President Ford Dies at 93

ByABC News
December 27, 2006, 6:55 AM

Dec. 27, 2006 — -- Former President Gerald R. Ford, the nation's only unelected commander in chief, died Tuesday night.

His office did not release a cause of death. He was 93.

Ford, the 38th president of the United States, was a Navy officer, Republican representative, a lawyer and family man, but made his mark on history when he replaced Spiro T. Agnew as vice president in 1973 after Agnew pleaded no contest to income tax evasion.

On Aug. 9, 1974, amid the growing Watergate scandal, President Nixon resigned, leaving the White House to his new but loyal vice president.

Less than a month after taking office, Ford pardoned Nixon, a controversial move that clouded the early months of his presidency, but one he stood behind for the rest of his life.

Ford campaigned to stay in office in 1976, but lost to Jimmy Carter, making his tenure as commander in chief the fifth-shortest in history.

A family representative said Ford's state funeral will begin Friday in California. He will lie in state in the U.S. Capitol over the weekend.

Events will last until Wednesday, when Ford will be interred in a hillside tomb near his presidential museum in his home state of Michigan.

Ford was born Leslie Lynch King Jr., in Omaha, Neb., on July 14, 1913. When he was 2 years old, his parents divorced. His mother moved to Grand Rapids, Mich., and eventually remarried.

Her new husband, a paint salesman, adopted the young boy and renamed him Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr., after himself.

In his memoirs, Ford wrote that he didn't learn that his stepfather was not his biological father until he was 12 or 13, and didn't meet his biological father until he was 17. Their brief conversation left him with the impression that his father was "a carefree, well-to-do man who didn't really give a damn about the hopes and dreams of his firstborn son."

Although the household he grew up in was not exactly well-to-do, Ford described his early life as "secure, orderly and happy."

Ford worked hard in school and graduated in the top 5 percent of his high school class. Both a scholar and sportsman, he won a full athletic scholarship to the University of Michigan, where he was a star football player and considered offers to play professional football for the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions.

Instead, he went to work as an assistant football coach and attended Yale Law School. His experience on the field, he would later say, taught him critical life lessons, including how to play fair and obey the rules.

After graduating in the top 25 percent of his law school class, Ford enlisted in the Navy, serving throughout World War II. In 1946, he was discharged as a lieutenant commander.

Following through on a lifelong interest in politics, Ford won a seat in the House of Representatives for Michigan's 5th District with an almost two-thirds majority in 1948.

That same year, he married Elizabeth Bloomer Warren, who went by Betty. The future first lady was a professional dancer who had also worked as a model and fashion coordinator. They had four children, Michael, John, Steven and Susan.