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President Bush Pays Tribute to Gerald Ford

President Bush says former U.S. President Gerald Ford will be remembered as a man of great integrity, who led the nation at a time when it needed healing. VOA White House correspondent Paula Wolfson reports President Ford died late Tuesday at his California home at the age of 93.

President Bush says the American people will always be grateful to Gerald Ford, who assumed the nation's highest office after Richard Nixon was forced to resign in 1974.

"He assumed power at a period of great division and turmoil," he said. "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."

President Bush learned of Mr. Ford's passing late Tuesday. Early the next morning, he went on national television from his Texas ranch to pay his respects.

"During his time in office, the American people came to know President Ford as a man of complete integrity, who led our country with common sense and kind instincts," he said.

Gerald Ford was the only American to assume the presidency who had never been elected to the office or to the vice presidency. A long-time member of the House of Representatives, where he served as Republican leader, Mr. Ford was picked by President Nixon in 1973 to replace Vice President Spiro Agnew, who resigned amid scandal.

In 1974, the Watergate debacle brought an end to Richard Nixon's presidency and the once-obscure congressman from Michigan, was sworn into office.

He said from the start his goal was to help the country heal its wounds and move on. In order to do so, Mr. Ford pardoned his predecessor - a move that may have destroyed his chances of winning the 1976 presidential election against Democrat Jimmy Carter.

President Bush called him a man of rectitude, whose life was a blessing. He said America's 38th president will always have a special place in the nation's memory

"Americans will always admire Gerald Ford's unflinching performance of duty and the honorable conduct of his administration," he said.

Mr. Bush was first informed of President Ford's passing late Tuesday by his chief-of-staff Josh Bolten. He immediately called former First Lady Betty Ford to express his personal condolences, and is expected to lead the nation in mourning at President Ford's funeral.