I was about to write on James Brown when I heard our oldest President ever, Gerald Ford, had died. He'd been living in Rancho Mirage, California, about two hours east (with good traffic) from where I'm writing this now.
I have two connections to him. 1) He's the only President who attended my alma mater, Michigan. 2) He's the only President I've ever seen in person.
Where did I see him? When running for President, he appeared at a rally at the Macomb Mall, a few miles from where I grew up. It was pretty exciting, actually. I mean, a President's a President.
Ford is most famous for pardoning Richard Nixon before he was convicted of any crimes. This move may have cost him the 1976 election, and it certainly frustrated millions who wanted to see Nixon in the dock. But most now think it was the right thing to do. Nixon was gone, sometimes it's right to move on. Ford even got off a phrase that has become part of the lexicon: "our long national nightmare is over."
Though mocked for his alleged clumsiness, he was actually one of our most athletic President's. He was a center on Michigan's championship football team in the early 1930s (hence his nickname Gerald "Flippum Back" Ford).
Though born in Nebraska, he was a Michigan man, growing up in Grand Rapids and serving that district in Congress for many years. The state of Michigan honors him. There's the Gerald Ford Museum in Grand Rapids and the Gerald Ford Library in Ann Arbor. I've spent time in both, and have particularly fond memories of the Library.