Ford’s Body Arrives in Washington for Official Honors
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 30, 2006 The body of President Gerald R. Ford received a welcoming 21-gun salute at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., early this evening as part of final goodbyes that’ll be made here to the nation’s 38th chief executive.
A ceremonial honor guard carries the casket of former President Gerald R. Ford at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., on Dec. 30 as part of the national farewell funeral procession honoring the former commander in chief. In a proclamation formally announcing his death, President Bush referred to the former president as “a true gentleman who reflected the best in America’s character.” President Ford will lie in state at the Capitol Rotunda where the public will be able to pay their respects. The actual funeral will be held at the Washington National Cathedral on Jan 2. His final resting place will be in his hometown of Grand Rapids, Mich., at a site just north of the Gerald R. Ford Museum. Photo of Tech. Sgt. Christopher J. Matthews, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Ford died Dec. 26 at age 93 at his residence in Rancho Mirage, Calif. The fallen commander-in-chief grew up in Grand Rapids, Mich., and will be buried on the grounds of his presidential museum there Jan. 3, after being honored here.
The president’s remains and members of his family, including his widow and former first lady Betty Ford, were flown here today from California aboard a blue-and-white painted military VC-25, a 747-model jet like those used to transport President Bush.
Vice President Richard B. Cheney headed a delegation of distinguished officials, which included retired Sen. Bob Dole, as well as other senior civilian and military leaders, that met Ford’s plane as it taxied to a stop on Andrews’ tarmac.
A joint military honor guard carried Ford’s flag-draped casket from the jet to an awaiting black Cadillac hearse. Members of the Army’s 3rd U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard) fired off the traditional 21-shot salute in Ford’s honor with a group of ceremonial howitzers. The U.S. Air Force Band played “Hail to the Chief” and followed up with “My Country, ’Tis of Thee.”
Mrs. Ford was a model of composure as she occasionally dabbed at tears with a handkerchief.
The plane carrying Ford’s remains touched down at Andrews just after 5 p.m., and the arrival ceremony was completed within the hour. The funereal motorcade, including the hearse carrying Ford’s remains and a black ribbon of trailing limousines and sport utility vehicles, departed the airbase en route to the U.S. Capitol.
On its way to the U.S. Capitol, the motorcade passed through Alexandria, Va., where Ford had lived for many years when he was a member of Congress. After leaving Virginia and entering Washington, the motorcade paused at the World War II Memorial. Upon reaching the Capitol, Ford’s casket was ceremonially carried up the east steps of the House of Representatives and into the building. Ford’s casket was placed at the open House doors honoring his time in Congress.
Afterward, Ford’s remains will lie in state at the Capitol’s Rotunda until the morning of Jan. 2, when they will be transported to the National Cathedral for a state funeral service. President Bush will speak at the service.
After the funeral service here, Ford’s body will be flown to Grand Rapids, where it’ll be buried Jan. 3.
Ford served as a U.S. Navy officer in the Pacific theater of operations during World War II. After the war, Ford was elected as a Republican member of Congress, where he represented Michigan for 24 years in the House of Representatives. In 1973, Ford became vice president in the administration of President Richard M. Nixon. Ford assumed the presidency when Nixon resigned in August 1974.