President Ford Eulogized in National Cathedral At events in Washington, D.C., and Grand Rapids, Mich., the nation remembers former President Gerald R. Ford, who died last week at the age of 93. Pam Fessler provides an overview of the day's events in Washington, and we hear details of the funeral service at the National Cathedral from Melissa Block.

President Ford Eulogized in National Cathedral

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Gerald R. Ford was remembered today as a common man with uncommon virtues.

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Michele Norris.


BLOCK: At a funeral at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., President Gerald Ford was eulogized as a man of integrity, humility and Main Street values. He was praised for restoring the honor of the Oval Office after Watergate. He was also remembered for his sense of humor and his golf game.

NORRIS: In honor of the 38th president, today was declared a national day of mourning, a federal holiday. Financial markets were closed. Gerald Ford was honored in the nation's capital and in Michigan, his home state that he served for 25 years as a member of Congress.

After the funeral in Washington, the president's remains were flown to Grand Rapids and taken to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. The casket was greeted one final time with "Hail to the Chief" and then bagpiper Kevin Streeter.


BLOCK: This afternoon the Ford family held a private service at the Ford Museum, where the late president will lie in repose until a funeral there tomorrow. In a moment, we'll hear some of the tributes given to President Ford at his funeral in Washington.

First to NPR's Pam Fessler, with this account of how the day began.

PAM FESSLER: Early this morning, the former president's body was carried from the Capitol Rotunda, where he lay in state for three days, and brought down a marble hall by military pallbearers to lie outside the Senate Chamber.


FESSLER: The stop was a tribute to Mr. Ford's love of Congress, an institution where he spent most of his political life. Then, in a departure ceremony reflecting his arrival Saturday on the House side, the flag-draped casket was brought out Senate side to the top of a long flight of stairs. There, the former president was honored with a 21gun salute.



FESSLER: Waiting below was Betty, the president's wife of 58 years, and other family members. Honorary pallbearers, including many who had served in the Ford White House, such as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, stood at attention, their hands over their hearts.

The stairs were lined on both sides with a military cordon. Slowly the casket was brought down to the waiting hearse, as the U.S. Navy band played the hymn "Abide With Me."


FESSLER: The Ford family had asked that some of the more formal trappings, such as a horse-drawn caisson, be excluded from this presidential funeral, but much of the ceremonial pomp remained. Still, there was a marked difference from the 2004 funeral of Ronald Reagan, when the streets of Washington were packed with crowds waiting for a view of the funeral cortege. There were few spectators today as the motorcade made its way toward National Cathedral, although white- gloved police officers stationed along the way saluted as the hearse went by.


FESSLER: The procession passed slowly by the White House, but it did not stop. While the motorcade was on route, the cathedral bells tolled 38 times in honor of the 38th president. At the cathedral, the casket was greeted once more with military honors. An Episcopalian Bishop, John Bryson Chane, received the former president's body with a prayer.

JOHN BRYSON CHANE: With faith in Jesus Christ, we receive the body of our brother Gerald for burial. Let us pray with confidence to God, the giver of life, that he will raise him to perfection in the company of saints.

FESSLER: With that the casket, accompanied by an honor guard, was taken through the cathedral doors.

Pam Fessler, NPR News, Washington.


BLOCK: Inside the cathedral, more than 3,000 invited guests, including the three former presidents - Jimmy Carter with Rosalyn, George H. W. Bush with Barbara, and Bill Clinton with Hillary. And the current President Bush, who escorted Betty Ford down the center aisle ahead of the casket.


BLOCK: In his tribute, President Bush spoke of the respect and trust Gerald Ford had earned from his colleagues in Congress.

GEORGE W: And so when President Nixon needed to replace a vice president who had resigned in scandal, he naturally turned to a man whose name was a synonym for integrity, Gerald R. Ford. And eight months later, when he was elevated to the presidency, it was because America needed him, not because he needed the office.

