Former President Gerald Ford remembered for healing a wounded America

Former President Gerald R. Ford, who picked up the pieces of Richard Nixon's scandal-shattered White House, was remembered by lawmakers, former presidents and world leaders as a man whose courage and integrity helped heal a country reeling from public loss of confidence in the government.

"With his quiet integrity, common sense and kind instincts, President Ford helped heal our land and restore public confidence in the presidency," President George W. Bush said in a statement to the nation from his Texas ranch Wednesday. "The American people will always admire Gerald Ford's devotion to duty, his personal character and the honorable conduct of his administration."

Ford, the 38th U.S. president, and the only one not elected to the presidency or the vice presidency, died Tuesday night at the age of 93. His office did not reveal the cause of death, which followed a year of medical problems in which he was treated for pneumonia in January and had an angioplasty and pacemaker implant in August.

The state funeral ceremonies will begin Friday in California and end with him being interred in a hillside tomb on Wednesday near his presidential museum in his home state of Michigan, a family representative said. Over the weekend, Ford will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol.

"His life was filled with love of God, his family and his country," his wife, Betty, said in a statement.

Former President Jimmy Carter described him Wednesday as "one of the most admirable public servants and human beings I have ever known." Former President Bill Clinton said, "all Americans should be grateful for his life of service." The former President George H.W. Bush said "Ford was, simply put, one of the most decent and capable men I ever met."

World leaders mourned his passing, and praised him for his role as a statesman.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Ford would be remembered for his support of the world body and the 1975 Helsinki process, which reaffirmed the importance of human rights in world affairs. The Helsinki Accord, which grew out of the process, was seen as the first recognition that human rights were fundamental to the conduct of international relations.

In London, the Union flag over Buckingham Palace, the residence of Queen Elizabeth II, was to fly at half-staff all day Thursday.

A spokesman at the palace said that the Queen, who met Ford during a state visit to the United States in 1976 where she attended U.S. bicentennial celebrations with him, was saddened by the news of his death and was sending a private message to Ford's wife and Bush.

German President Horst Koehler offered his "deeply felt condolences" and described Ford as "a great American" who played an important role in advancing trans-Atlantic ties and as "one of the founding fathers of the world economic summits of the leading industrial nations."

Czech President Vaclav Klaus called Ford "an outstanding politician" whose work "was instrumental for freedom in my country and for the fall of the Iron Curtain in Europe."

In the United States, former President Clinton and his wife, Sen. Hillary Clinton, said their prayers were with the Ford family, reports AP.

"Gerald Ford brought Americans together during a difficult chapter in our history with strength, integrity, and humility," the Clintons said. "All Americans should be grateful for his life of service.

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