Thoughts on Gerald R. Ford (1913-2006)

As someone who lives near former President Gerald R. Ford's longtime hometown of Grand Rapids, I was saddened to learn of the passing of our 38th President.

Five months and twelve days after his 93rd birthday (he was the oldest President in US history), Ford passed away peacefully at 6:45 PM Pacific Time (9:45 PM Eastern Time) Tuesday at his home in California, with his wife Betty and family by his side.

He is the only Eagle Scout to become President thus far. After graduating first from the University of Michigan (where he was an amazing football player, though he turned down offers to play for the Packers and the Lions) and then from Yale Law School, he served his country in World War II. He was then elected to represent Grand Rapids in Congress in 1948, becoming House Republican Leader in 1965. In 1973, he became Vice President after Spiro Agnew resigned. Just months later, President Richard Nixon resigned due to the Watergate scandal, propelling then-VP Ford into the Presidency.

It was Ford's job to heal the nation after the horrible effects of the Watergate scandal. With his light-heartedness and relaxed personality, he largely succeeded - even if he did anger many people by pardoning Nixon.

Even though I'm a Democrat, I will miss Ford. Ford was a very decent Republican who took office when the nation yearned for his leadership after the resignation of Richard Nixon. His brand of honesty and humility is rare in politics today.

It will be interesting to see how the Grand Rapids area will react to the death of perhaps the greatest West Michigander to have ever lived. His presidential museum downtown - which I pass every weekend on my way to church - is closed except for a vestibule, which includes books where people may leave their condolences. There is also a makeshift memorial by the fountain in front of the museum. He will be laid to rest next Wednesday at the museum.

Rest in peace, Mr. President.

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