Gerald Ford was first and foremost a good and honest man who wanted what was best for his family and his country. Ford was literally an Eagle Scout who could also be considered the ultimate example of the college student athlete. He was an all-American football player at Michigan who turned down the chance to play pro ball to get his law degree from Yale instead (it should be noted that back then the pay for pro football players wasn’t close to what it is today but can you imagine how history could have been different if Ford chose football over law school?).
Much will be made about Ford’s decision to pardon Richard Nixon and I think you will be hard pressed to find anyone today who thinks he did anything but the correct and honorable thing.
One thing that should be mentioned is the fact that Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan really did not like each other. Ford believed (probably until his dying day) that Reagan crippled Ford’s chance at election in 1976 by opposing him in the Republican primaries thus causing him to spend much of his monetary and political capital just to get the nomination. Reagan in turn looked at Ford as part of the Eastern Elite that was leading the country to ruin - a viewpoint which is kind of ironic since originally Ford came from Michigan and Reagan came from Illinois (but Reagan became a West Coast person in his mind and Ford because of his Yale schooling and alliances with people like Nelson Rockefeller became part of the Eastern establishment). People will mention that there was once a chance that Reagan was going to name Ford as VP or “co-President” in 1980 but those stories are complete fantasies which were raised in the press by people like Henry Kissinger who were just trying to raise their own profiles in hopes of getting jobs in the Reagan administration.
You will also see many mentions of people wishing they had their vote back in 1976 to do-over. However, I think the nation actually needed to see the perfidy of Jimmy Carter and a Democratic controlled Senate and White House to make the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 possible. If Ford had won in 1976 then it is very likely that we would have seen four years of vetoes and over-rides and finger pointing. Ford would have been unable to run in 1980 and it is entirely possible that the Republican President would have been blamed for "stagflation" allowing someone like Ted Kennedy to win election in 1980 instead of Reagan.
In the final analysis – America was lucky to have a good and decent man like Gerald Ford to smooth out the wounds from Watergate and to bridge the way to Ronald Reagan.
RIP President Ford and here's hoping that between you and Bo Schembechler that enough strings can be pulled in heaven to guaranty a Michigan victory over USC on January 1st.