Saturday, Dec. 30


A remembrance of President Gerald R. Ford and of the time he came to Lincoln
As recalled by local historian Paul Gleason          
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[Note: This report is written as an abbreviated chronological biography and incorporates some of the closeness that the City of Lincoln and Logan County historian Paul Gleason share with the former President.  The italics represent the recollections of Mr. Gleason as told to and transcribed by Logan County administrative secretary JoAnne Marlin.] 

[DEC. 30, 2006]  Former President Gerald R. Ford, 93, died on Dec. 26, 2006. 

Industrious and genuine mark two of the virtues that positioned the republican for the vice presidency, and subsequently, the transferred presidency.  Academic scholar, athlete, lawyer, military officer, government office holder, businessman; whatever Gerald Ford did he chose to work hard at it. 

It was his openness, party faithfulness and years of political experience that put him in the highest office in the nation at one of the darkest of periods in our history.  While his term as President was rather brief, he restored the much needed belief in the presidency in the hearts of a broken nation.

He took command while the nation was in a recession, there was an energy crisis and he was left to deal with the fall out of the withdrawal from Vietnam. 

He worked on stimulating the economy and strengthening foreign relations, especially working toward keeping peace in the Middle East.

 Ford's funeral began on Friday in California. His body lies in state in the U.S. Capitol over the weekend.  On Wednesday he will be interred in a hillside tomb in his home state of Michigan.

 A chronological sketch of the life of Gerald R. Ford, 38th President of the United States interspersed with Lincoln connections:

  • Born July 14, 1913
  • Worked hard in high school

Top 5 percent of his high school class 

  • Won a full athletic scholarship to the University of Michigan

Star football player

Declined offers from the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions

  • Yale Law School  

Worked as an assistant football coach.

Graduated in top 25 percent of his law school class

  • Enlisted in the Navy

Served in World War II 

  • 1948 - Discharged as a lieutenant commander
  • 1948 - Won House of Representatives for Michigan's 5th District
  • 1948 - Married Elizabeth “Betty” Bloomer Warren.  They had four children, Michael, John, Steven and Susan


Mr. Ford, 45-years-old and 10-year republican congressman

It was 1958 when Paul Gleason, a sophomore at Illinois State University, met with Gerald Ford for the first time.  Mr. Ford was at ISU with two other guys to speak to the ISU History Club. 

 Gleason and two other classmates wanted to buy them lunch. Gleason was making 75 cents an hour at his job and he paid for Mr. Ford’s lunch and the other two young men paid for the other two guests.  Gleason said that after he paid for Mr. Ford's lunch, he then had just so much money left for his own lunch selection. 

 Mr. Ford was a member of Congress at this time and after that meeting Gleason and Mr. Ford continued corresponding. 

  • 1963 Chairmanship of the House Republican Conference
  • 1965 – 1973 House minority leader.  Prevailing issues of the time; civil rights and the Vietnam War.

 As time went by and Mr. Ford became Vice President there was less and less correspondence being done between he and Gleason.  

  • Dec. 6, 1973 confirmed by Congress to replace Vice President Agnew
  • Aug. 9, 1974 Assumed the position as Commander in Chief when President Nixon resigns

1975 - Signed the Helsinki Accords with the Soviet Union and 34 other countries on the future of Europe

Collaborated with the Soviet Union and China to keep peace in the Middle Eastern

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Children visit Lincoln

Long ago, before 1976, Steven Ford came to Lincoln and spoke to the Boy Scout group here and it was a big crowd. 

Jack Ford spoke at the Lincoln Hotel to campaign for his dad in 1976.

A momentous day in Lincoln

On Saturday, Oct. 16, 1976 President Ford on his campaign trail stopped in Lincoln. 

On the train with the President were his wife Betty Ford, Gov. Thompson, Senator Charles Percy, Congressman Ed Madigan (Lincoln) and persons of notoriety. 

The train President Ford rode in on was called, "Honest Abe.”  Of course everyone remembers President Ford saying that he, "was glad to be in Pontiac, IL." 

The President was here two hours or more. 

 In addition to dinner, he also split a rail and before the train left he re-christened the town with watermelon juice from the back of the train. 

Some of the preparations for those special hours

The Presidential car was flown to Springfield and driven to Lincoln. 

That car was washed at Wayne Sheley's Service Station.  It was later thought that Mr. Sheley never submitted his bill. 

They drove the President from the Lincoln Depot to the Lincoln Hotel for lunch.  Mandy Bree ran the hotel at that time. 

The original plan was that the LJHS band was not going to play, as this was a political thing.  Another group saw it as the President coming to town.  Therefore the Jr. High Band was allowed to play.   A couple other bands came to play as well. 

There was also a young colonial color guard from the Lincoln Jr. High School. 

Mr. Gleason worked with the White House aids on the Depot decorations.  His Constitution class at Lincoln Jr. High School made the campaign banners and decorated the Lincoln Depot.

His mother, Jennie Gleason, sewed the bunting from red, white and blue material that they bought at the JC Penney store here.   His mom tore the material into nine-inch strips and made the bunting on her sewing machine.  On Monday or Tuesday they put the bunting up around the Depot. 

Gleason also met with the White House aids at night discussing security for the President.  They asked Mr. Gleason if he knew of anyone who might have made derogatory remarks about the President.  

There were two assassination attempts during his presidency.

The Arts and Craft Guild and the Railsplitter Association had a crafts display near the tracks and demonstrated some of the things from years past.  They borrowed pumpkins and the secret service had to check each one of them for explosives. 

There were numerous procedures that the security people took, such as, there was a yellow mark on the rail where the train would stop and a blue X on the ground for the President to step on when he got off the train.

Several trains ran ahead of the presidential train.  They were special types of engines, which ran to determine if there were explosives under the tracks.

Gleason arranged for Betty Ford to be presented with a dozen red roses that had been purchased from Doris' Floral Shoppe.  He had a duplicate bouquet made up just like the one given to her, which he saved. 

Oh yes, and Gleason says that he did save all those letters from President Ford...somewhere in all his stuff

[White House Biography / ABC News reports / Jan Youngquist]


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