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.ESPN has more on the former athlete.
"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."
The statement did not say where Ford died or give a cause of death. Ford had battled pneumonia in January and underwent two heart treatments -- including an angioplasty -- in August at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
"With his quiet integrity, common sense, and kind instincts, President Ford helped heal our land and restore public confidence in the Presidency," President Bush said last night in a statement. Bush was notified of Ford's death shortly before 11 p.m., the White House said.
Ford 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, about 130 miles east of Los Angeles.
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, Mich., 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 was sworn in as president Aug. 9, 1974, when Richard M. Nixon resigned as a result of the Watergate scandal.
"My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over," Ford said in his inaugural address.
"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."
Ford 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.
While known predominantly for his actions as the post-Watergate president, Ford was also a highly decorated athlete. Playing center for the University of Michigan, Ford helped lead the Wolverines to the national championship in 1932 and 1933. Michigan went undefeated in both seasons.Please join me in offering of condolences to the Fords.
Following his graduation from Ann Arbor in 1935, Ford received contract offers from at least two professional NFL teams. Perhaps as an indication of where Ford would eventually end up, he spurned offers from the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers to instead attend law school at Yale. Ford put himself through law school as an assistant varsity football coach and a freshman boxing coach.
A member of the 1935 Collegiate All-Star football team, Ford's No. 48 jersey was retired on Oct. 8, 1994 during halftime of the Wolverines' game against Michigan State. His jersey is one of only five numbers that have been retired in the history of Michigan's storied football tradition.
Ford's death marks the second loss for the Michigan football community this year. Legendary coach Bo Schembechler died last month, a day before Michigan played archrival Ohio State.