Juan Cole, Lyle Denniston, James Joyner (with a lot of links), Pam Spaulding, Digby, Ed Morrissey (and here), Taylor Marsh, and Howie Klein, among others. In closing, here’s a short campaign ad from 1976:

  4. “My fellow Americans,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….

    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.”

    Humility and honesty. And after his Presidency he stayed above the fray, an elder statesman (as did Johnson).

  5. President Gerald Ford, RIP…

    Former President Gerald Ford passed away tonight at the age of 93. Here’s the full obituary being run by Yahoo! News/AP: Gerald R. Ford, who picked up the pieces of Richard Nixon’s scandal-shattered White House as the 38th and only……

  6. President Gerald Ford – Rest In Peace…

    President Gerald Ford has died at the age of 93: Gerald R. Ford, who picked up the pieces of Richard Nixon’s scandal-shattered White House as the 38th president and the only one never elected to nationwide office, has died, his……

  7. Former President Gerald Ford Dies At 93…

    Former President Gerald Ford, an appointed Vice President and non-elected President who became President……

  8. […] Other Blogger Reactions: The Moderate Voice; Michelle Malkin; Blue Crab Boulevard; PunditGuy; The Political Pit Bull; Riehl World View; Captain’s Quarters; Daily Kos; Talk Left; Outside The Beltway Technorati Tags:  Breaking, Current Events, Gerald Ford, Headline News, Headlines, News, News and Politics, Politics […]

  9. Webloggin says:

    Former President Gerald Ford, July 14, 1913 – December 26, 2006…

    Former President Gerald Ford died as the oldest living former President at the age of 93. President Bush has released the following statement.
    Laura and I are greatly saddened by the passing of former President Gerald R. Ford…

  10. Gerald Ford Dead…

    In one of the great profiles in courage in American history, Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon in 1974. That simple act left Gerald Ford politically dead. Today, 30 years later, Gerald Ford left the earth a better place for his fearless act. And he …..

  11. Apparently, (as my friend remarked), he just couldn’t go on without James Brown.

  12. Former President Gerald Ford, 1913-2006…

    The 38th president of the United States, Gerald Ford, has died at the age of 93. (AP/Breitbart) A short list of important dates in Ford’s life here. Statement by Betty Ford @ Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum. Statement……

  13. Soccer Dad says:

    Ford or chevy?…

    One of the oddities of the Ford presidency was that he was mocked throughout by Chevy Chase as being a klutz. Ford, having been a college football player was probably not much of klutz, but a few well publicized mishaps and the klutziness became his si…

  14. Former President Gerald Ford dead at 93…

    Alex at SOTP reminds us this excellent Ford quote.

    “I ask that we stop refighting the battles and the recriminations of the past. I ask that we look now at what is right with America, at our possibilities and our potentialities for change and ….

  15. Steve says:

    I suppose you could say that Ford was of an era before the politics of personal destruction, if you don’t remember the 70s.

  16. […] While Joe’s post (linked above) has a great round-up, lots of folks are blogging this morning.  Some posts that I particularly enjoyed came from Right Wing Nut House, Gun Toting Liberal, TBogg, and Outside the Beltway (with another good round-up). […]

  17. Don Surber says:

    Ford’s final lesson for Bush…

    Ford played for That Team Up North.

    An online buddy wrote, “I went to a Browns v Cowboys Monday nite game. Sitting right above us was Modell, Gov Rhodes & ex-pres Ford. The band that night was The OHIO STATE MARCHING BAND. They came over to the ar….

  18. Hyscience says:

    Former President Gerald Ford – May He Rest In Peace…

    Unlike Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford was a gentleman and a statesman who supported his country to the end of his days….

  19. Blogs of War says:

    President Gerald R. Ford Dead at 93…

    We’ve lost our longest-lived President:
    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 Tuesda…

  20. […] OTB has the definitive round-up on the President’s passing. Filed under: US Politics, In Memoriam | |Send TrackBack […]

  21. […] Outside The Beltway […]

  22. Gerald R. Ford: 1913-2006…

    While others will inevitably focus on President Ford’s ascension to the Office of the President, becoming the only person to become President without having been elected in a nationwide election, the fallout from the Watergate scandal that brought do….

