A Second Funeral, Then Burial for Former US President George HW Bush
Texas bid goodbye Thursday to its favorite adopted son George Herbert Walker Bush at a funeral service in Houston, Texas, before transporting his remains on a train to his final resting spot.
The flag-draped casket of the 41st president lay in repose overnight ahead of the service at the Houston church, so mourners could file past it.
After the service, the casket was taken by a specially-designed train 120 kilometers (75 miles) north to the city of College Station for burial at his presidential library on the grounds of Texas A&M University.
It was the first time a funeral train has carried presidential remains since Dwight D. Eisenhower’s remains were taken from Washington to his home state of Kansas 49 years ago.
The glass-sided train was greeted upon arrival by a military band playing “Hail to the Chief” and Texas A&M’s “Aggie War Hymn.”
The U.S. Navy conducted a 21-strike fighter flyover, a salute to the World War II Navy pilot, followed by cannons firing a 21-gun salute on the ground.
Bush was laid to rest alongside his wife of 73 years, Barbara, who died earlier this year, and their daughter Robin who succumbed to leukemia at age 3.
At Bush’s home church, his friend of 60 years, former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, told 1,200 mourners that Bush “had the courage of a warrior, but the greater courage of a peacemaker.”
Baker said Bush, in office in 1991 at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall separating democratic West Germany from communist East Germany, understood that humility toward a fallen adversary “is the very best path.”
Thursday’s service in Bush’s adopted Texas home in the southwestern United States followed the larger state funeral Wednesday in Washington that was attended by President Donald Trump and four living former U.S. presidents, including Bush’s son, George W. Bush, the 43rd president who delivered an emotional eulogy to his father. Current and former world leaders and other American dignitaries were among the 3,000 mourners in the cavernous Washington National Cathedral.
At the Wednesday state funeral, the younger President Bush said of his father, “He taught us public service was noble and necessary. He had an enormous capacity to give of himself.”
Trump had no speaking role during the Episcopalian service, a break from recent tradition and in accordance with George H.W. Bush’s wishes.
Trump had tweeted before the service:
The current president, who has had a contentious public feud with the Bush family, earlier had declared Wednesday a national day of mourning, closing federal agencies, suspending regular mail delivery and closing stock markets.
Trump, on Tuesday, had spent 20 minutes expressing his condolences to Bush family members, who were staying at Blair House, the presidential guest house across the street from the White House.
Trump, accompanied by first lady Melania Trump, shook hands inside the cathedral with his immediate two-term predecessor, Barack Obama, and his wife, Michelle.
Also in the front row was Democrat Bill Clinton, who defeated the elder incumbent Bush in 1992 to become president, and his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whom Trump defeated in the 2016 election. Sitting next to the Clintons was fellow Democrat Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn.
George H.W. Bush was hailed by presidential historian Jon Meacham as “America’s last great soldier-statesman,” who “made our lives and the lives of nations freer, better, nobler and warmer.”
Among the foreign dignitaries inside the cathedral were Britain’s Prince Charles, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Queen Rania, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Polish President Andrzej Duda and former presidents of Estonia, Mexico and Portugal, as well as former prime ministers of Britain, Canada, Japan and Kuwait.
Bells tolled 41 times as Bush’s casket entered the cathedral after being transported in a family motorcade from the U.S. Capitol and past the White House for the first state funeral for a president in a dozen years.
Around the clock in the Rotunda over two days, thousands — many who had lined up in near-freezing temperatures for hours to enter the Capitol — paid their final respects to Bush, whose flag-draped coffin rested on the wooden catafalque built in 1865 for the casket of assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.
The four entrances to the Rotunda were draped in black as Bush’s body lay in state, an honor bestowed to only 31 others in the history of the United States — Lincoln being the first president.
One of those who entered the Rotunda Tuesday was former Senator Bob Dole, a rival to Bush in the 1988 Republican presidential primary. Dole, who is 95, was helped from his wheelchair to stand and salute his fellow World War II veteran.
Bush was born into privilege and politics — his father a U.S. senator and grandfather a top industrialist. He served in Congress, as ambassador to the United Nations, chaired the Republican National Committee, was an envoy to China, director of the Central Intelligence Agency and vice president before being elected president in 1988.
Credit : Voice of America (VOA) | Photo Credit: AP