********************Gerald Rudolph Ford, the 38th President of the United States, died yesterday at the age of 93 and it seems only fitting and proper that I should write something here as the Presidential Election of 1976 was the very first election where I was able to cast a vote. I was attending Ground-to-Air Radio technical school at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi where I was stationed as an airman in the United States Air Force when I turned 18 and was old enough to be a registered voter.
Mostly what I knew about Gerald Ford, other than that he was my Commander-in-Chief, was that Chevy Chase had a great time portraying him on Saturday Night Live with one pratfall and bumbling move after another. I wasn't much into politics (and still am not) but I knew that a lot of people were against Ford due to his full pardon of the man he replaced as President, Richard M. Nixon. I'm sure I need not go into the entirety of the Watergate Scandal - that's a horse that's been pretty well beat to death over the years.
When Gerald Ford took office on August 9, 1974 he took over a mess - to say the least. He inherited not only the Watergate Scandal but a domestic policy full of inflation and recession and a foreign policy that saw the final troops being withdrawn from Vietnam and the subsequent fall of Saigon in 1975. During his time in Office he survived two assassination attempts - one by Charles Manson follower Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme and another seventeen days later by Sara Jane Moore. He also had to deal with the Mayaguez Incident in which 41 servicemen were killed and another 50 injured during an operation involving the Cambodian Khmer-Rouge. It was not an easy two and a half years for a man who had never been elected Vice President or President but had "fallen" into both positions.
In 1976, Ford didn't particularly want to run for President in the National Elections but he reluctantly agreed and was nominated by his Party after Ronald Reagan withdrew from the race. The Democrats ran the virtually unknown Georgian, Jimmy Carter, who based his campaign mainly on the Watergate Scandal and pardon of former President Richard Nixon. In the end, Carter won with 50.1% of the popular vote and 297 electoral votes to Ford's 48.0% and 240 electoral votes - the closest race in Presidential history and the very first one in which I cast a vote - for Gerald R. Ford.
In spite of the fact that he was portrayed as a bumbling goof by Chevy Chase, in spite of the fact that a lot of people thought he "worked a deal" with Nixon to take over the Presidency in exchange for a pardon, and in spite of the fact that he initially seemed to be a reluctant President (and who wouldn't have been given what he had to deal with?) I voted for him because I felt that he was a good man who had the best interests of the country always at the foremost of his agenda. He was a good Commander-in-Chief to those of us who were in the military, a man who had served in the Navy during World War II, and understood what military service was all about. He seemed a decent man, an honest man, a good family man, and I thought he was a good President which is why I voted for him.
It goes without saying that his family will miss him but at age 93, I think that he has earned his eternal rest and the chance to go to wherever it is that former Presidents go to when they die. Perhaps he'll have the chance to meet up with the likes of Washington, Adams, and Jefferson and the other great men who initially made this country the great place that it once was. Lately - I'm not so sure how great it is ... but that's for another post.
May you rest in peace, Mr. President, and may the people of this country remember you with fondness and thanks for all of your service. I do.