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Mourners watch as the casket of former U.S. president Gerald Ford is set down in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington on Saturday. ((Ron Edmonds/Associated Press))

Mourners gathered atWashington's famed Capitol Building Rotunda Saturdayto honourformer U.S. presidentGerald Ford.

Ford's nighttime funeral procession,which includedhis wife, Betty, and the casket of the 38th president, stopped at the granite arch of the Second World Warmemorial in deference to Ford's naval service.

In a departure from tradition, pallbearers placed his flag-draped casket outside the House chamber before it was taken to the Rotunda to lie in state astribute to Ford's years of service in the House of Representatives.

The Capitol procession and ceremonymarked the second of six days of mourning for the former U.S. president. On Tuesday, President George W. Bush will speak at Ford's funeral service at Washington National Cathedral before Ford's remains are taken to Grand Rapids, Mich.

Amotorcade was arranged instead of the horse-drawn caisson most familiar to Americans from the funerals of Ronald Reaganin 2004 andJohn Kennedy in 1963. Also absent from the ceremony was the symbolic riderless horse.

Arrival in darkness

As night fell, aBoeing 747from the White House fleet broughtFord'scasket to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., where it was received with the muted pageantry he wanted for his farewell.

The flight to Washington from Ford's adopted home in California followed solemn ceremonies for a leader whose understated mannercomforted a nationdivided by the Vietnam War and Watergate scandal.

During the Capitol funeral ceremony, former Rep. William Broomfield, 84, collapsed and was laid out on the floor of the Rotunda. Sen. Bill Frist, a physician, went to his aid. Bloomfield later was taken out in a wheelchair and the service resumed within five minutes.

State funeral Tuesday

Ford died Tuesday at age 93. He became president when Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 amid the Watergate scandal, but was defeated by Jimmy Carter in the 1976 election.

Six days of national mourning began Friday with military honours and a simple family prayer service at St. Margaret's, where the Ford family has worshipped for many years.

Ford was a Republican congressman from Michigan when Nixon named him vice-president after Spiro Agnew resigned in 1973.

Ford's pardon of Nixon not long after taking office sparked intense criticism, but with time, many Americans have come to see Ford's decision as courageous and one that helped heal a nation fatiguedby Watergate and the Vietnam War.

During his weekly radio address on Saturday, U.S. President George W. Bush called Ford a "courageous leader, a true gentleman and a loving father and husband."

"He was there for the nation when we needed him most."

With files from the Associated Press