Correction to This Article
The Dec. 27 obituary of former president Gerald R. Ford incorrectly said that he received the Congressional Medal of Honor. It was the Congressional Gold Medal.

Gerald R. Ford, 93, Dies; Led in Watergate's Wake

By J.Y. Smith and Lou Cannon
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, December 27, 2006; 10:18 AM

Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr., 93, who became the 38th president of the United States as a result of some of the most extraordinary events in U.S. history and sought to restore the nation's confidence in the basic institutions of government, has died. His wife, Betty, reported the death in a statement last night.

"My family joins me in sharing the difficult news that Gerald Ford, our beloved husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather has passed away at 93 years of age," Betty Ford said in a brief statement issued from her husband's office in Rancho Mirage, Calif. "His life was filled with love of God, his family and his country."

Ford died at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday (PST) at his home in Rancho Mirage, about 130 miles east of Los Angeles, his office said. No cause of death was given. Ford had battled pneumonia in January and underwent two heart treatments -- including an angioplasty -- in August at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Funeral services will take place in Washington and Grand Rapids, Mich., his boyhood home, the Associated Press reported, and public viewings will be held in California, Washington and Grand Rapids. Details had not been announced as of this morning.

President Bush was notified of Ford's death shortly before 11 p.m., at his ranch in Crawford, Tex., the White House said. He called Betty Ford to offer his condolences.

"For a nation that needed healing, and for an office that needed a calm and steady hand, Gerald Ford came along when we needed him most," Bush said this morning. He praised Ford's integrity and "great rectitude" and said the nation will always be grateful for his service.

Vice President Cheney, who served as Ford's chief of staff in the White House, said Ford "embodied the best values of a great generation: decency, integrity, and devotion to duty."

"When he left office, he had restored public trust in the presidency," Cheney said in a statement, "and the nation once again looked to the future with confidence and faith."

The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum announced extended lobby hours so people could sign condolence books. Messages of sympathy, and donations to a memorial fund, can also be made online.

Ford was the longest-living ex-president, followed by Ronald Reagan, who also died at 93. Former first lady Nancy Reagan remembered him in a statement as "a dear friend and close political ally" of the Reagans, praising him for speaking out "on issues important to us all" and for his early support of stem cell research, the AP said.

Ford was the only occupant of the White House never elected either to the presidency or the vice presidency. A former Republican congressman from Grand Rapids, he always claimed that his highest ambition was to be speaker of the House of Representatives. He had declined opportunities to run for the Senate and for governor of Michigan.

He had become vice president Dec. 6, 1973, two months after Spiro T. Agnew pleaded no contest to a tax evasion charge and resigned from the nation's second-highest office. The former Maryland governor was under investigation for accepting bribes and kickbacks.

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