Niles residents remember Ford as honorable man

Published 4:01 am Wednesday, December 27, 2006

By By MICHAEL C. GUILMETTE JR. / Niles Daily Star
NILES – Despite his short-lived and turbulent presidency, Niles residents remember President Gerald R. Ford as a good man who took on a difficult job.
"His place in history will be remembered," Terry Eull, Niles city administrator, said Wednesday morning.
Michigan's only president, and the nation's only unelected chief executive died Tuesday evening, his wife, Betty, said Tuesday. He was 93.
President Ford took office following President Richard Nixon's resignation on Aug. 9, 1974, having assumed the vice presidency only eight months earlier on Dec. 6, 1973, following the resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew.
A month after becoming president, Ford pardoned Nixon – a move that drew considerable controversy and likely played a role in his defeat to President Jimmy Carter in 1976. However, some believe Ford's pardoning of Nixon was a wise move.
"Pardoning [Nixon] probably saved the country from more years of controversy," Eull said. "I think he will be remembered as a great man."
Former Niles mayor Larry Clymer said he was troubled by Ford's passing, but added it was not unexpected, considering the former president's advanced age. He also echoed Eull's sentiment.
"He had a very difficult job to do," Clymer said. "He did what he had to do."
Clymer also said Ford visited Niles on May 15, 1976, relating a story of the president's limousine getting stuck in the mud in Plym Park before flying from the park.
Niles resident Andrew Plym also recalled Ford's visit, saying he was working as a reserve police officer for the City of Niles at the time.
"I think the guy was a very good president and was very well liked," Plym said. "He will be missed."
U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, was humbled by the news of Ford's death.
"I have the honor and privilege of representing some of the very same folks in southwest Michigan that President Ford did during his time in Congress," Upton said in a statement released Wednesday.
Ford was elected to Congress in 1948 from Michigan's southwestern district and was returned to Washington 14 times, until his ascendancy to the vice presidency.
"When one reflects upon President Gerald Ford, the first things that come to mind are honesty, integrity, an ability to rise above when the going got tough – never losing sight of his faith, family and his beloved roots of southwest Michigan," Upton said. "All our hearts go out to Betty and the entire Ford family during this difficult time."
Ford, who lived in Rancho Mirage, Calif., was the longest-lived president, followed by Ronald Reagan, who also died at 93.