OTD in History… August 9, 1974, Vice President Gerald Ford Sworn in as president after Richard Nixon resigns




OTD in History… August 9, 1974, Vice President Gerald Ford Sworn in as president after Richard Nixon resigns

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history August 9, 1974, Vice President Gerald R. Ford is sworn in as president after Richard Nixon resigns over impending impeachment because of his involvement in the Watergate break-in scandal cover-up. With impeachment from Congress certain, Nixon did the unprecedented, on the evening of August 8, he announced to the American public that he would be resigning effective at noon the next day. On August 9, Vice President Ford would assume the presidency under unprecedented terms prescribed in the 25th Amendment on presidential succession, the first to do so without the American public ever having elected him, and serving the shortest time, 2 years and 164 days.

Ford was the only president to have never been elected even to the vice presidency. Nixon appointed Ford after Spiro T. Agnew resigned less than a year before. Ford assumed the vice presidency on December 6, 1973, after Agnew resigned because he was charged with “tax evasion and money laundering” for accepting bribes as the governor of Maryland. Congressional leaders advised Nixon he should choose the then-House Minority Leader the much-liked Gerald Ford as vice president to which Nixon obliged. Nixon nominated Ford on October 12, on November 27, the Senate confirmed him with a vote of 92 to 3, with three Democrats opposing, while the House confirmed Ford on December 6, 1973, with a vote of 387 to 35.

On August 1, 1974, Nixon’s Chief of Staff Alexander Haig, gave Ford a warning about the “smoking gun” Oval Office tape that could end Nixon’s presidency. Ford later recounted, “Al Haig asked to come over and see me to tell me that there would be a new tape released on a Monday, and he said the evidence in there was devastating and there would probably be either an impeachment or a resignation. And he said, ‘I’m just warning you that you’ve got to be prepared, that things might change dramatically and you could become President.’ And I said, ‘Betty, I don’t think we’re ever going to live in the vice president’s house.’”

The morning of August 9, was emotional for Nixon. In his last hours as president, he delivered a farewell address at 9 am to his cabinet and staff in the East Room, where Ford was also present. Nixon tendered his resignation at 11:35 am to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Gerald and Betty Ford escorted the Nixons to the helicopter before Ford officially assumed office. Technically, Ford became president a minute later but he only took the oath of office five minutes after noon, once Nixon and his family left the White House to return to San Clemente, California. Chief Justice Warren Burger administered Ford the oath of office in the East Room of the White House at 12:05 pm.

Immediately afterward, Ford delivered a short 850-word inaugural address, written Counselor to President Robert T. Hartmann, and discussed the “extraordinary circumstances” that led him to the presidency. Ford expressed:

“I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your President by your ballots, and so I ask you to confirm me as your President with your prayers. And I hope that such prayers will also be the first of many… If you have not chosen me by secret ballot, neither have I gained office by any secret promises. I have not campaigned either for the Presidency or the Vice Presidency. I have not subscribed to any partisan platform. I am indebted to no man, and only to one woman — my dear wife, Betty — as I begin this very difficult job… 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. But there is a higher Power, by whatever name we honor him, who ordains not only righteousness but love, not only justice but mercy.”

Ford was the ninth Vice President to take office unexpectedly, the first and only because of a resignation, whereas the rest were due to unexpected death, by illness or assassination. Ford’s presidency was also the shortest of any president “who did not die in office,” having only served 895 days. On September 8, 1974, Ford took the unpopular initiative of granting a “full free and absolute pardon” to Nixon for any offenses he “has committed or may have committed.”

Historian David McCullough claims Ford was “a very good president” because of the pardon. McCullough remarked, “I think Gerald Ford is one of the most interesting stories in the whole history of the presidency. He made one of the bravest decisions ever as president. From one of the worst moments in presidential history — Nixon’s resignation — came one that many now consider the finest.” The move the most likely cost him any chance of election in the 1976 presidential election but it closed the chapter on Watergate for the nation allowing it to go forward and heal. As historian Jon Meacham described it “an act of political courage that truly healed the country.”


Brinkley, Douglas. Gerald R. Ford. New York: Times Books, 2007.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.


Remarks on Taking the Oath of Office

August 9, 1974

Mr. Chief Justice, my dear friends, my fellow Americans:

The oath that I have taken is the same oath that was taken by George Washington and by every President under the Constitution. But I assume the Presidency under extraordinary circumstances never before experienced by Americans. This is an hour of history that troubles our minds and hurts our hearts.

Therefore, I feel it is my first duty to make an unprecedented compact with my countrymen. Not an inaugural address, not a fireside chat, not a campaign speech–just a little straight talk among friends. And I intend it to be the first of many.

I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your President by your ballots, and so I ask you to confirm me as your President with your prayers. And I hope that such prayers will also be the first of many.

If you have not chosen me by secret ballot, neither have I gained office by any secret promises. I have not campaigned either for the Presidency or the Vice Presidency. I have not subscribed to any partisan platform. I am indebted to no man, and only to one woman–my dear wife–as I begin this very difficult job.

I have not sought this enormous responsibility, but I will not shirk it. Those who nominated and confirmed me as Vice President were my friends and are my friends. They were of both parties, elected by all the people and acting under the Constitution in their name. It is only fitting then that I should pledge to them and to you that I will be the President of all the people.

Thomas Jefferson said the people are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty. And down the years, Abraham Lincoln renewed this American article of faith asking, “Is there any better way or equal hope in the world?”

