The body of former U.S. President Gerald Ford is to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol until Tuesday, when a memorial service will be held. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, President Bush says America's 38th president helped heal a nation traumatized by war in Vietnam and political scandal at home.
President Bush says Gerald Ford always believed in the importance of answering the call to duty, and was there for Americans when they needed him most.
The then-vice-president took power in 1974, when President Richard Nixon resigned under threat of impeachment for his role in the Watergate political scandal.
"Providence gave us Gerald Ford's steady hand and calm leadership during a time of great division and turmoil," said President Bush. "He guided America through a crisis of confidence, and helped our nation mend its wounds by restoring faith in our system of government."
President Ford pardoned Mr. Nixon for any crimes during Watergate, and many historians believe that decision cost him the 1976 election won by Jimmy Carter.
President Bush says Mr. Ford distinguished himself as a man of integrity, who put the needs of his country before his own, doing what he thought was right even when it was unpopular.
In his weekly radio address, Mr. Bush said, only years later, would Americans come to fully appreciate President Ford's foresight.
He said, "At every stage of his journey, he displayed a decency, patriotism, and courage that Americans will always admire. As we say goodbye to the year 2006, we bid farewell to one of the finest public servants America has ever known."
"We give thanks for the gift of his remarkable life, for the caring man who touched so many lives, and the wise president who helped heal our nation," he added.
A state funeral will be held for President Ford in the capitol's Rotunda. Thousands of people are expected to file past the flag-draped casket before it is taken to Washington's National Cathedral Tuesday for a memorial service.
President Bush has made Tuesday a national day of mourning, and will be joined at the memorial service by the three remaining former presidents - his father, President George Herbert Walker Bush, President Carter, and President Bill Clinton.
Mr. Ford will be buried Wednesday on the grounds of his presidential museum in the state of Michigan.