Former President Gerald R. Ford, who gently led the United States out of the tumultuous Watergate era but who lost his own bid for election after pardoning President Richard M. Nixon, died at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday at his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

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He was 93, making him the oldest former president, surpassing Ronald Reagan, who died in 2004, by just over a month.

His death was announced late Tuesday night in a statement issued by his wife, Betty Ford, which gave no details. Further family announcements today gave no cause of death, but he had been in and out of the hospital since January 2006, most recently in October at the Eisenhower Medical Center for medical tests. He returned to his home in Rancho Mirage after five days of hospitalization.

Thrust by Mr. Nixon’s resignation into an office he had never sought, Mr. Ford occupied the White House for just 896 days. But they were pivotal days of national introspection, involving America’s first definitive failure in a war and the first resignation of a president. It was Mr. Ford’s uncommon virtue to have presided with a common touch.

“He assumed power in a period of great division and turmoil,” President George W. Bush said in a statement broadcast early this morning. “For a nation that needed healing, and for an office that needed a calm and steady hand, Gerald Ford came along when we need him most. During his time in office, the American people came to know President Ford as a man of complete integrity who led our country with common sense and kind instincts.”

After a decade of division over Vietnam and two years of trauma over the Watergate scandals, Jerry Ford, as he called himself, radiated a soothing familiarity. He might have been the nice guy down the street suddenly put in charge of the nation, and if he seemed a bit predictable, he was also safe, reliable and reassuring. He placed no intolerable intellectual or psychological burdens on a weary land, and he lived out a modest philosophy. “The harder you work, the luckier you are,” he said once in summarizing his career. “I worked like hell.”
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