Former US first lady Betty Ford deadJuly 9th, 2011 - 3:33 pm ICT by IANS
Washington, July 9 (IANS) Former US first lady Betty Ford, the widow of former president Gerald Ford who was known for her unabashed candour on public issues, has died. She was 93.
Ford died Friday at the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, Los Angeles Times said quoting Barbara Lewandrowski, a family representative. The cause was not given.
As wife of Gerald R. Ford, the 38th president of the US — and the only person to hold that office without first being elected vice president or president, she spent a brief, yet remarkable time as the nation’s first lady.
But after Gerald Ford left office and even after his death in 2006 at age 93, she had considerable influence as founder of the widely emulated Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage for the treatment of chemical dependencies, the daily said.
“Throughout her long and active life, Elizabeth Anne Ford distinguished herself through her courage and compassion,” President Barack Obama said Friday in a statement.
“As our nation’s First Lady, she was a powerful advocate for women’s health and women’s rights. After leaving the White House, Ford helped reduce the social stigma surrounding addiction and inspired thousands to seek much-needed treatment,” the newspaper quoted Obama as saying.
Betty Ford was an accidental first lady who had looked forward to her husband’s retirement from political life until Richard Nixon chose him to replace Vice President Spiro Agnew, who had resigned amid allegations of corruption, the Times said.
When turmoil engulfed Nixon during the Watergate scandal, she told anyone who asked that she did not want to be first lady, but the job became hers when the president resigned on Aug 9, 1974.
The groundbreaking role she would play as first lady may have been foreshadowed in President Gerald Ford’s inaugural address, the Times said.
“I am indebted to no man and only to one woman - my dear wife, Betty,” he told the nation.
Over the next 800 days of his tenure, she would outshine him in the polls, and when he ran for election in 1976, one of the most popular campaign buttons read “Betty’s Husband for President”, the Times wrote.
Her taboo-busting honesty - about abortion, sex, gay rights, marijuana and the Equal Rights Amendment - was a bracing antidote to the secrecy and deceptions of the Watergate era, it said.
In 1976, President Gerald Ford lost to Jimmy Carter by fewer than two million votes but not because of his wife’s outspokenness; analysts attributed his loss largely to his pardon of Nixon.
At the start of her husband’s abbreviated White House term, Betty Ford indicated that she would prefer that her husband not run for the presidency in 1976. She later changed her mind, and campaigned for him enthusiastically.
When it was all over, because Gerald Ford’s voice had been reduced to a whisper by campaign speeches, he had his wife read to the press the telegram he had written conceding to Carter.
She was born Elizabeth Ann Bloomer in Chicago April 8, 1918, and moved with her family to Grand Rapids, Michigan, when she was three.
Betty Ford, who lived in Rancho Mirage, is survived by her sons Michael Ford, John “Jack” Ford and Steven Ford; daughter Susan Ford Bales; grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
A service is planned in the Coachella Valley. The former first lady will be buried next to her husband at the presidential library in Grand Rapids.
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