Ford Funeral at Washington National Cathederal

The funeral service for President Gerald Ford at Washington National Cathederal features music reflecting Ford's personality, as well as eulogies by President George W. Bush, Henry Kissinger and Tom Brokaw.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

President Gerald Ford is being honored today at a funeral service in Washington, D.C. As a hearse bearing his casket began its slow procession from the U.S. capital to the National Cathedral, Gerald Ford was honored with a 21-gun salute.

(Soundbite of 21-gun salute)

MONTAGNE: At this hour, mourners including President Bush and three former presidents are gathering for President Ford's funeral service at Washington National Cathedral.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) (unintelligible)

MONTAGNE: And there, music from the funeral service. NPR's Ari Shapiro joins us now from the National Cathedral. Good morning.

ARI SHAPIRO: Hi. Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: The funeral for President Ford will begin very shortly. What's happening there now? I know the pews have pretty much filled up.

SHAPIRO: You know, we've seen mourners streaming in for the last couple of hours. This area has been bustling before dawn, since before dawn. Just outside of the perimeter here we can see masses of people, members of the public crowding around to see the funeral procession pass by. And for the last few minutes we've been hearing bells toll. There will be 38 tolls to mark the fact that Ford was the 38th president of the United States.

MONTAGNE: Tell us a little about the service today.

SHAPIRO: Well, there will be four eulogies. One delivered by President Bush, one delivered by his father, one from Henry Kissinger, who was secretary of state during the Ford administration, and one from Tom Brokaw on behalf of the media. There is a lengthy musical program that was intended to reflect ford's personality.

There'll be pieces by Aaron Copeland, the American composer, including “Fanfare for the Common Man.” And it's expected to be a brief service, but many of Washington's dignitaries are here in attendance. We saw a bus pull up and pour out members of Congress - House members, senators - many of whom served with President Ford when he was in Congress for 25 years.

MONTAGNE: And I know you've been talking with people at the cathedral this morning. One of them was President Bush's former chief of staff.

SHAPIRO: That's right. Alexander Haig was chief of staff to President Nixon. And then during the transition, he became chief of staff to President Ford. I talked with him this morning and he said he was actually the person who informed Mr. Ford that he would be president of the United States. And he said he was just so happy to see somebody who he had known for decades as a good, honest person being recognized for all that he did for the country.

Another thing that Mr. Haig mentioned this morning was that President Ford was an incredible man who, for so many years, had an incredible woman standing next to him. And he was very happy to see Betty Ford getting all of the recognition that she's been getting in the last few days.

MONTAGNE: We see the hearse has just arrived in front of the cathedral.

SHAPIRO: That's right. There's an honor guard in formation. And as you say, the hearse has just pulled up here.

MONTAGNE: Tell us what will happen after today's funeral service. This is by no means the end.

SHAPIRO: After the ceremony, the hearse and the procession will make its way to Andrews Air Force Base, where President Ford's remains will be flown to Grand Rapids, Michigan. That's a city that he served in Congress for 25 years and the city where he was raised, and he'll be buried there tomorrow.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Ari Shapiro speaking to us from the National Cathedral in Washington. Thanks very much.

SHAPIRO: Thank you, Renee.

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