He had a quality sadly lacking in recent US presidents - he didn't want the job. As his party's leader in the lower house of Congress, his ambition was to be Speaker. But Spiro Agnew plea-bargained his way out of his veep gig, and Nixon picked Ford to replace him. Then Watergate took Nixon out of the picture. Voilà!

His brief tenure was uneventful (aside from nasty CIA activities and foreign-policy atrocities in which he stood idly by -- East Timor, anyone?); his occasional tendency towards physical clumsiness became the basis for a weekly lampoon on Saturday Night Live, in which The Prez was played by Chevy Chase. (Mr. Ford was, in fact, a former athlete, having played football at the University of Michigan). After winning a long, grueling 1976 nomination fight against former California governor Ronald Reagan (the standard-bearer for the ascendant New Right), he lost the general election to the former Georgia governor, Jimmy Carter.

Mr. Ford serves now on corporate boards and plays much golf. His wife founded the Betty Ford Clinic.