I intend, on Monday next, to request of the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate the privilege of appearing before the Congress to share with my former colleagues and with you, the American people, my views on the priority business of the Nation and to solicit your views and their views. And may I say to the Speaker and the others, if I could meet with you right after these remarks, I would appreciate it.

Even though this is late in an election year, there is no way we can go forward except together and no way anybody can win except by serving the people’s urgent needs. We cannot stand still or slip backwards. We must go forward now together.

To the peoples and the governments of all friendly nations, and I hope that could encompass the whole world, I pledge an uninterrupted and sincere search for peace. America will remain strong and united, but its strength will remain dedicated to the safety and sanity of the entire family of man, as well as to our own precious freedom.

I believe that truth is the glue that holds government together, not only our Government but civilization itself. That bond, though strained, is unbroken at home and abroad.

In all my public and private acts as your President, I expect to follow my instincts of openness and candor with full confidence that honesty is always the best policy in the end.
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. But there is a higher Power, by whatever name we honor Him, who ordains not only righteousness but love, not only justice but mercy.

As we bind up the internal wounds of Watergate, more painful and more poisonous than those of foreign wars, let us restore the golden rule to our political process, and let brotherly love purge our hearts of suspicion and of hate.

In the beginning, I asked you to pray for me. Before closing, I ask again your prayers, for Richard Nixon and for his family. May our former President, who brought peace to millions, find it for himself. May God bless and comfort his wonderful wife and daughters, whose love and loyalty will forever be a shining legacy to all who bear the lonely burdens of the White House.

I can only guess at those burdens, although I have witnessed at close hand the tragedies that befell three Presidents and the lesser trials of others.

With all the strength and all the good sense I have gained from life, with all the confidence my family, my friends, and my dedicated staff impart to me, and with the good will of countless Americans I have encountered in recent visits to 40 States, I now solemnly reaffirm my promise I made to you last December 6: to uphold the Constitution, to do what is right as God gives me to see the right, and to do the very best I can for America.

God helping me, I will not let you down.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:05 p.m. in the East Room at the White House following administration of the oath of office by Chief Justice Warren E. Burger. The oath of office and the President’s remarks were broadcast live on radio and television.

The White House announced that Richard Nixon’s letter of resignation as 37th President of the United States was tendered to Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger in his White House office by Assistant to the President Alexander M. Haig, Jr., at 11:35 a.m.

Gerald R. Ford: “Remarks on Taking the Oath of Office,” August 9, 1974. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=4409.


History Buzz January 20, 2013: David McCullough: Gerald Ford among greatest presidents, famed historian says as Obama inauguration nears


History Buzz


Gerald Ford among greatest presidents, famed historian says as Obama inauguration nears

Source: MLive, 1-20-13

gerald r. ford.JPGGerald R. Ford announcing the pardon of Richard M Nixon from the Oval Office Sept. 8, 1974. The pardon has led one historian to deem Ford one of the greatest presidents. AP File Photo

The decision by Grand Rapids native and former President Gerald R. Ford to pardon his disgraced predecessor after the Watergate scandal has put him in the pantheon of great presidents.

That’s according to noted historian David McCullough, speaking to CBS News’s Barry Petersen, who cited Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon as “one of the bravest decisions ever” as reason for his claim….READ MORE

History Buzz February 20, 2012: Presidents’ Day Quiz: How well do you know our chief executives?



History Buzz


Presidents’ Day: How well do you know our chief executives?

Source: LAT, Chicago Tribune, 2-20-12

At the funeral of President Richard Nixon in 1994, from left: Then-President Bill and First Lady Hillary Clinton; former presidents and first ladies George H.W. and Barbara Bush, Ronald and Nancy Reagan,  Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, and Gerald and Betty Ford.

At the funeral of President Richard Nixon in 1994, from left: Then-President Bill and First Lady Hillary Clinton; former presidents and first ladies George H.W. and Barbara Bush, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, and Gerald and Betty Ford. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Happy Presidents’ Day. This holiday, which dates to 1971, originally was meant to celebrate the birthdays of George Washington (Feb. 22) and Abraham Lincoln (Feb. 12) but it’s also meant to honor all presidents. In the spirit, we offer you this quiz. How well do you know our chief executives? You’ll learn lots from visiting the 13 presidential libraries. Forty-four presidents have been installed in office, but there are only 43 people who have been president. Why? Take the quiz below and find out:

1. Barack Obama was the first sitting senator to win election to the presidency since what man?

2. Who was the first president to be impeached?

3. To what party did John Quincy Adams, the sixth president, belong?  Extra credit: Who was his father and when was he president?

4. Name another father-son presidential pair.

5. Who were the vice presidents of that father-son presidential pair in Question 4?

6. Who was the first president to die in office?

7. Who was the last president born under British rule?8. Whose grandson became president of the United States four dozen years after he was president?

9. What president was born in Iowa but orphaned at age 9 and sent to live in Oregon?

10. What president and his wife were Stanford graduates?

11. Which president graduated in 1809 from Dickinson College in Pennsylvania?

12. What president refused renomination in 1880 and thus served only one term?

13. Who was elected president after Rutherford Hayes?

14. How long did James Garfield remain in office?

15. Who served as James Garfield’s secretary of War?

16. Who succeeded James Garfield and how many terms did he serve?

17. What president suffered what was then called Bright’s disease?

18. Who is the only president to serve two terms that weren’t consecutive?

19. Who was the last Civil War general to serve as president?

20. William McKinley was shot and killed in September 1901. He was succeeded by a man his campaign manager called “that damned cowboy.” Who was that?

