America is mourning the loss of Former US President Gerald Ford after the ex-leader died last night aged 93.
He was the only un-elected US President after taking over from Richard Nixon in 1974 following the Watergate scandal, but it could have all been so different had Ford’s life not been saved by a gay man.
Ford, the longest surviving US President, survived two attempted assassinations in his time at the Oval office, both in 1975.
The first was a shot from 26 year old Lynette Fromme, she was caught by one of Ford’s guards.
But just weeks later another political activist took aim at the President, but her arm was grabbed just in time by a gay man in the crowd, Oliver Sipple.
Following his heroics, the nation wanted to know who this man was. But heroism soon turned to hate after Sipple was outed by San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Sipple’s family had no idea about his sexual orientation and he was later disowned by his mother.
He subsequently sued the paper, but the case was dismissed. Sipple later became an alcoholic and died in 1989. He was found slumped in a room yards from a letter of gravitated from President Ford.
The letter said: “The events were a shock to us all, but you acted quickly and without fear for your own safety. By doing so, you helped to avert danger to me and to others in the crowd. You have my heartfelt appreciation.”
Ford entered the Whitehouse after Nixon quit, vowing to relinquish the Administration’s respectability after the Watergate scandal when it was revealed Nixon had knowledge and had tried to cover up the bugging of Democratic rivals.
Ford lost the 1976 election to Jimmy Carter.
He has suffered with ill health over the last few years but a cause of death has not been revealed.
His work was praised today by US Presdient George W Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
Ford’s widow, Betty, 80, said: “His life was filled with love of God, his family and his country.”