|Interment Location||Visited||Sequence in Graves I Have Visited|
|Grand Rapids, MI||April 20, 2010||37th President visited; 19th Vice President visited; 1st Warren Commission Member visited|
Gerald Ford holds the distinction of being the only U.S. chief executive who was not elected to national office. In fall 1973, both chambers of Congress approved House Minority Leader Ford as the replacement for Spiro T. Agnew, who resigned from the vice presidency amid a tax evasion scandal. The following year, Ford ascended to the highest office in the land when Richard Nixon resigned. The Michigander lost his 1976 election bid to former Georgia governor Jimmy Carter, which cemented his unique place in presidential electoral history.
Ford is also the only president whose presidential library under the auspices of the National Archives is split into separate locations. The actual library — or archive — is in the city of Ann Arbor. The museum was constructed 130 miles west in Grand Rapids, along the Grand River. Former President Ford and former First Lady Betty Ford are interred on the north side of the museum. Both the museum and the gravesite were designed by architect Marvin DeWinter.
As was the case when I visited the Reagan tomb two years prior, only the former president was interred at the Ford gravesite when I visited in April 2010. Betty Ford died 15 months later on July 8, 2011. The phrase above the Fords’ names on the tomb wall is reminiscent of the statement released by Mrs. Ford on the evening of her husband’s passing in 2006. In it she professed that her husband’s life “was filled with love of God, his family and his country.”
Several presidential resting places have been vandalized over the years, including Ford’s. On March 27, 2019, skateboarding youths sat atop the gravesite wall and one of them pried off the letter “E” from the word “Committed.” Museum officials estimated that those actions caused $400 in damage. Not long into the Grand Rapids Police Department’s investigation, the suspects turned themselves in and cooperated with authorities. The teen who removed the letter returned it and maintained that he was not aware he was desecrating a grave.
Born: July 14, 1913 in Omaha, Nebraska
Spouse: Elizabeth Anne Bloomer Ford (m. 1948-2006)
Highest Military Rank: Lieutenant Commander — U.S. Navy
Political Affiliation: Republican Party
House Minority Leader Tenure: 1965-1973
Vice Presidential Term: 1973-1974 under Richard Nixon
Presidential Term: 1974-1977
Vice President: Nelson A. Rockefeller (1974-1977)
Presidential Medal of Freedom: Awarded by Bill Clinton (1999)
Died: December 26, 2006 in Rancho Mirage, California
Cause of Death: Arteriosclerotic Cerebrovascular Disease; Diffuse Arteriosclerosis
Interment: Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, Grand Rapids, Michigan
"The oath that I have taken is the same oath that was taken by George Washington and by every president under the Constitution. But I assume the presidency under extraordinary circumstances never before experienced by Americans. This is an hour of history that troubles our minds and hurts our hearts. "Therefore, I feel it is my first duty to make an unprecedented compact with my countrymen. Not an inaugural address, not a fireside chat, not a campaign speech -- just a little straight talk among friends. And I intend it to be the first of many."
- Gerald Ford
August 9, 1974 in televised remarks after being sworn in as president following the resignation of Richard Nixon
Sources Consulted and Further Reading
DeWinter, Marvin. Interview by Richard Norton Smith, May 15, 2010. Transcript. From the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation, Gerald R. Ford Oral History Project. https://geraldrfordfoundation.org/centennial/oralhistory/marvin-dewinter/.
Iati, Marisa. “Gerald Ford said this headline cost him the election. Daily News used it again for Trump.” Washington Post. August 17, 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2019/08/17/gerald-ford-said-this-headline-cost-him-election-daily-news-used-it-again-trump/.
Picone, Louis L. The President is Dead! The Extraordinary Stories of the Presidential Deaths, Final Days, Burials, and Beyond. Rev. ed. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2020.
“President Ford Inaugural Ceremony.” C-SPAN video, 11:15. August 9, 1974. https://www.c-span.org/video/?8670-1/president-gerald-fords-inaugural-ceremony.
Silverstein, Jason. “Suspects who allegedly vandalized Gerald Ford’s grave turn themselves in.” CBS News. Updated April 4, 2019. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/suspects-who-allegedly-vandalized-president-gerald-fords-grave-turn-themselves-in/ (accessed December 30, 2021).