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Former first lady Betty Ford dies at 93

July 8, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Former first lady Betty Ford has died at age 93. She died in Rancho Mirage, according to the director of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum.

Betty Ford, wife of former U.S. President Gerald Ford, became publicly known after her husband succeeded Richard Nixon when he resigned in 1974.

After moving into the White House, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and a mastectomy was performed.

Betty Ford was known for championing women's causes and humanitarian causes.

Ford had undergone treatment for alcohol and drug abuse, and became a public advocate for drug and alcohol treatment. She co-founded the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif., in 1982, to treat people with drug and alcohol dependencies.

She had four children with former President Gerald Ford, who passed away in 2006.

President Barack Obama released a statement Friday afternoon:

"Throughout her long and active life, Elizabeth Anne Ford distinguished herself through her courage and compassion. As our nation's First Lady, she was a powerful advocate for women's health and women's rights. After leaving the White House, Mrs. Ford helped reduce the social stigma surrounding addiction and inspired thousands to seek much-needed treatment. While her death is a cause for sadness, we know that organizations such as the Betty Ford Center will honor her legacy by giving countless Americans a new lease on life.

"Today, we take comfort in the knowledge that Betty and her husband, former President Gerald Ford, are together once more. Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to their children, Michael, John, Steven, and Susan."

Former first lady Nancy Reagan released a statement Friday afternoon:

"I was deeply saddened this afternoon when I heard of Betty Ford's death. She has been an inspiration to so many through her efforts to educate women about breast cancer and her wonderful work at the Betty Ford Center. She was Jerry Ford's strength through some very difficult days in our country's history, and I admired her courage in facing and sharing her personal struggles with all of us.

"My love and deepest sympathy go out to the entire Ford family at this very sad time."

Former President George H.W. Bush released a statement Friday afternoon:

"Barbara and I loved Betty Ford very much. She was a wonderful wife and mother; a great friend; and a courageous First Lady. No one confronted life's struggles with more fortitude or honesty, and as a result, we all learned from the challenges she faced. The Betty Ford Center, which already has helped change the lives of thousands of people, will be her lasting legacy of care and concern. We were proud to know her. We were proud to call her a friend. We will miss her very much."

Former President Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter released a statement Friday afternoon:

"Rosalynn and I are saddened by the passing of Betty Ford, a close personal friend and our frequent partner in bipartisan efforts to improve mental health and substance abuse care in our nation. She was a remarkable political spouse, whose courageous candor helped forge a new era of openness after the divisiveness of the Vietnam War and Watergate. Also, as a tireless advocate for women's rights and social justice, she helped to improve the lives and opportunities of countless women and children. We extend our deepest sympathy to her family at this difficult time."

Former President George W. Bush released a statement Friday afternoon:

"Laura and I are deeply saddened by the passing of Betty Ford. We admired her as a First Lady and valued her as a friend. She made countless contributions to our country, and we especially appreciate her courage in calling attention to breast cancer and substance abuse. Because of her leadership, many lives were saved. Tonight our prayers go out to Mrs. Ford's entire family."

Former California first lady Maria Shriver released a statement Friday evening:

"Mrs. Ford was a courageous pioneer, a groundbreaking First Lady, and a forceful advocate for anyone suffering from addiction or breast cancer. America fought her struggles with her and learned alongside her. She was brave, outspoken and kind. As a journalist, I had the opportunity to interview her several times and she was just fascinating. She was a wonderful woman who stood up for any human being struggling in the shadows of their personal pain. One of my highlights as First Lady of California was to honor her with a Minerva Award in 2005. My heart goes out to her entire family. Her daughter Susan is a dear friend of mine and continues to carry on Mrs. Ford's work in such a powerful way."

Former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton released a statement:

"We are deeply saddened by the passing of First Lady Betty Ford. As a staunch advocate for women's and equal rights, Betty paved the way for generations of women to follow. Her courage, compassion, and commitment to helping our nation deal with drug and alcohol abuse and addiction helped thousands of people to a successful recovery and in the process she helped to save countless families. We were honored to host President and Mrs. Ford at the White House in 1998 when they received the Congressional Gold Medal for their dedication and service to our nation.

"Betty was a remarkable woman whose legacy will live on in people around the country whose lives are longer and better because of her work. Our thoughts and prayers are with her children and grandchildren. We are grateful for her contributions, and for her kindness to us. We will miss her."

Vice President Joe Biden released a statement:

"It is with deep sadness that Jill and I learned of the loss of Betty Ford. Throughout her life, Betty displayed strength, courage and determination that provided hope for millions of Americans seeking a healthier, happier future. Her legacy and work will live on through the millions of lives she has touched and the many more who will continue to look to her for inspiration. Her family will remain in our thoughts and prayers in the coming days."

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