State has fondness for Ford

Published 7:37 pm Thursday, December 28, 2006

Mississippi joined with the nation on Wednesday in mourning the death of former President Gerald R. Ford.

Gov. Haley Barbour ordered all flags at state buildings be flown at half-staff for a month beginning Thursday in honor of Ford, who died Tuesday night at the age of 93.

The governor’s order follows suit with the nation and its installations around the globe. U.S. flags were flown at half-staff on Wednesday and will remain that way for 30 days, abiding by the U.S. Flag Code.

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Barbour, who worked for the Ford campaign in 1976, described the former president in a statement as “direct and plainspoken.”

“President Ford helped the country heal its wounds during a difficult time,” said Barbour, speaking of Ford’s presidency amid the Watergate scandal.

Ford, the 38th president and the only one not elected, died at his Rancho Mirage, Calif., home. He was the longest living former president, surpassing Ronald Reagan by more than a month.

Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., described Ford as a “decent, honorable and unassuming man who led our country when that prescription was exactly what we needed.”

“He brought back to the White House commonsense and an everyman’s wisdom, and our country is better for his service,” Lott said in a statement.

Ford, whose stint in the White House lasted just 895 days, is best known for declaring “our long national nightmare is over” as he replaced Richard Nixon. A month later he granted Nixon a pardon for all crimes he committed as president — an act that contributed to Ford’s loss to Jimmy Carter in the 1976 presidential election. But it won praise in later years as a courageous act that allowed the nation to move on.

“He did what he thought was right whether it was politically popular or not,” Barbour said. “He was a totally decent man who demonstrated that politics does not have to be personal or mean spirited.”

In 1982 Ford visited Greenwood, speaking at the Leflore County Civic Center in support of local resident Webb Franklin’s congressional campaign.

“He gave graciously of his time, and I think that impetus allowed me eventually to win the election,” Franklin, a Republican who served in Congress from 1982-86, told The Greenwood Commonwealth.

Ford’s office did not release the cause of death but he was treated for pneumonia in January and had an angioplasty and pacemaker implant in August.