21. What president frequently declared, “Politics makes me sick”?

22. What president died in 1923 in San Francisco?

23. What president died 10 months after his wife died of lung cancer? (He was out of office when he died.)

24. This president graduated from West Point in the class that was called “the class the stars fell on” because it produced 59 generals. Who was that and what year?

25. Which former president was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002?Answers:

1. John Kennedy

2. Andrew Johnson

3. National Republican. John Q. was the oldest son of the second president, John Adams, 1797-1801.

4. George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush

5. Dan Quayle for George H.W. Bush and Dick Cheney for George W. Bush.

6. William Henry Harrison, who died just a month after taking office.

7. William Henry Harrison.

8. William Henry Harrison.

9. Herbert Hoover.

10. Herbert Hoover and his wife, Lou.

11. James Buchanan

12. Rutherford Hayes

13. James Garfield

14. Four months. He was shot July 2 and died Sept. 19, 1881.

15. Robert Todd Lincoln, son of Abraham Lincoln.

16. Chester Arthur. One term.

17. Chester Arthur. He lost the nomination for a second term, even though he knew he had Bright’s, a kidney disease. He died a year after leaving office.

18. Grover Cleveland

19. Benjamin Harrison

20. Theodore Roosevelt

21. William Howard Taft

22. Warren G. Harding

23. Richard Nixon

24. Dwight D. Eisenhower. 1915.

25. Jimmy Carter

History Buzz February 20, 2012: Presidents’ Day Gallup Poll: Americans rate Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton best of recent presidents — Richard Nixon & George W. Bush rated worst


History Buzz


Presidents’ Day Gallup Poll: Americans rate Reagan, Clinton best of recent presidents

Source: LAT, 2-20-12

Reagan & Clinton

Former President Ronald Reagan presents then-President-elect Clinton with a jar of red, white and blue jelly beans in November 1992. (Paul Richards / AFP)

Presidents Day — or Washington’s Birthday, if you prefer — is a time to celebrate all of America’s past commanders in chief. Among the nation’s most recent leaders, two are celebrated far more than others: Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.

That’s the finding of Gallup, at least, which recently asked Americans to judge how the last eight presidents will go down in history.

Sixty-nine percent said Reagan would go down as “outstanding” or “above average,” compared to just 10% who said “below average” or “poor.” Clinton was rated favorably by 60% of those surveyed, a 10-point improvement from the last time Gallup asked the question in early 2009. Twelve percent rated him negatively, down from 20% three years ago….READ MORE

How do you think each of the following presidents will go down in history -- as an outstanding president, above average, average, below average, or poor?

Americans Judge Reagan, Clinton Best of Recent Presidents

Public split on whether Obama will be judged positively or negatively

Source: Gallup, 2-17-12

Americans believe history will judge Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton as the best among recent U.S. presidents, with at least 6 in 10 saying each will go down in history as an above-average or outstanding president. Only about 1 in 10 say each will be remembered as below average or poor. Three years into Barack Obama’s presidency, Americans are divided in their views of how he will be regarded, with 38% guessing he will be remembered as above average or outstanding and 35% as below average or poor….READ MORE

Gallup: Reagan and Clinton are favorite presidents

Source: USA Today, 2-20-12

Americans say Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton will be judged the best presidents of the past four decades, the Gallup Poll reports.

At least six in 10 respondents say Reagan and Clinton will be considered an above average or outstanding president, Gallup said.

“Three years into Barack Obama’s presidency,” Gallup said. “Americans are divided in their views of how he will be regarded, with 38% guessing he will be remembered as above average or outstanding and 35% as below average or poor.”

The poll said, “Aside from Clinton and Reagan, only George H.W. Bush gets significantly more positive than negative ratings. (Richard) Nixon and George W. Bush are rated as the worst, with roughly half of Americans believing each will be judged negatively.”

The key to the popularity of Reagan and Clinton: They governed during good economies and got credit for improving them.

It’s worth nothing that Reagan and Clinton also survived scandals during their tenures: Reagan, the Iran-Contra imbroglio; Clinton, impeachment over the Monica Lewinsky matter.

Presidential ratings change over time, the pollsters noted…..READ MORE

Presidential Report Card: How Will Recent Presidents Go Down in History?—PICTURES

Source: National Journal, 2-17-12

Asked in a recent Presidents Day Gallup poll to rank eight modern presidents, respondents said Ronald Reagan and then Bill Clinton will go down in history as outstanding or above-average presidents. We take a look at how the rankings panned out….READ MORE

Rick Perlstein: Betty Ford, Pioneer


History Buzz

Source: NYT, 7-11-11

Vivienne Flesher

THE obituaries for Betty Ford, who died Friday at the age of 93, were filled with colorful stories about an incongruous life: former Martha Graham dancer, dispenser of scandalous comments to the media, alcohol and drug addict. So colorful, in fact, that they may crowd out her historical importance — which may well have been greater than those of her husband, President Gerald R. Ford.

Though she was never an elected official, industry titan or religious leader, few Americans changed people’s lives so dramatically for the better. I learned it for myself in the most unlikely of places: a Ford family estate sale in 2007….READ MORE

Political Headlines July 9, 2011: Remembering First Lady Betty Ford, 1918-2011


By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

The Fords embrace in the Oval Office, December, 6, 1974.

