Ford Arranged His Funeral to Reflect Himself and Drew in a Former Adversary





As he helped in recent years arrange the details of his own funeral, Gerald R. Ford reached out to an old adversary: Jimmy Carter, who defeated him for the presidency in 1976.

Mr. Ford asked whether his successor might consider speaking at his funeral and offered, lightheartedly, to do the same for Mr. Carter, depending on who died first.

The invitation was decades in the making, associates of Mr. Ford’s said. And, they said, it was typical for Mr. Ford, who came to his own funeral-planning sessions adamant that his coffin not be carried to the Capitol in an elaborate horse-drawn caisson but a motorcade instead.

During services for Mr. Ford, the 38th president, over the next few days, the simplicity he sought will be on display in Washington and, later, in Michigan, where he will be interred. His coffin is expected to be carried into the Capitol through the House of Representatives, where he served for 25 years, rather than up the sweeping front staircase. A band will play a somber version of the University of Michigan fight song, a Ford favorite from his undergraduate alma mater, and a song he preferred to “Hail to the Chief” while he was president....

The two ex-presidents developed a friendship soon after Mr. Carter left office, starting with a long-haul flight together from Cairo after the funeral of the Egyptian president, Anwar el-Sadat, in 1981. They found a mutual interest in the presidential library system, and agreed to work on projects at each other’s institutions. They compared notes on public policy and their families, and over time, their wives became friends.

And they shared a mutual rival: Ronald Reagan.

Theirs, Mr. Cannon said, was “an open and complementary friendship, no question about it.”

“I think part of the reason for the bond was, both of them had been defeated by Reagan, and they shared a disregard for Reagan,” Mr. Cannon said, alluding to Republican primaries in 1976 as well as the 1980 presidential election. But the friendship went even deeper, he said: “It was sincere, no question about that. Both of them had been there, and both of them had a continuing interest in what other presidents did.”...


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