His final rest
Texas bids Bush farewell with sports stars, country music and funeral train
America’s final farewell to George H.W. Bush shifted to Texas on Thursday, with his friend and former Secretary of State James Baker addressing him as “Jefe,” Spanish for “boss,” and celebrating him as a president with “the courage of a warrior but the greater courage of a peacemaker.”
Baker fought back tears as he concluded his eulogy.
Country music’s Oak Ridge Boys, among the president’s favourites, sang “Amazing Grace” and Reba McEntire offered “The Lord’s Prayer” as three days of official ceremonies in Washington gave way to more personal touches for the Bush in Texas. The night before, more than 11,000 people paid their respects as his casket lay in repose all night at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, where his family worshipped.
At Thursday’s funeral, Baker said, “The world became a better place because George Bush occupied the White House for four years.”
He said that Bush embodied some of the nation’s best values, “temperate” in thought, word and deed, “our nation’s very best one-term president.”
George P. Bush, the former president’s grandson and the only member of the political dynasty still holding elected office, as Texas land commissioner, subsequently struck a more personal tone with the man he and the younger generations called “gampy.”
The services attracted local sports stars including Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt featured hymns chosen and loved by the former president.
The nation’s capital bid him goodbye Wednesday in a Washington 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 whose speaking delivery was once described as a cross between Mister Rogers and John Wayne.
Bush’s casket returned for the services in Houston, a ride on a special funeral train and eventual burial 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 3.
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.
Family and friends attend a funeral service for former president George H.W. Bush at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church on Thursday in Houston.