House and Senate leaders dedicated a bronze statue of President Gerald Ford on Tuesday, remembering the former Michigan lawmaker as a man of integrity who helped the nation heal from the Watergate crisis.
Ford, the nation's 38th president, was feted by lawmakers, friends and family members in a ceremony under the soaring dome of the U.S. Capitol. He was credited with providing steady leadership after the resignation of President Richard Nixon, capping a lifetime of public service in the Navy, Congress and ultimately, the White House.
"When things went terribly wrong, Gerald Ford stepped into the role he had been preparing for his entire life without even knowing it," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. "And today few would disagree that he was just the man we needed for the job."
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called Ford "the most uncommon of common men." House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the statue would stand as a "testament of his leadership, values and integrity."
Ford is the only president in American history who was not elected either president or vice president. He represented western Michigan in Congress for more than two decades before President Richard Nixon chose him to serve as vice president to succeed Spiro Agnew. Ford became president when Nixon resigned in 1974 during the Watergate scandal.
Ford died in 2006 at the age of 93.
Ford's family was represented by three of his children _ Steven Ford, Michael Ford and Susan Ford Bales. Former first lady Betty Ford, who lives in California, did not attend the ceremony.
Susan Ford Bales said the statue was symbolic of her father's love of the House, where he served as minority leader. The statue, she said, brought him "back to the home in his heart he never left."