Ford Remembered as 'American Hero' Who Chose 'Path of Healing'

By Randy Hall | July 7, 2008 | 8:32pm EDT

( - Former President Gerald Ford was remembered by people from both sides of the political aisle on Wednesday as "an American hero" who "wisely chose the path of healing during a deeply divisive time in our nation's history."

Ford, who died late Tuesday at 93 years of age in his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif., was described by Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee, as "an American hero whose integrity and honesty helped lead our nation through times of uncertainty and skepticism."

"From his childhood in Grand Rapids, Mich., to his presidency in the Oval Office, Gerald Ford lived with an air of humility while he made everything around him a little bit better than it was before he found it," Mehlman said.

"We will never forget President Ford's contributions to the country," he added. "He was a leader who expected results, but never demanded the credit."

"Through all of his accomplishments and all of his accolades, President Ford lived his life with modesty, integrity and love for his family and the United States of America," Mehlman said. "President Ford's loving family continues his legacy through Betty's incredible work on behalf of victims of breast cancer and substance abuse."

The 38th U.S. president was also remembered fondly by the man who succeeded him in the White House, President Jimmy Carter, who said in a statement that Ford was "one of the most admirable public servants and human beings I have ever known."

"A man of highest integrity, his life-long dedication to helping others touched the lives of countless people," the Georgia Democrat said. "An outstanding statesman, he wisely chose the path of healing during a deeply divisive time in our nation's history.

Carter added that Ford "frequently rose above politics by emphasizing the need for bipartisanship and seeking common ground on issues critical to our nation. I will always cherish the personal friendship we shared."

Another successor in the White House -- President George H. W. Bush -- noted in a statement that Ford "was, simply put, one of the most decent and capable men I ever met."

"During our time in Congress together so many years ago, he epitomized leadership to me," Bush said. "Then as president, he led this nation so ably through the turbulent waters of Watergate and was both a vigilant and effective Cold Warrior.

"Most of all, I will remember him as a devoted family man and a man of honor -- who never stopped serving this country he loved so deeply," he added. "Jerry Ford was the kind of human being who made you proud to call him your friend, and we will miss him very much."

Bipartisan praise for Ford also came from current Michigan congressmen. Democratic Rep. John Dingell stated that "Gerald Ford and I came from different sides of the aisle, but we forged a wonderful friendship as we served Michigan together in the House of Representatives.

"When his nation called on him to serve this country in the most difficult of times, he rose up and held the country together."

GOP Rep. Pete Hoekstra, outgoing chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a statement Ford "will be remembered for leading with integrity and character."

"He brought West Michigan values with him to Washington and maintained them throughout his rise from congressman, to Republican leader of the House of Representatives, to vice president and president of the United States of America," Hoekstra added.

"The human characteristics of President Ford were impeccable and, I think, unusually suited for the presidency," said former Secretary of State Alexander Haig, who served as Ford's chief of staff. "He had to bring our country back and make it whole again, and he did it with dignity and with great, great skill and sensitivity."

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) agreed that the former president "was a devoted public servant who led our nation out of one of its darkest hours with grace and bipartisanship."

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) also praised Ford, whose "actions were defined by his patriotism and his belief that America had to move forward instead of looking back."

"President Ford's leadership was marked by his selflessness," said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-Calif.). "He made the most difficult of choices based entirely on what he believed to be in the best interest of his country and its people, the mark of history's greatest leaders."

Also in honor of the former president, the nation's major stock markets observed moments of silence before trading began on Wednesday morning.

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