Train takes Bush’s casket to final Texas resting place
In the same church where his wife of 73 years was eulogized just seven months ago, former President George H.W. Bush was remembered Thursday morning for his humility, decency and devotion to his family and his country.
Nearly 1,000 relatives, friends and dignitaries from politics, sports, business and entertainment filled St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, as they had during April for the funeral for Barbara Bush, who was 92 when she died. The funeral Thursday for George Bush, who died last week at the age of 94, was one of the final events in what has become an extraordinary moment of national mourning for the 41st president.
Eight of his grandsons led the military pallbearers who carried Bush’s coffin into the church, and later his eldest grandson – George P. Bush, the Texas land commissioner – spoke in a touching eulogy of his grandfather’s horseshoe games with the family and the Secret Service, and of how it had been “the honor of a lifetime to share his name.”
Bush’s friends and relatives described a man who walked softly through the postwar pages of U.S. history, who was defined by service to others and who, one cold day in Houston, gave a young usher at St. Martin’s the coat off his back.
“His wish for a kinder, gentler nation was not a cynical political slogan: It came honest and unguarded from his soul,” James Baker, a longtime friend of more than 60 years, said in a eulogy.
Baker – who also served as secretary of state and White House chief of staff during the
Bush administration and ran both of his presidential campaigns – fought back tears at the end of his remarks, as he called Bush his role model and described their spirited debates, which usually ended amicably and humorously.
“But he had a very effective way of letting me know when the discussion was over,” Baker said. “He would look at me and he would say, ‘Baker, if you’re so smart, why am I the president and you’re not?’ ”
After the funeral, Bush’s coffin traveled by train to College Station, Texas, where the former president was to be buried on the grounds of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum at Texas A&M University – next to Barbara Bush and their daughter Robin, who died of leukemia during 1953 when she was 3 years old.
On Wednesday, at the Washington National Cathedral for Bush’s state funeral, thousands attended. In Houston, it was a much smaller tribute, in large part for the Bush family and their friends and supporters in Texas, at the church George and Barbara Bush had attended for more than 50 years. Trump did not attend, nor did any other former presidents except for Bush’s son, George W. Bush.
Amid the pageantry and prayers, and the anthems sung by St. Martin’s choir, there was a distinct country twang to the ceremony, an homage to the adopted state of the Connecticutraised former president. The Oak Ridge Boys, a country group who first sang for Bush in 1983 when he was vice president, sang “Amazing Grace” a cappella. Reba McEntire sang “The Lord’s Prayer.” There were actors (Chuck Norris), baseball Hall of Famers (Nolan Ryan) and business leaders
‘‘ HIS WISH FOR A KINDER, GENTLER NATION WAS NOT A CYNICAL POLITICAL SLOGAN: IT CAME HONEST AND UNGUARDED FROM HIS SOUL. James Baker, former secretary of state and White House chief of staff, on George H.W. Bush
(Tilman Fertitta). There were current and retired football, basketball and baseball stars, including J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans, Jeff Bagwell of the Houston Astros and Dikembe Mutombo and Yao Ming of the Houston Rockets.
Bush, a World War II aviator from the East Coast, came to Texas in the summer of 1948 to make a name for himself in the oil business, driving to the West Texas town of Odessa in a two-door Studebaker. Seventy years after that trip, Bush’s funeral train took him on one last journey through the state, this time in a Union Pacific locomotive. The train, named Union Pacific 4141, traveled 70 miles through Magnolia, Navasota and other small towns, led by a 4,300horsepower locomotive painted blue, gray and white to echo the colors of Air Force One. Members of the Bush family were on board.
Shortly after 3:30 p.m., the funeral train – the Union Pacific locomotive and several rail cars behind it – glided onto the Texas A&M campus, where several hundred spectators who had waited in the rain for hours cheered. Floor-to-ceiling windows in one of the rail cars allowed people on both sides to view the coffin inside.
As the university band played “Hail to the Chief” and the “Aggie War Hymn” – a special request by Bush, a devoted fan of all things Aggie, as A&M’s students and sports teams are known – the coffin was lowered from the train by an honor guard of pallbearers, carried past Bush family members and placed into a waiting hearse.
The Bush family and others then joined the motorcade that traveled slowly along George Bush Drive, turned off on Barbara Bush Drive and finally arrived at the presidential library. From there, the coffin was carried to the family plot, where the former president was laid to rest in a private burial.
Firefighters on an overpass stand on their truck and salute as the train carrying the body of former President George H.W. Bush travels through Texas on its way to Bush’s burial Thursday.
Former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush watch as a joint services military honor guard carries the casket of former President George H.W. Bush to a Union Pacific train in Spring, Texas. The train was bound for a burial site at the presidential library in College Station, Texas.