Ford death hits home

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 2, 2007

The state and community voiced their reactions to the death of President Gerald Ford.

Ford was the nation’s 38th president, and the only one neither elected to the office nor the vice presidency. He died at his Rancho Mirage, Calif., home on Tuesday at age 93.

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

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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, Ford was 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 Nixon was tightly controlled and conspiratorial.

Ford took office moments after Nixon resigned in disgrace over Watergate.

Gov. Bob Riley ordered flags lowered to half-staff over state buildings in Alabama on Wednesday in memory of former President Gerald Ford, who Republican leaders recalled for serving the country at a most difficult time.

Former Alabama Chief Justice Perry Hooper remembered Ford as a &8220;great guy&8221; and a &8220;good friend.&8221;

Hooper was a member of the national Republican Executive Committee in the mid-1970s when Ford was president and visited him in the White House on several occasions.

Hooper said Ford’s decision to pardon Nixon &8220;probably hurt him&8221; politically, but he said he felt Ford did the right thing. He said the Republican president never tried to interfere with the work of the GOP executive committee.

After Ford’s death, the U.S. flag over the White House was lowered to half-staff. The New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq planned moments of silence yesterday in Ford’s honor. And at Ford’s presidential museum in Grand Rapids, a steady stream of visitors lit candles and lined up to sign condolence books about the former president.

Ford’s body was expected to lie in state this weekend in the Capitol Rotunda, offering both dignitaries and the public a chance to pay final respects to the former Michigan congressman who rose to the White House in the collapse of Richard Nixon’s presidency.

Funeral arrangements were not complete but officials in Washington anticipated ceremonial events in the capital spread over about four days and capped by a service at the National Cathedral after the New Year.

A Republican leadership official said all events related to Ford’s funeral in Washington would be finished by Jan. 4, opening day of the 110th Congress, meaning no delay was anticipated in the hand-over of congressional control to Democrats. The cathedral service was expected Tuesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.