President Ford assumed office at a terrible time in our nation's history. At home, America was divided by political turmoil and wracked by inflation. In Southeast Asia, Saigon fell just nine months into his presidency. Amid all the turmoil, Gerald Ford was a rock of stability and when he put his hand on his family Bible to take the presidential oath of office, he brought grace to a moment of great doubt.

BLOCK: President Bush said Gerald Ford made the tough and decent decision to pardon President Nixon, even though that decision probably cost him the presidential election. And he spoke of another side of Gerald Ford's character, a side that showed when he played football for the University of Michigan and Georgia Tech came to Ann Arbor for a game.

BUSH: One of Michigan's best players was an African American student named Willis Ward. Georgia Tech said they would not take the field if a black man were allowed to play. Gerald Ford was furious at Georgia Tech for making the demand and at the University of Michigan for caving in. He agreed to play only after Willis Ward personally asked him to. The stand Gerald Ford took that day was never forgotten by his friend and Gerald Ford never forgot that day either. And three decades later, he proudly supported the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act in the United States Congress.

NORRIS: President Bush's father, the 41st president, injected some humor into the solemn proceedings when he talked about his and Gerald Ford's common love of golf and their mutual reputation for what he called suspect play.

GEORGE H: I know I'm playing better golf, President Ford once reported to friends, because I'm hitting fewer spectators.


BUSH: He had a wonderful sense of humor and even took it in stride when Chevy Chase had to make the entire world think that this terrific, beautifully coordinated athlete was actually a stumbler. Ford says it was funny. He wrote that in his memoir. I remember that lesson well since being able to laugh at yourself is essential in public life. I'd tell you more about that, but as Dana Carvey would say, not gonna do it. Wouldn't be prudent.


NORRIS: Newsman Tom Brokaw also spoke. He said the President Ford called him last year and asked him to participate in the services. Brokaw covered the Ford White House and alluded to the excesses of the previous administration.

TOM BROKAW: Gerald Ford brought to the political arena no demons, no hidden agenda, no hit list or acts of vengeance. He knew who he was, and he didn't require consultants or gurus to change him. Moreover, the country knew who he was, and despite occasional differences, large and small, it never lost its affection for this man from Michigan, the football player, the lawyer and the veteran. The congressman and suburban husband. The champion of Main Street values who brought all of those qualities to the White House.

BLOCK: The rector of the Fords' church in Palm Desert, California, the Reverend Robert Certain, delivered the homily. The Episcopal minister called the late president humble and meek, a man who worked all his life for justice and peace on earth.

ROBERT CERTAIN: Early this past summer, President Ford's concern was for the church he loved. He asked me if we would face schism. After we discussed the various issues we would consider, particularly concerns about human sexuality and the leadership of women, he said that he did not think they should be divisive for anyone who lived by the great commandments and the great commission - to love God, and to love neighbor.

BLOCK: After the homily, mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves sang The Lord's Prayer.

DENYCE GRAVES: (Singing) Our Father, who art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name.

BLOCK: Later, Gerald Ford's casket was borne out of the cathedral by military pallbearers. A few dozen people had gathered outside the cathedral to watch as the president's cortege passed by. Maria Collier lives in Arlington, Virginia.

MARIA COLLIER: I mean, I'm honoring a common man that was president. We don't have that anymore. Really, do we? I don't know, maybe I'm totally wrong.

I was very young when he was a president, but you know, I respect those who lead us. I respect those who lead us. And certainly, I respect him and what he did regarding President Nixon, pardoning him. I think our country might have ended up much worse had he not pardoned -

BLOCK: Irene Sandra(ph) is from Alexandria, Virginia, where Gerald Ford and his family lived for many years while he was in Congress.

IRENE SANDRA: And I remember going to see him when he left his home in Alexandria, to be sworn in as vice president. And my husband and my uncle and I went to the house and saw him leave and waved to him and he was really nice. He was really nice.

BLOCK: The president's casket was taken from the cathedral to Andrews Air Force Base, then flown to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where Gerald Ford lies in repose to tomorrow morning at the Ford Presidential Museum. He will be interred at the museum tomorrow afternoon.

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