Former President Gerald Ford's health had been in decline for some time.
At the 2000 Republican convention, he suffered a series of small strokes. Since then, his public appearances have been limited. He's stayed largely out of the public eye except for a number of ceremonial events.
Ford was able to join all the other living presidents at Ronald Reagan's funeral, but did not make it to the 2004 republican convention.
Ford was the first American to reach the White House without being elected either president or vice president. In 1973, Richard Nixon picked him to replace Spiro Agnew as Vice President. Eight months later, he became president, replacing Nixon, who resigned in disgrace. A month after taking offfice, Ford pardoned Nixon, damaging his credibility and political future. He was credited with restoring public trust in the presidency after the Watergate scandal. But he also will be remembered for a series of stumbles-- both political and physical.
Ford actually was quite athletic: a star football player at the University of Michigan-- an avid golfer and skier.
He was first elected to Congress in 1948, eventually becoming house minority leader, then president for 2 and a half years. While he will not rank among great presidents, he will be remembered as a man who did his best during trying times.
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), who was appointed by President Ford as Vice Chair of the National Transportation Safety Board and has stayed in touch with him throughout her career, Wednesday commented on the loss of former President Gerald Ford.
"In a time of great turmoil in our nation's history, Gerald Ford was chosen to be Vice President because of his impeccable integrity and the confidence that members of Congress from both Parties had in his leadership. When he became President, he was a healing force and continued to be a sought-after voice of reason throughout his life. My thoughts and prayers go out to Betty and the whole Ford family as we honor a public servant who gave tirelessly to our country over nearly three decades in elected office."