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Body of Former President Gerald Ford Moved to US Capitol


Family, friends and colleagues gathered in Washington Saturday to honor the memory of former President Gerald Ford. Mr. Ford died Tuesday at the age of 93. VOA's Sean Maroney reports from Capitol Hill.

A ceremonial honor guard escorted the body of former President Gerald Ford up the steps of the U.S. House of Representatives late Saturday. The former president's remains will lie in state in the Capitol building's rotunda for public viewing until early Tuesday.

Greg Gilley and his eight-year-old son, Beaux, shivered against the bitter cold and watched the solemn procession move the flag-drapped coffin.

Greg Gilley: "It's a piece of history. I'm glad to be a part of it."

Beaux Gilley: "I thought it was real cool because not a lot of people get to see it."

Mr. Ford was the only vice president and president in U.S. history not to have been elected to the offices. He represented the Michigan district in Congress for a quarter century. But in 1973, then-President Richard Nixon appointed him vice president, following the resignation of Spiro Agnew over allegations of financial corruption.

The following year, Mr. Ford became the 38th U.S. president when Richard Nixon resigned because of the Watergate political scandal.

Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert reminisced about the country's turmoil as he addressed Saturday's Rotunda ceremony.

"In the summer of 1974, America didn't need a philosopher-king or a warrior-prince," Hastert says. "We needed a healer. We needed a rock. We needed honesty and candor and courage. We needed Gerald Ford."

Not long after taking office, Mr. Ford pardoned President Nixon, a move met at the time by intense criticism.

However, Republican Senator Ted Stevens hinted at how President Ford's decisiveness helped heal the nation.

"When he took his oath of office of president, we were a people shaken by disbelief, wracked with cynicism and paralyzed by doubt," Stevens says. "Then President Ford's voice -- gentle but firm -- told us, and I quote, 'We must go forward now together.'"

The Rotunda ceremony was briefly interrupted when former Michigan congressman William Broomfield collapsed and was taken out on a wheelchair. Senator Bill Frist later indicated that Broomfield was okay.

Saturday's ceremony was modest in keeping with the former president's wishes.

However, thousands of people are expected to pay their respects before Tuesday's memorial service at Washington's National Cathedral.

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