Betty and Gerald Ford in the Oval Office
The Fords embrace in the Oval Office, December, 6, 1974.

(Photo: Gerald R. Ford Library)



Betty Ford dies at the age of 93: Betty Ford, 93, a self-proclaimed “ordinary” woman who never cared for political life but made a liberating adventure out of her 30 months as first lady, died Friday.


  • Former first lady Betty Ford dies at 93: Betty Ford, wife of former President Gerald Ford and the founder of the Betty Ford Center for substance abuse and addiction, has died at age 93…. – WaPo, 7-8-11
  • Betty Ford: A free spirit who became an inspiration to millions: Former first lady Betty Ford’s triumph over drug and alcohol addiction became a beacon of hope for addicts and the inspiration for her Betty Ford Center in California. Mrs. Ford passed on Friday…. – CS Monitor, 7-9-11
  • Former first lady Betty Ford dies at 93: Betty Ford, the former first lady whose triumph over drug and alcohol addiction became a beacon of hope for addicts and the inspiration for her Betty Ford Center in California, died at age 93, a family friend said late Friday.
    Her death Friday was confirmed to The Associated Press by Marty Allen, chairman emeritus of the Ford Foundation. Family spokeswoman Barbara Lewandrowski said later that the former first lady died at the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage. Other details of her death were not immediately available. Ford’s husband, Gerald, died in December 2006.
    Betty Ford had undergone surgery for an undisclosed ailment in April 2007. During and after her years in the White House, 1974 to 1977, Mrs. Ford won acclaim for her candor, wit and courage as she fought breast cancer, severe arthritis and the twin addictions of drugs and alcohol. She also pressed for abortion rights and women’s rights…. – AP, 7-9-11
  • Betty Ford 1918-2011 Betty Ford, Former First Lady, Dies at 93: Betty Ford, the outspoken and much-admired wife of President Gerald R. Ford who overcame alcoholism and an addiction to pills and helped found one of the best-known rehabilitation centers in the nation, died Friday in Palm Springs, Calif. She was 93. Her death was confirmed by Chris Chase, Mrs. Ford’s biographer.
    The news of her death at Eisenhower Medical Center brought statements of condolence from President Obama, former Presidents George Bush, George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter, and Nancy Reagan, the former first lady.
    Few first ladies have been as popular as Betty Ford, and it was her frankness and lack of pretense that made her so. She spoke often in support of the Equal Rights Amendment, endorsed legalized abortion, discussed premarital sex and revealed that she intended to share a bed with her husband in the White House.
    When her husband’s voice failed him the morning after he was defeated by Jimmy Carter in 1976, it was she who read the official concession statement with smiling grace. And when Mr. Ford died in December 2006, it was Mrs. Ford who announced his death. The six days of national mourning returned her to a spotlight she had tried to avoid in her later years, living in Rancho Mirage, Calif., a golf community southeast of Palm Springs, and tending to her clinic there, the Betty Ford Center…. – NYT, 7-9-11
  • Snyder: Betty Ford was “outstanding Michigander”: Gov. Rick Snyder says the state is mourning the loss of former first lady Betty Ford, a woman he calls an “extraordinary woman” and an “outstanding Michigander.” In a statement Friday, Snyder said Ford was “a shining example of how one person can truly make a difference.” The governor says he and his wife, Sue, extend their sympathies to the Ford family.
    Ford family spokeswoman Barbara Lewandrowski says Ford’s body will be sent to Michigan from California for burial alongside former President Gerald Ford, who is buried at his namesake library in Grand Rapids…. – AP, 7-9-11
  • Private memorial for Betty Ford will be Tuesday in Palm Desert: Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter will be among those delivering eulogies for the wife of the nation’s 38th president.
    A private memorial for former First Lady Betty Ford will be held in Palm Desert on Tuesday, with a eulogy to be delivered by former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, before her remains are flown to Michigan and laid to rest beside her husband, a family representative said Saturday.
    Ford, 93, died of natural causes Friday afternoon, surrounded by family members at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage. She had been hospitalized with a brief illness but, contrary to some news reports, did not suffer a stroke, said Greg Willard, the Fords’ longtime attorney.
    “I wanted to express the gratitude and thanks of the Ford family for the magnificent outpouring of sympathy that they have received literally from around the world. It’s been, quite frankly, heartwarming beyond measure,” Willard said during an afternoon news conference…. – LAT, 7-9-11


(On hearing her husband take the oath of office in August 1974): “The words cut through me, pinned me to the floor. I felt as though I were taking the oath with him, promising to dedicate my own life to the service of my country.

“I was the wife of the President of the United States.”

“What an astonishing place for Elizabeth Ann Bloomer to have come to.”

(On meeting Ford): Fall 1947: “Once I’d said marriage was the last thing on my mind, and he’d made it clear it was no part of his program either, we could relax, have a good time, go to all the football games. He wanted a companion, and I filled the bill. As for me, I liked handsome blond men, I found him physically attractive; I enjoyed his company and his friends.”

November 1948: “When he first told me he was going to run for Congress, I didn’t know what running for Congress meant. I was very unprepared to be a political wife, but I didn’t worry because I really didn’t think he was going to win. At that time, only old men went to Congress.”

(On children and motherhood): “I was always there at three-thirty when the older ones came home from school and in the days when we still had infants, I was a pretty average mother. If I had a quiet hour, I dived into a historical novel. … I was a den mother. I was a Sunday-school teacher. I was an interior decorator and a peacemaker and a zoo keeper. We raised every kind of an animal in the world.”

