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Gerald Ford's health improving

Aide: Former president could be discharged from hospital soon

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Gerald Ford
GOP
U.S. House of Representatives

RANCHO MIRAGE, California (CNN) -- Former President Gerald Ford is responding well to his pneumonia treatment and could be discharged from a southern California hospital later this week, hospital officials said Tuesday.

Ford, 92, was admitted to Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, California, on Saturday and on Monday began receiving intravenous antibiotics to treat his pneumonia.

In a statement issued Tuesday morning, an aide said he could be released Thursday "if all continues to improve."

Ford's longtime pastor, the Rev. Robert Certain, said the former president was in good health prior to his bout with pneumonia.

Certain, the pastor of St. Margaret's Episcopal Church in nearby Palm Desert, said Ford appeared physically and mentally healthy in recent months. He has avidly been following the news and even went swimming last week, the reverend said.

Ford was hospitalized briefly in December for unspecified tests, but his spokeswoman said at the time that the former president was in good health for his age.

He was hospitalized in 2003 after suffering a dizzy spell while playing golf in 96-degree heat. He also suffered a mild stroke during the 2000 Republican National Convention.

Ford became the 38th president of the United States in August 1974, when the Watergate scandal forced President Richard Nixon to resign.

Ford became vice president in October 1973, when Nixon's original vice president, Spiro T. Agnew, resigned and pleaded no contest to bribery, conspiracy and extortion charges.

Ford sought the presidency in his own right in 1976, but lost the election to former Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter.

Ford had assumed the Oval Office with the words: "My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over" and then made pardoning Nixon one of his first acts. Many people say that doomed his 1976 campaign and handed the presidency to Carter, who served one term as president.

Ford said that he pardoned Nixon solely because the cloud of drawn-out impeachment proceedings would have prevented the country from tending to more important business. However, the voters disagreed, and Carter defeated Ford in his only attempt to become an elected president.

Before taking the country's helm, Ford was a gifted athlete and played for national championship football teams at the University of Michigan in 1932 and 1933.

He was offered spots on two professional teams -- the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers -- but instead took a position as a boxing and football coach at Yale University, where he was admitted to the law school in 1938.

Ford joined the U.S. Naval Reserve in 1942 and had a brush with death during World War II when he was almost swept overboard during a typhoon in the Philippine Sea in 1944.

After Ford's discharge as a lieutenant commander in 1946, his stepfather, a Republican leader, encouraged him to take on GOP Rep. Bartel Jonkman of Michigan for the nomination to the U.S. House of Representatives. He won the nomination and later the general election and took congressional office in 1948.

Ford proved popular with his constituents, who re-elected him 12 times between 1949 and 1973, each time by a margin of more than 60 percent.

His inclusion among the "Young Turks" -- a group of young, progressive House Republicans who wanted to oust the older GOP leadership -- propelled him to top House positions and earned him a spot on the Warren Commission, tasked with investigating the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Ford is the last living member of the Warren Commission.

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