Gerald Ford set to eclipse Ronald Reagan as oldest living former president in U.S. history

Friday, November 10th 2006, 11:14 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Gerald R. Ford is closing in on a record held by Ronald Reagan _ living longer than any other U.S. president.

Ford, who turned 93 on July 14, will become the oldest president Sunday by living to 93 years and 121 days.

``The length of one's days matters less than the love of one's family and friends,'' Ford said in a statement this week from the Rancho Mirage compound he shares with former first lady Betty Ford, 88.

Ford was president from Aug. 9, 1974, when Richard Nixon resigned, until January 1977. He's suffered a variety of health problems in recent years, including undergoing heart procedures at the Mayo Clinic in August.

``He's doing very well. He's still recuperating,'' said Ford's chief of staff, Penny Circle.

In the statement released by Circle, the former president said: ``I thank God for the gift of every sunrise and, even more, for all the years he has blessed me with Betty and the children, with our extended family and the friends of a lifetime.''

The calculation of the milestone was done by Ford's staff and was based on full days.

Ford, a longtime Michigan congressman, was House minority leader when Nixon chose him as vice president to replace Spiro Agnew in 1973. Ford became president the following year when Nixon resigned amid the Watergate scandal. Ford, a Republican, is the only president in U.S. history never elected as either president or vice president. He served as president nearly 2 1/2 years, losing to Democrat Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Reagan, born Feb. 6, 1911, was 93 years, 120 days when he died June 5, 2004. He had surpassed the longevity milestone of John Adams, the nation's second president, in 2001.

Duke Blackwood, director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, said ``we all send our best to President Ford for reaching this milestone.'' And he added: ``If President Reagan were alive, he'd probably say, 'Finally, somebody's talking about another president's age.'''

The oldest living former first lady is Lady Bird Johnson, who turns 94 next month. Bess Truman, who died in 1982 at age 97, was the longest living first lady in U.S. history.