(On Ford’s Vice Presidency): Dec. 6, 1973: “Before he got this new job, I’d been planning to work at a hospital three days a week, because I needed to feel I was doing something for someone else. … Suddenly I had more projects than I could handle.”

(On Ford becoming president): “I had such belief in my husband. I never doubted he could do it. … But I wasn’t sure what kind of First Lady I would be. There was a great deal of whooping and hollering right at the beginning because I’d said Jerry and I were not going to have separate bedrooms at the White House, and that we were going to take our own bed with us. … Even now, after all those years of married life, I like the idea of sleeping with my husband next to me.”

“I figured, OK, I’ll move to the White House, do the best I can and if they don’t like it, they can kick me out, but they can’t make me somebody I’m not.”

“I think it wasn’t so much that the White House altered me in any essential way as that I found the resources with which to respond to a series of challenges. You never know what you can do until you have to do it. In the beginning, it was like going to a party you’re terrified of, and finding out to your amazement that you’re having a good time.”

(On getting breast cancer): “…I never felt hopelessly mutilated. After all, Jerry and I had been married a good many years and our love had proved itself. I had no reason to doubt my husband. If he’d lost a leg, I wouldn’t have deserted him, and I knew he wouldn’t desert me because I was unfortunate enough to have had a mastectomy. Neither of us can walk away from the other.”

“Lying in the hospital, thinking of all those women going for cancer checkups because of me, I’d come to recognize more clearly the power of the woman in the White House. Not my power, but the power of the position, a power which could be used to help.”

(On equal rights): “A housewife deserves to be honored as much as a woman who earns her living in the marketplace. I consider bringing up children a responsible job. In fact, being a good housewife seems to me a much tougher job than going to the office and getting paid for it. What man could afford to pay for all the things a wife does, when she’s a cook, a mistress, a chauffeur, a nurse, a baby-sitter? But because of this, I feel women ought to have equal rights, equal Social Security, equal opportunities for education, an equal chance to establish credit.”

(On campaigning in 1976): “I hadn’t wanted Jerry to be president, but I had long since accepted his decision to run. You plan your life one way, it goes another. When the time came, I felt he would be the best man for the job, and I was willing to take on four more years in the White House.”

“I had never expected to go out and campaign for my husband for president of the United States… At first I was petrified to get up and speak, particularly without a prepared text. In the beginning, I used to feel sick. After a while, I became so involved I stopped thinking about my stomach and carried on like the rest of the troops.”

(On her 1978 hospital stay for substance abuse): “For 14 years, I’d been on medication for the pinched nerve, the arthritis, the muscle spasms in my neck, and I’d lost my tolerance for pills. If I had a single drink, the alcohol, on top of the pills, would make me groggy.”

“I entered Long Beach to rid myself of dependence on drugs. Even now, I think staying off medication will be harder for me than staying off liquor because I have pain which comes often. For the present, I seem to be dealing with it. It’s mind over matter a lot.”


