Betty Ford is dead at 93, founded addiction center

Betty Ford, the widow of late President Gerald Ford and a co-founder of an eponymous addiction center in California, has died at the age of 93, according to the director of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum.

Ford died Friday evening with family at her bedside, according to a family member.


Elaine Didier, the director of the Grand Rapids, Mich., museum, confirmed Ford's death to CNN.

No other details were immediately available.


Condolences began pouring in soon after news broke about her death. Nancy Reagan, the widow of late President Ronald Reagan, called Ford "an inspiration to so many through her efforts to educate women about

and her wonderful work at the Betty Ford Center."

Former President George H.W. Bush said that he and his wife, Barbara, "loved Betty Ford very much," calling her a "wonderful wife and mother, a great friend and a courageous first lady."

Born Elizabeth Anne Bloomer in Chicago, she grew up in Grand Rapids. At the age of 21, she moved to New York City to work as a dancer and model before heading back to the Midwest two years later.

One year after divorcing William Warren after five years of marriage, she wed Gerald Ford -- a former star football player at the University of Michigan and a decorated U.S. Navy veteran -- in 1948. That year, the woman now known as Betty Ford campaigned with her new husband on his successful campaign to become a U.S. congressman. She gave birth to three sons and a daughter over the course of their 58-year marriage.

The family moved to Washington, where Gerald Ford served in the Capitol for 25 years prior to his being tapped, in 1973, as then-President Richard Nixon's vice president in place of Spiro T. Agnew.

Just over 10 months later, Betty Ford became first lady when her husband was sworn in as the 38th president of the United States. Gerald Ford took office after Nixon resigned in the wake of his impeachment following the crisis and cover-up of the break-in at the Democratic National Committee's headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington.

Betty Ford soon made headlines, discussing abortion, pre-marital sex and equal rights on CBS' "60 Minutes" and being named Newsweek's 1975 "Woman of the Year."


But in 1978, just over one year after leaving the White House after her husband lost his campaign to remain president, Ford made headlines of a different kind. She entered the Long Beach Naval Hospital to be treated for alcohol and prescription painkiller abuse.

That same year, she published the first of two autobiographies, entitled "The Times of My Life." Ford would go on to become a high-profile example of someone who battled substance abuse issues, as well as a tireless advocate for drug and alcohol treatment.

"My addiction was a combination of alcohol and the prescription drugs that … both were a part of my life, but they did not become a problem until they overrode my common sense," Ford told CNN's Larry King in 2003. "I didn't know what was happening, I just knew that I felt great and the pain was gone."

Her work paid dividends in October 1982 when, along with Leonard Firestone, she opened the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California. To this day, the center remains one of the most well-known and respected places nationwide for treatment of alcoholism and other drug dependencies.

Ford also fought to promote awareness and research on

, with the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation eventually naming an award in her honor.


She earned numerous honors over her life, including a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1991 and the Congressional Gold Medal eight years later.