By Maryland Senator Roy Dyson
I have had many great opportunities in my lifetime. One of the greatest is to represent you in the Senate of Maryland. I again want to thank you for this honor.
Another opportunity was back in the early 1970s. I was a staffer on Capitol Hill with the Agricultural Labor Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives. The chairman of the subcommittee was William D. Ford (D) of Michigan.
Bill Ford was a very good friend of his fellow Michigan colleague Congressman Gerald Ford. At the time, Gerald Ford was the minority leader of the House of Representatives when he was nominated to be Vice President of the United States after the resignation of then-Vice President Spiro T. Agnew who resigned in disgrace in October 1973 after pleading no-contest to tax evasion at the U.S. Federal Courthouse in Baltimore, sentenced to three years probation, fined $10,000 and disbarred as a lawyer.
The contrast between Agnew and Ford could not have been greater. The media and protesters of the Vietnam War among others detested Agnew, ironically the last Republican governor of Maryland before Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr.s victory in 2002. Then-Congressman Ford was a true gentleman who worked very well across party lines which was why no one balked when he was nominated to be Vice President.
Ironically, President Ford never aspired to that office or for that matter, president. His dream was to be Speaker of the House. But when duty called, Gerald Ford left the House of Representatives for the Vice Presidency.
I had the pleasure of meeting then-Vice President Ford when Bill Ford let me know he was having a meeting with the Vice President and would I like to meet him.
Watergate was casting a bigger and bigger pall over the nation and the resignation of President Nixon seemed imminent.
In my early 20s, I sensed that there would be a good chance that Vice President Ford would soon become the President of the United States. I wasn t going to pass up a chance to meet a potential future president.
Gerald Ford could not have been friendlier, patient or nicer. In those days, we didnt have digital cameras so I ended up getting my picture taken with soon-to-be President Ford with a Polaroid Camera!
The news has been saturated with salutes to President Ford and his accomplishments, as it should be.
I remember the days of Watergate very vividly even today. It was a terrible time in American history. People were angry and concerned about what some called the imperial presidency and the very foundation of the United States Constitution.
Upon taking office, President Fords immortal Our long national nightmare is over speech calmed a nation.
Since his presidency was too short, it is hard to rate President Ford fairly in the history books. However, he did something so honorable it probably cost him the presidency against Jimmy Carter in 1976.
A month after President Nixon resigned; President Ford pardoned him of any wrongdoing so he could never stand trial. The vast majority of the public was enraged with Ford and many never forgave him for it. But as time has gone by, it proved to not only be an act of great courage, but also the right thing to do.
A trial would have subjected the nation to further damage and likely would have gone on for years. Watergate had already deflated the. Dragging it out for years would have been disastrous in retrospect. Most of President Fords critics of the decision to pardon Nixon today concede it was an enormously difficult, but brave move.
President Gerald Ford died peacefully at 93 with a legacy of decency, kindness, honor and honesty as his legacy. His was a life well lived and I was pleased, if only for a minute to have been in his presence.