Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Life After the Presidency

Following his defeat in the 1976 presidential election, Gerald Ford retired to Rancho Mirage, California. Thereafter, Ford appeared frequently in public as a speaker, lecturing for private audiences and on university campuses. In his post-presidential years, Ford wrote a number of books, including an account of his presidency, A Time to Heal (1979), and Humor and the Presidency (1987). Always very athletic, Ford continued to enjoy the game of golf.

However, Ford's exit from Washington did not immediately end his political ambitions. He surprised most observers when he entered into discussions with Ronald Reagan in 1980 about running on the Republican ticket with the former governor of California. However, Ford took the offer to the media (specifically to CBS anchor Walter Cronkite in a convention interview); feeling betrayed, an angry Reagan withdrew the offer, which ultimately went to George H.W. Bush. During the 1980s and 1990s, Ford emerged as an elder statesman in the Republican Party. Likewise, Ford wrote extensively on domestic and foreign policy issues of the day. He also served on a number of corporate boards and commissions, including a stint as co-chair of The National Commission on Federal Election Reform in 2001.

President Bill Clinton awarded eighty-six-year-old Ford the Presidential Medal of Freedom in August 1999, in honor of his public service in binding the nation together after "the nightmare" of Watergate. Ford died on December 26, 2006, at his home in California. After a state funeral in Washington, D.C., he was buried in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on the grounds of the Gerald R. Ford Museum.