I was saddened today to wake up and find that President Gerald Ford had died. We knew it was only a matter of time and he lived a full and long life (93 years old!). But, we have only had 43 Presidents, and anytime one dies it is the passing of a great man who sacrificed himself to lead this country. Whether you liked him or not, that service and sacrifice must be recognized.
I just got a news alert from RollCall (the newspaper used by people following Congress) that President Ford will lie in state at the Rotunda of the Capitol from Saturday evening until Tuesday, where they will then hold a service at the National Cathedral. I am only sorry I won’t be in D.C. to see the processional from the White House to the Capitol. (Did you know anyone can lie in state of the Rotunda of the Capitol…they just have to of served their country and Congress must pass a resolution okaying the activity. Well right now Congress has adjourned for the rest of the year…so the leaders of both Chambers have agreed to write a letter to the Architect of the Capitol and okay the use of the Rotunda for President Ford. When Congress returns on Jan 4 they will then pass a resolution.)
I was in D.C. in June of 2004 when Ronald Reagan passed away. That was and will always be one of my most memorable D.C. experiences. Reagan was my political idol and probably one of the reasons I wanted to get into politics. He is the first President I truly remember watching and following. Ford was great, but I just don’t have the same memories, I was too young. One thing I find interesting about Gerald Ford is that his goal was to be Speaker of the House…not President of the United States. He was a Member of the House of Representatives for nearly 25 years and actually made it to Minority Leader (we were in the middle of 40-years of Democrat Congressional Control…so he would not have made it to Speaker of the House (have to be in the majority party) when he was asked by President Nixon to become Vice President upon the resignation of Spiro Agnew.) It was actually rather unexpected that he got the VP nod. And then you all know the rest of the story, just a few short months later he watched President Nixon give that famous wave goodbye as he left the office of President. He is sort of like the accidental President.
Anyway, all of this reminded me of the great pictures I have from Reagan’s funeral and I wanted to share them with you. There were thousands of people lining Constitution Avenue to watch Reagan’s body go from the White House to the Capitol. I was lucky enough to elbow my way to the front…I was not about to miss this opportunity of paying respects to my political idol! Below are a few of the pictures. (Click on the Picture to see the larger version).
Reagans Horse Drawn Carriage. Tradition says the caskets of military leaders should be carried by an artillery caisson, a wagon that usually carries artillery. As commander in chief, all presidents are entitled to military honors when they die. The caisson used in Reagan’s funeral procession was built in 1918 and once carried 75 mm cannons. When the flag is used to cover a casket, it is placed so the Stars go over the head and over the left shoulder. The flag should not be lowered into the grave or allowed to touch the ground. Notice the Military Men saluting the casket as it passed…very emotional.
The Riderless Horse with Ronald Reagans actual riding boots turned backwards.
These guys were stuck in front of us for over an hour in their full dress outfits. It was 96 degrees. They were fainting all over the place.