President Ford was a big hit in Kansas.
Aside from the fact that he selected Kansas Sen. Bob Dole to be his vice presidential running mate in 1976, Ford seemed to embody the Midwestern values shared by many Kansans.
"He always made something positive out of everything," said Nelson Krueger, a Lawrence resident and former Dole aide.
Krueger introduced Ford at a 1974 fund-raiser attended by several hundred Republicans in Johnson County.
"He was a coalition builder and when he talked to you, he looked right at you," Krueger said.
Ford ascended to the presidency in August 1974 after President Nixon resigned in the Watergate scandal.
Six months later, Ford visited Topeka, on Feb. 11, 1975, speaking to a joint session of the state Legislature and then meeting with 10 Midwestern governors at Cedar Crest to discuss budget and energy issues.
A crowd numbering from 6,000 to 10,000, depending on news reports, braved 12-degree wind chill to see Ford as he arrived at the Capitol.
"This crowd is unbelievable," Ford said as he addressed the throng. He said he was told that the event was the first time that Topeka's three high school bands played together. "That kind of unity is what we need in America today," he said.
But it wasn't just a cosmetic visit. During his speech to the Legislature, Ford announced the immediate release of $2 billion in highway funds and ordered a rebate program to help farmers with high energy costs.
And it wasn't all fun and games. Some Democratic governors, who were going to meet with Ford, wanted to use the event to criticize the president over his energy policies, according to news reports. But other Democratic governors calmed the storm, saying it wouldn't look good to try to embarrass Ford when he had in good faith invited them to the discussion.
The following year, Ford selected Dole as his running mate, and on Aug. 20, 1976, the two visited Dole's hometown of Russell, Kan., and spoke to a crowd of supporters on the courthouse grounds.
During his speech, Ford named a number of former and then current political leaders from Kansas, and said, "What I'm really saying is you not only produce cattle and wheat and energy, but doggone it, you produce great people."