In 1999, I worked on a History Channel documentary called, “Failed Assassinations”. The stories involved those US Presidents who did not die from the assassin’s bullet. Gerald R. Ford was one of those we profiled.
The producer, Sean P. Geary, asked me if we might request Mr. Ford for an interview. I wrote a letter to Ford’s office in Palm Springs and to my utter surprise, the President’s assistant responded and said he would indeed like to be part of our project. I also requested and got a “yes” from Dick Cheney for an interview concerning the failed attempt by John Hinckley to kill Ronald Reagan, but we did not have it in the budget to interview Mr. Cheney.
Me, Sean and a production assistant named Gabe Vandervoort drove out to the desert and met Ford at the Palm Springs Marriott. While we were waiting in the room, the Secret Service arrived and the ex-president entered the dark room.
It was strange to sit so close to him as he described his historic times with Brezhnev and Nixon. He was also on the Warren Commission, that body which investigated the murder of President Kennedy, and Ford again confirmed that he felt Oswald was the lone assassin. Ford had been twice marked for death by two crazed women in the Fall of 1975: Sara Jane Moore and Squeeky Lynette Fromme. He survived both attempts to kill him, and if I remember correctly, he was not wounded in either incident.
The President was 89 at the time of his interview. He still looked football player fit, and his twangy Michigan accent was both fatherly and warm. He asked me if I would get him a glass of water. At the end of the interview, we posed with him.
Ford was a good natured man, a hard worker, and dare I say the type of Republican who once roamed the halls of Congress without an ideological agenda. He was pragmatic, and put his country before himself. He did his duty with a joyous but untheatrical normality. The US was lucky to have him in that dark period after Vietnam and Watergate.