Gerald Ford is the only unelected president in American history. He came to office following two political scandals. President Nixon appointed him vice president following the resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew, amid bribery charges stemming from Agnew's time as governor of Maryland. Then, the Watergate scandal erupted, surrounding a bungled burglary at Democratic Party headquarters, leading President Nixon to resign rather than face impeachment.
As Mr. Ford took office as 38th American president in 1974, he promised to end the nation's long national nightmare. However, he upset many voters when he pardoned Mr. Nixon for any crimes he may have committed as president. Years later, many critics came to agree that the move was necessary for the health of the nation.
Mr. Ford, a Republican, served in office fewer than 900 days and, in 1976, was narrowly defeated by his Democratic Party challenger, Jimmy Carter.
Gerald Ford is remembered for his candor and down-to-earth style. President Bush has issued a statement saying of Mr. Ford, "With his quiet integrity, common sense and kind instincts, Mr. Ford helped heal the country and restore public confidence in the presidency."
Mr. Ford's wife, Betty, became a noted advocate of programs for drug and alcohol addiction, after she overcame her own addiction problems. Mr. Ford spent his retirement years quietly in the desert, east of Los Angeles. He had been in declining health and was hospitalized following two small strokes in 2000. In January of this year, he was treated for pneumonia, and underwent two heart procedures in August.