1981 : Ford Presidential Library Official Dedication

September 18, 2023 all-day
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On September 18, 1981, the Gerald R. Ford presidential museum was dedicated in Grand Rapids with President Ronald Reagan and former President Ford among those in attendance.

The rest of the story:

As a boy growing up in Grand Rapids, he used to drive his 1924 second-hand car along the factory-lined street where the museum now stands.

Other familiar haunts of his youth are gone now, such as the Greek restaurant where he washed dishes while attending high school, and several of the houses in which the Ford family lived.

But while he and his wife, Betty, now live in Palm Springs, Calif., Mr. Ford said he still considered Grand Rapids to be home. The high point of his life, he told the thousands attending today’s dedication, ”is here today, in my hometown among my friends.” And an impressive array of friends were gathered, including representatives from four foreign countries, friends from his days in Congress, most of his Presidential Cabinet and leaders of the Democratic and Republican Parties.

President Reagan called his onetime rival for the Presidency ”a man of decency, a man of honor.” Vice President Bush praised Mr. Ford as a healer of the nation. Thomas P. O’Neill Jr., Speaker of the House of Representatives, described him as ”the right man in the time of our needs.” Tributes From Foreign Leaders

There were warm tributes, too, from Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau of Canada; President Jose Lopez Portillo of Mexico; Valery Giscard d’Estaing, former President of France, and Sunao Sonoda, Japanese Foreign Minister.

The Ford museum differs from other Presidential commemorative buildings in that it houses only memorabilia of Mr. Ford ‘s life and not his Presi dential papers. Those papers are housed in the Gerald R.Ford Library, a $4.3 million structure dedicated last spring on the Ann Arbor cam pus of the University of Michigan, his alma mater.

The Presidential libraries of Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson contain both museum displays and Presidential papers. The Ford Museum was financed through donations from private citizens, businesses and foundations, although the operating costs are paid by the Federal Government.

Lady Bird Johnson, who was actively involved in the founding of Presidential library bearing her husband’s name, toured the Ford Museum this morning. Later, at a luncheon hosted by Mr. Ford and his wife, Betty: ”I’ve seen them all now and this one is just splendid. It’s so straight-forward, so warm. It’s so like the man.” Javits Attends Ceremony

To former Senator Jacob K. Javits, Republican of New York, who flew here yesterday aboard Air Force 1 with President Reagan, the Ford Museum ”has a special kind of warmth.”

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, expressed amazement at the realism of the museum’s full-scale reproduction of the Oval office as it appeared in the Ford years in the White House.

Many of the items in the replica Oval Office were personal items that belonged to Mr. Ford, including his swivel chair, pen set, family photographs, flags, and a wood carving from his son, Steve. Other furnishings in room are duplications.. On display elsewhere in the museum are such historic documents as President Nixon’s August 1974 letter of resig nation, and President Ford’s pardon of Mr. Nixon. Other Items on Display

Also in the museum is a reproduction of the Quonset hut that Mr. Ford used in his first bid for Congress in 1948; gifts to the Fords from numerous heads of state; momentos of his childhood and youth, including a football helmet; and a display of handmade gifts sent to President Ford by Americans to commenmorate the nation’s Bicentennial in 1976.

Mr. Ford said he did not have a favorite among the exhibits in the museum. ”It’s my life, it’s the totality that makes it a good museum,” he said today. ”We put the warts and all in there.” Among what he called the warts were letters from citizens bitterly protesting his pardon of Mr. Nixon. Only hours before the museum ceremony today, President Reagan got in a final round of work at a breakfast meeting with Mr. Lopez Portillo and Mr. Trudeau, where they discussed plans for the North-South meeting to be held Oct. 22 and 23 in Cancun, Mexico. Reagan Goes on to Denver

After the dedication ceremonies Mr. Reagan flew to Denver to address the National Federation of Republican Women. As the crowds were assembling today for the museum dedication, those who attended a gala here last night were still chuckling over Bob Hope’s big line of the evening.

”I was relieved when President Reagan showed up,” Mr. Hope had said. ”Until then, Vice President Bush and Secretary of State Haig couldn’t agree who was in charge here.”

Sources :

WKAV, The Memory Station, Blog.

Marjorie Hunter, “Dignitaries Praise Ford at Museum Dedication“, New York Times, September 19, 1981.

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