Carter hails Ford as friend, leader

Jan. 3, 2007 at 6:13 PM

EAST GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., Jan. 3 (UPI) -- Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter Wednesday said his relationship with Gerald R. Ford was the closest in history between former presidents.

Carter eulogized Ford during the final service in a six-day celebration of the 38th president's life at Grace Episcopal Church in East Grand Rapids, Mich. Following the service, Ford was buried on a grassy slope overlooking the Gerald R. Ford Museum in downtown Grand Rapids.

Carter said he could think of no finer tribute to Ford than the first words he spoke after assuming the presidency: "For myself and for our nation, I want to thank my predecessor for all he did to heal our land."

Carter said a mutual respect between himself and Ford grew into a close personal friendship. They bonded during their trip to Egypt for the funeral of Anwar Sadat. They had been lamenting the difficulty in raising funds for a presidential library for an "unexpectedly defeated candidate."

"Gerry Ford and I shared a lot," Carter said, citing their stints in the Navy, their offspring -- both had three sons and a daughter -- and the similarities between their wives, "good-looking, smart and very independent."

Carter gave Ford credit for laying the foundation for the Panama Canal treaties, nuclear weapons control with the Soviet Union, normalized relations with China and the Camp David Accords.

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