  • Susan Ford Bales, Steven Meigs Ford, John Gardner Ford and Michael Gerald Ford: “It is with great sadness that we inform you that our beloved mother Betty Ford has passed away at 93 years of age. She died peacefully today at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, California.
    Mother’s love, candor, devotion, and laughter enriched our lives and the lives of the millions she touched throughout this great nation. To be in her presence was to know the warmth of a truly great lady.
    Mother’s passing leaves a deep void, but it also fills us with immeasurable appreciation for the life we and Dad shared with her.”
  • “Throughout her long and active life, Elizabeth Anne Ford distinguished herself through her courage and compassion. As our nation’s First Lady, she was a powerful advocate for women’s health and women’s rights. After leaving the White House, Mrs. Ford helped reduce the social stigma surrounding addiction and inspired thousands to seek much-needed treatment. While her death is a cause for sadness, we know that organizations such as the Betty Ford Center will honor her legacy by giving countless Americans a new lease on life.” — President Barack Obama
  • “Laura and I are deeply saddened by the passing of Betty Ford. We admired her as a First Lady and valued her as a friend. She made countless contributions to our country, and we especially appreciate her courage in calling attention to breast cancer and substance abuse. Because of her leadership, many lives were saved. Tonight our prayers go out to Mrs. Ford’s entire family.” — Former President George W. Bush
  • “Barbara and I loved Betty Ford very much. She was a wonderful wife and mother; a great friend; and a courageous First Lady. No one confronted life’s struggles with more fortitude or honesty, and as a result, we all learned from the challenges she faced. The Betty Ford Center, which already has helped change the lives of thousands of people, will be her lasting legacy of care and concern. We were proud to know her. We were proud to call her a friend. We will miss her very much.” — Former President George H. W. Bush
  • “Rosalynn and I are saddened by the passing of Betty Ford, a close personal friend and our frequent partner in bipartisan efforts to improve mental health and substance abuse care in our nation. She was a remarkable political spouse, whose courageous candor helped forge a new era of openness after the divisiveness of the Vietnam War and Watergate. Also, as a tireless advocate for women’s rights and social justice, she helped to improve the lives and opportunities of countless women and children. We extend our deepest sympathy to her family at this difficult time.” — Former President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalyn Carter
  • “We are deeply saddened by the passing of First Lady Betty Ford. As a staunch advocate for women’s and equal rights, Betty paved the way for generations of women to follow. Her courage, compassion, and commitment to helping our nation deal with drug and alcohol abuse and addiction helped thousands of people to a successful recovery and in the process she helped to save countless families. …. Betty was a remarkable woman whose legacy will live on in people around the country whose lives are longer and better because of her work. Our thoughts and prayers are with her children and grandchildren. We are grateful for her contributions, and for her kindness to us. We will miss her.” — Former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton
  • “I was deeply saddened this afternoon when I heard of Betty Ford’s death. She has been an inspiration to so many through her efforts to educate women about breast cancer and her wonderful work at the Betty Ford Center. She was Jerry Ford’s strength through some very difficult days in our country’s history, and I admired her courage in facing and sharing her personal struggles with all of us. My love and deepest sympathy go out to the entire Ford family at this very sad time.” — Former First Lady Nancy Reagan
  • “It is with deep sadness that Jill and I learned of the loss of Betty Ford. Throughout her life, Betty displayed strength, courage and determination that provided hope for millions of Americans seeking a healthier, happier future. Her legacy and work will live on through the millions of lives she has touched and the many more who will continue to look to her for inspiration. Her family will remain in our thoughts and prayers in the coming days.” — Vice President Joe Biden
  • “Mrs. Ford was a courageous pioneer, a groundbreaking First Lady, and a forceful advocate for anyone suffering from addiction or breast cancer. America fought her struggles with her and learned alongside her. She was brave, outspoken and kind. As a journalist, I had the opportunity to interview her several times and she was just fascinating. She was a wonderful woman who stood up for any human being struggling in the shadows of their personal pain. One of my highlights as First Lady of California was to honor her with a Minerva Award in 2005. My heart goes out to her entire family. Her daughter Susan is a dear friend of mine and continues to carry on Mrs. Ford’s work in such a powerful way.” — Former California First Lady Maria Shriver
  • “Betty Ford was a marvelous example of courage, faith and leadership as First Lady, and as a wife and mother. Our nation and state mourn her passing and we extend our hearts and prayers to the Ford family.” – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette
  • “Betty Ford was an outstanding Michigander and a shining example of how one person can truly make a difference. Her groundbreaking work in breast cancer awareness and treatment as well as her pioneering efforts to help those struggling with addiction changed the lives of millions of people for the better. She was a role model for us all as she lived her life with grace and dignity. While Michigan mourns the loss of this extraordinary woman, we are thankful for her years of dedication to our state and its people.
    Sue and I extend our deepest sympathies to the Ford family, in particular children Michael, John, Steven and Susan.” – Gov. Rick Snyder
  • “Betty Ford was a woman of incredible grace and courage. She served our nation in so many ways — as a partner to her husband as he steered the ship of state through turbulent times; as a powerful voice for breast cancer victims; as an advocate for women’s rights; and as someone who as been as responsible as anyone for our society’s awareness of substance abuse and improvements in its treatment. She spent a lifetime breaking down barriers for millions to follow. Barbara and I join Michigan and the nation in mourning her loss.” – U.S. Sen. Carl Levin
  • “Jock and I are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Betty Ford, the former First Lady of the United States and a longtime champion of women’s rights. Betty and her husband, the late President Gerald Ford, represented a voice for civility, consensus-building, and integrity at a most challenging time for our nation. She had a profound impact on our country that will last for generations. She helped to raise awareness about women’s health issues and made great contributions to our society. Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Ford family during this difficult time.” – U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe

Gerald R. Ford, 1913-2006

Gerald R. Ford, 1913-2006: History Buzz Special Edition

GERALD R. FORD, 1913-2006:

Gerald R. Ford, 1913-2006: History Buzz Special Edition

    News and OP-EDs

  • TV Coverage: Douglas Brinkley will contribute to CBS News’ coverage and Michael Beschloss will to commentate on NBC’s Today Show – Orlando Sentinel, FL, 12-28-06
  • Richard Norton Smith: Former Dole Institute director expected to give Ford eulogy Citizens pay tribute to late president – Lawrence Journal World, KS, 12-29-06
  • Doug Wead: Gerald R. Ford: A Story of Inspiration – NewsMax.com, FL, 12-27-06
  • Michael Beschloss: Ford’s Long Shadow An unlikely president, Gerald Ford steadied America and, in an unpublished interview, mused about her fate – Newsweek, 1-8-07
  • Michael Barone: Jerry Ford in History – US News & World Report, 12-31-06
  • Quotes on Ford’s Passing

