The Associated Press
HOUSTON–George H.W. Bush, who shaped history as 41st president and patriarch of a family that occupied the White House for a dozen years, was going to his final rest today in Texas.
More than 11,000 people paid their respects to Bush as his casket lay in repose all night at a Houston church where his family worshipped.
Some visitors waited for hours to pay tribute to Bush, who was buried today following a funeral at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church.
The country said goodbye to him yesterday in a national funeral service that offered high praise for the last of the presidents to have fought in World War II–and a hefty dose of humour about a man once described as a cross between Mister Rogers and John Wayne.
After three days of remembrance in Washington, a plane brought Bush’s casket for his funeral’s closing ceremonies in Houston and burial today at his family plot on the presidential library grounds at Texas A&M University in College Station.
His final resting place is alongside Barbara Bush, his wife of 73 years, and Robin Bush, the daughter they lost to leukemia at age three.
In the service at Washington National Cathedral, three former presidents and President Donald Trump looked on as George W. Bush eulogized his father as “the brightest of a thousand points of light.”
The cathedral service was a tribute to a president, a patriarch, and a faded political era that prized military service and public responsibility.
It was laced with indirect comparisons to Trump but was not consumed by them as speakers focused on Bush’s public life and character–with plenty of cracks about his goofy side, too.
“He was a man of such great humility,” said Alan Simpson, former Republican senator from Wyoming.
Those who travel “the high road of humility in Washington, D.C.,” he added pointedly, “are not bothered by heavy traffic.”
Trump sat with his wife, a trio of ex-presidents, and their wives–several of them sharp critics of his presidency and one of them, Hillary Clinton, his 2016 Democratic foe.
Apart from courteous nods and some handshakes, there was little interaction between Trump and the others.
George W. Bush broke down briefly at the end of his eulogy while invoking the daughter his parents lost in 1953, and his mother, who died in April.
He took comfort in knowing “Dad is hugging Robin and holding Mom’s hand again.”
It was a family that occupied the White House for a dozen years–the 41st president defeated after one term; the 43rd serving two.
Jeb Bush stepped up to try to extend that run but fell short when Trump won the 2016 Republican primaries.
The elder Bush was “the last great-soldier statesman,” historian Jon Meacham said in his eulogy, “our shield” in dangerous times.
But he also said that Bush, campaigning in a crowd in a department store, once shook hands with a mannequin.
Rather than flushing in embarrassment, he simply cracked, “Never know. Gotta ask.”
Meacham recounted how comedian Dana Carvey once said the key to doing an impersonation of Bush was “Mister Rogers trying to be John Wayne.”
None of those words would be a surprise to Bush. Meacham read his eulogy to him, said Bush spokesman Jim McGrath, and Bush responded to it with the crack: “That’s a lot about me, Jon.”
The congregation at the cathedral, filled with foreign leaders and diplomats, Americans of high office, and others touched by Bush’s life, rose for the arrival of the casket, accompanied by clergy of faiths from around the world.
In their row together, Trump and former presidents Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton stood with their spouses and all placed their hands over their hearts.
Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney praised Bush as a strong world leader who helped oversee the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, and helped bring about the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico, signed into law by his successor, Clinton.
With Trump, a bitter NAFTA critic, seated in the front row, Mulroney hailed the “largest and richest free trade area in the history of the world.”
The three countries recently agreed on a revised trade agreement pushed by Trump.
Bush’s death makes Carter, also 94 but more than 100 days younger, the oldest living ex-president.