  23. […] Outside the Beltway says something important: “Ford always took Chase’s ribbing with good grace.”  […]

  24. Ron Chusid says:

    One minor correction to the post which cites my post at Liberal Values. . I saw Ford at the Univesity of Michigan campus not as an “elderly Ford.” I’m not sure what year it was but it was either when in office or shortly after leaving office. The difference between then and now was that Ford had two people with him while walking around campus. I can’t imagine a current President or ex-President walkking around so freely.

  25. […] Outside the Beltway has much more. […]

  26. […] Not surprisingly, Crittenden lists a number of conservative blogs on top as friends. Lower down he has a section entitled “It Us Fun to Learn” and he recommends learning from conservative sources. In between the two is his enemy’s list of web sites. This includes news sources such as the BBC, his rival paper The Boston Globe, The New York Times, and CNN. He includes a few liberal sites such as Michael Moore, Daily Kos, and The Democratic Daily (as he enjoys tormenting Pamela with copies of his anti-Kerry writings.) He even includes the United Nations and Amnesty International. I hope his enemy’s list was intended to be at least partially tongue in cheek. In an atmosphere such as this, it is mildly remarkable that this blog and other liberal blogs are receiving many links from sites such as Crittenden’s, Pajama’s Media,  and Outside the Beltway. Written by Ron ChusidLast 5 posts by Ron ChusidNumber 48 Dies At 93 – December 27th, 2006Top Ten Myths on Iraq – December 26th, 2006Consultant Advises Democrats on Embracing Religion – December 26th, 2006Does The 9/11 and Iraq Death Toll Comparison Mean Anything? – December 26th, 2006Big Brother is Watching in Great Britain – December 26th, 2006 […]

  27. […] UPDATE: Huge reaction in the blogosphere. Others: Althouse, Outside The Beltway, Liberal Values, Wake up America, Matthew Yglesias, Democracy in America, Dean's World, The Democratic Daily, Bark Bark Woof Woof, PoliBlog, Gay Patriot, Michelle Malkin,  MyDD, The Political Pit Bull, Macsmind, The Talking Dog, Polimom, Gun Toting Liberal, Blogs of War, Pundit Guy,  bRight & Early, The Glittering Eye, Riehl World View, Scared Monkeys, The Jawa Report, Shot in the Dark, The Strata-Sphere, Donklephant, Redstate, Jules Crittenden, Wizbang, Hot Air, Don Surber, A Blog For All, Balloon Juice, […]

  28. A Farewell to Ford…

    For those who did not know: Former President Gerald Ford passed away last night at the age of 93.  Not a bad run, particularly when you consider the statement his wife made after news of his death reached the media:
    “His life was filled with lo…

  29. Wonkette says:

    Rumors On The Internets: I’m Gerald Ford & You’re Not…

    God smites Israel with terrible storms, because he’s an anti-semite. [Godlike Productions] Neo-Nazis, Rastafarian rebels, David Duke’s wife, murder, white supremacist websites, New Orleans and rubber boats. [Metafilter] Gerald Ford was act…

  30. Gerald Ford: Never to be Forgotten…

    Clearing his desk of Richard Nixon, and touching the lives of -WE- who lived around him. A man both misunderstood and admired; but remains loved by all. Chris Lawrence’s excellent (must view) post at Outsidethebeltway…

  31. Necrofagia…

    Con il cadavere di Gerald R. Ford ancora caldo, Bob Woodward scrive sul Washington Post un articolo vergognoso, al solo scopo di utilizzare la morte del 38° presidente degli Stati Uniti per screditare l’amministrazione Bush. Niente di nuovo sul front…

  32. Jon Swift says:

    Gerald Ford’s Indecent Interval…

    Releasing the Ford’s interview about Iraq posthumously deprived us of the opportunity to accuse the 93-year-old former President of being a traitor and of wanting America to lose….