  • Douglas Brinkley: “He was so relaxed. He’d fill up the pipe and light it and start talking to you. He’d look you right in the eye. What I always though about President Ford, after interviewing him these number of times, was that any police officer who talked to him would leave and say, this guy’s got nothing to hide… He said, ‘I got really far doing a few things, which was work hard, always tell the truth and show up for dinner on time. That’s all I’ve done my life and I’ve made it to the white house.'” – CBS 42, TX, 12-27-06
  • Douglas Brinkley: “Gerald Ford when he left Washington to head out to Rancho Mirage, after he said goodbye to people he didn’t ask the helicopter to be, to fly around the White House. He said with tears, fly it around the Capitol one more time. He was always a Congressional man.” – KHOU, TX, 12-27-06
  • Jim Kratsas, deputy director of the Gerald Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, Mich. on “Ford fit the bill in post-Watergate America”: “He came in during a Constitutional crisis and within less than two years, our country came from being down at a low point in our country’s history to celebrating its bicentennial. He took the helm of this country and took us down the path to forgetting Watergate.” – Norwich Bulletin, 12-27-06
  • Douglas Brinkley: He was a normal guy. He never wanted to be president. He was never trying to get a legacy. He didn’t try to spin history to make himself look better. The remarkable achievement of his post-presidency is that his ego was under control.” – Vail Daily News, CO, 12-29-06
  • Richard Norton Smith on Gerald Ford’s and Jimmy Carter post-presidential friendship: “There was that kind of comfortable back and forth. It extended to the wives and the families, and it became this very nice, autumnal reconciliation, which blossomed into a real friendship.” – NYT, 12-29-06
  • Carl Sferrazza Anthony: Ford served as “a balance point between the increasingly conservative wing of the Republican Party and the more liberal wing. He was always seeking middle ground.” – USA Today, 12-27-06
  • Carl Sferrazza Anthony on Anderson Cooper 360 discussing Gerald and Betty Ford’s marriage and bond: “On that day he inherited the presidency, when Nixon resigned, he immediately mentioned and thanked his wife in his speech, and basically said he has no obligation to anyone except one person, his wife. And that was unprecedented….
    He certainly was a man who had absolutely no reservations about kissing his wife in public. And I think, as president, that was really unprecedented. — CNN, 12-27-06
  • Carl Sferrazza Anthony on Betty Ford “Back in View, a First Lady With Her Own Legacy”: “The impact of her influence on the general public extended beyond her tenure in the White House. It was a situation of somebody coming along in history who, in simply being themselves, ends up crystallizing something that the nation at large is feeling.” – NYT, AP, 12-31-06
  • Yanek Mieczkowski on “Ford fit the bill in post-Watergate America”: “He liked to say the type of example he wanted to show in the White House was his own behavior. He did not see the press as his enemy, as Nixon did. His press conferences marked a dramatic departure from the defensive and tense press conferences of the Nixon years. Ford lacked that kind of national base and he wasn’t loved like (Ronald) Reagan was loved. But Ford was not a polarizing president. He used the presidency to unite the American people. One of his favorite sayings was, ‘I have many adversaries in Washington, but I have no enemies.'” – Norwich Bulletin, 12-27-06
  • Ellen Fitzpatrick on PBS’ Newshour with Jim Lehrer: “Gerald Ford came into office with a great deal of goodwill, a feeling of great relief that the republic was going to endure this constitutional crisis, that the system worked, that we were a government of laws, rather than of men, and that law would prevail, decency and goodness.
    One month into his presidency, Ford made the decision to pardon Richard Nixon of any crimes that he might be guilty of. And very rapidly that goodwill evaporated.
    It was a very difficult decision for him to make. He wrote about it. It’s been analyzed at length since, and it’s a controversial one. His standing in the polls absolutely plummeted.
    There was enormous suspicion that a deal had been made, that he had been — you know, that Nixon’s resignation had been extracted in exchange for this pardon. And all of the paranoia — some of it based in real concerns — that was part of Watergate settled upon Ford.
    It was a very difficult decision. In retrospect, he’s been praised for his courage and foresight by many in making it; other people still feel that it was a mistake.” – Newshour, 12-27-06
  • Richard Norton Smith on PBS’ Newshour with Jim Lehrer: “[President Ford} has said many times that he expected that it would be unpopular; I don’t think he really had an idea that it was going to be as unpopular.
    The next day he flew to Pittsburgh, and he spoke to a convention, and outside the hall were demonstrators chanting, “Jail Ford.” He certainty didn’t expect that.
    But, remember, however, he had already gotten a taste of that. The pardon of Richard Nixon, in my opinion, should not be seen in isolation. It’s the second act of a two-act drama, because two weeks before the pardon, he got in a plane and he flew to Chicago to the VFW convention.
    And as part of this healing process, he basically unveiled a Vietnam amnesty plan that would, in time, allow 200,000 young men who had evaded the draft to, as he put it, work their way back into American society.
    He said laughingly on the way out that at least he didn’t have to worry about too much interruption by applause, and it turned out that the speech was not well-received.” – Newshour, 12-27-06
  • Richard Norton Smith on PBS’ Newshour with Jim Lehrer: “This was a guy who never expected to be president, who decided from the outset that, however long or short a time he was there, it was going to be a season — if he could make it — of healing, and he would draw the poisons out of the body politic….
    Remember, at that point, he had no intention of running in 1976. So he could — in a sense, he could offer himself up. Now, he very quickly decided he kind of liked being president, and he’d like to have four years on his own.” — Newshour, 12-27-06
  • Michael Beschloss on PBS’ Newshour with Jim Lehrer: I think it was noble, because he knew that this was the price of doing the two things that probably were most important for him to do as president, which were to wind up Watergate as quickly as possible, and do the same with the Vietnam era.
    If that’s what it cost, if it meant that he would have a hard time winning election in 1976, that was the price he was willing to pay.” – Newshour, 12-27-06
  • Richard Norton Smith on PBS’ Newshour with Jim Lehrer: “There’s a wonderful story that sums it up, for me at least, George McGovern told me about early in the Ford presidency. He was invited to a stag dinner at the White House. Well, he’d never been invited to dinner at the White House. And he was so surprised that first he thought it must have been a mistake.
    And he said this to the president. And he said, you know, “When Lyndon Johnson was here and I opposed him on Vietnam, you can be sure I was never invited. And when Richard Nixon was here, you can be sure I was never invited.” And Ford said, “I know, George; that’s why I invited you.”
    And I think that kind of just plain decency and ability to see people not as political caricatures or ideological creatures, but as human beings, I think that is something that a lot of us feel has been lost. And Gerald Ford symbolizes the best of that era.” – Newshour, 12-27-06
  • Quotes on Ford’s Legacy

