(CNN) - Jerald terHorst, who resigned as President Gerald Ford's press secretary just 30 days after taking the job because of the pardon Ford granted former President Richard Nixon, has died of congestive heart failure, his son said Thursday.
TerHorst died Wednesday at a retirement community in Asheville, North Carolina, said his son, Peter terHorst.
In 1974, terHorst became press secretary after Nixon resigned over the Watergate scandal and Ford succeeded him as president on August 9, 1974.
On September 8, Ford granted Nixon an unconditional pardon, and terHorst tendered his resignation the same day.
"As your spokesman, I do not know how I could credibly defend that action in the absence of a like decision to grant absolute pardon to the young men who evaded Vietnam military service as a matter of conscience and the absence of pardons for former aides and associates of Mr. Nixon who have been charged with crimes - and imprisoned - stemming from the same Watergate situation," terHorst wrote in his resignation letter, dated September 8, 1974.
"These are also men whose reputations and families have been grievously injured," the letter continued. "Try as I can, it is impossible to conclude that the former president is more deserving of mercy than persons of lesser station in life whose offenses have had far less effect on our national wellbeing."
In 1975, the American Society of Journalists and Authors named terHorst the first winner of its annual Conscience in Media Award.
Ford, who died in 2006, contended he granted the pardon so the nation could move on from the divisiveness of the Watergate scandal.