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President Ford sets record for longevity

LOS ANGELES -- Gerald R. Ford has become the longest-living president in US history, surpassing Ronald Reagan, who died two years ago.

Ford, who turned 93 on July 14, set the record yesterday, when he reached 93 years and 121 days.

"The length of one's days matters less than the love of one's family and friends," Ford said in a statement last week from the Rancho Mirage compound he shares with his wife, Betty, 88.

Ford was president from Aug. 9, 1974, when Richard Nixon resigned, until January 1977.

He has suffered a variety of health problems in recent years and has been hospitalized four times this year for tests, shortness of breath, pneumonia, and angioplasty surgery.

Ford underwent the heart procedure at the Mayo Clinic in August. "He's doing very well. He's still recuperating," said his chief of staff, Penny Circle.

In the statement, the former president said: "I thank God for the gift of every sunrise and, even more, for all the years he has blessed me with Betty and the children, with our extended family and the friends of a lifetime."

The calculation of the milestone was done by Ford's staff and was based on full days.

Ford was born July 14, 1913, in Omaha. A longtime US representative from Michigan, he was House minority leader when Nixon chose him as vice president to replace Spiro Agnew in 1973. Ford became president the next year when Nixon resigned amid the Watergate scandal.

Ford, a Republican, is the only US president never elected as either president or vice president. He served as president nearly 2 1/2 years, losing to Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, in 1976.

Reagan, born Feb. 6, 1911, was 93 years, 120 days when he died June 5, 2004. He had surpassed the longevity milestone of John Adams, the nation's second president, in 2001. Adams died in Massachusetts in 1826 at the age of 90.

Duke Blackwood, director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, said: "We all send our best to President Ford for reaching this milestone."

The other living former presidents are Carter, 82; George H.W. Bush, 82; and Bill Clinton, 60.

Clinton and the elder Bush addressed more than 25,000 people at the National Association of Realtors convention Saturday in New Orleans. It was the biggest convention in the city since Hurricane Katrina hit Aug. 29, 2005 .

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