  • Yanek Mieczkowski, Dowling College: Ford’s pardon “weakened his political capital and made Democrats more willing to resist him…the pardon was like a “ghost that hung over Ford and his party for the rest of the decade.” – WZZM, MI, 12-26-06
  • Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia: “Ford looks better and better in history. He really was a president who brought us together at a very difficult time. He succeeded Richard Nixon. The presidency was at a low point. The country was at a low point. And, just through his sheer decency, and the fact that he was so well liked by [both parties], he actually did bring the country together, even though people disagreed about his pardon of President Nixon, and disagreeing about the end of the Vietnam War and all kinds of other things.” – Voice of America, 12-29-06
  • John Robert Greene: “Gerald Ford was the least affecting, the least image-controlled president, the most genuine president, I think, of the 20th century. What you saw was what you got.” – Voice of America, 12-29-06
  • Stephen Hess, a political scholar at the Brookings Institution in Washington: “The nation could not have stood the battering that a court trial would have produced for months, if not years. Had he not pardoned Nixon, given how close the election ultimately turned out to be, he was likely to have defeated Jimmy Carter. His legacy was important in allowing the nation to get over a very rough period of time, and move forward with some dispatch and some real civility. He was a decent man, an honorable man when the nation really did need a person like that.” – Voice of America, 12-29-06
  • Sean Wilentz, Princeton University scholar: “Ford will probably be remembered — too generously, I think — as the man who settled the country down after the ‘long national nightmare’ of Watergate. I would say that Ford ranks somewhere in the middle of the pack. He was a modest, good-natured man of center-right views, often open to compromise. All the calm, good intentions in the world could not salvage his efforts to govern from the middle, or keep the harder-edged forces he brought in, notably Donald Rumsfeld and his associate, Dick Cheney, from maneuvering the administration to the right.Ford tried his best, determined not to fail — but the political realities in post-Watergate America were too disturbed — and singular — to secure the moderate mandate he sought.” — AP, 12-30-06
  • Douglas Brinkley: “After his death, fathers were able to turn to their kids and say, ‘That was a good man.’ You can’t say that about a lot of politicians.” – AP, 12-30-06
  • David Greenberg: “In some ways, the closest model to Ford would be Eisenhower. He was less of a leader than Eisenhower, but they were both kind of caretaking presidents. They were both conservative, but not right-wing ideologues.” – AP, 12-30-06
  • John Robert Greene, a Ford biographer and historian at Cazenovia College: “Ford dug in his heels as best he could to stop the erosion of presidential power.” – NYT, 12-30-06
  • Richard Reeves, Historian reverses criticism of Ford Later scandals show pardoning Nixon was the right decision: “Presidents aren’t paid by the hour. We pay them for their judgment on the one or two big decisions they make. On the biggest decision in his presidency, Gerald Ford got it right. He said that if Nixon was being dragged from one courtroom to another in different civil and criminal actions, that’s the only thing the country would focus on, and the country would have been impossible to govern…. But over the years, with what happened with O.J. Simpson and Monica Lewinsky, he’s been proven right. I think he showed vision and judgment. There’s no way anybody would have paid attention to anything else.” – The Orange County Register, 12-28-06
  • Douglas Brinkley on CBS’ The Early Show on “Ford Lived To See Nixon Pardon Vindicated”: “About when he turned 90, (Ford) started inviting historians to Rancho Mirage (Calif.), people like myself. Bob Woodward started saying the pardon was a good thing. Richard Reeves, a journalist who was his fiercest critic, started saying the pardon was a good thing. And Ted Kennedy said it was a good thing. There became this sort of overwhelming feeling of liberals that this conservative Midwesterner had done the right thing in pardoning Nixon. That’s when the revisionism kicked off, and now we’re seeing the kind of second phase of it…
    Ford was “the furthest thing from a legacy monger. His view was, history didn’t owe him anything. He was a man who loved his country, did his job, pardoned Nixon, got us out of Vietnam, did a few other important things along the way. … Now, in death, people are recognizing how unusual he was. I think part of the reason we’re embracing him is we’ve become such a polarized society. Democrats and Republicans are fighting so much. And, here’s a centrist, we’re kind of honoring this smart, Midwest centrist.
    It bothered him enough that he wanted to get back in the game after he left the White House in 1977. From ’77 to ’80, he kept eyeing the presidency. He kept thinking, ‘Maybe I’ll go for it again.’ And, in fact, at the Republican convention in Detroit in 1980, he was talked about as the vice president for Ronald Reagan.” – CBS News, 1-2-07
  • Quotes on Ford’s State Funeral

  • Douglas Brinkley on funeral ceremonies for President Gerald Ford: “I think this funeral is being planned just the way Gerald Ford anticipated and planned it himself, which is to keep things low-keyed. Don’t overdo my greatness.” – WLNS, MI, 12-29-06
  • Gil Troy: Video Coverage of the Ford State Funeral on CTV, 1-2-07 – Low Bandwidth High Bandwidth

Posted on Tuesday, January 2, 2007 at 4:30 PM

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