George HW Bush funeral: President makes final journey to Washington DC as his body arrives at Capitol Hill

'I think he's going to go down as the greatest one-term president ever,' his son said

Clark Mindock
New York
Monday 03 December 2018 23:18
Former US President George Bush Sr diesaged 94

George HW Bush’s body has made its final journey to Washington DC, where the former president lies in state at the US Capitol ahead of funeral services later this week.

Bush’s loved ones — including former President George W Bush, the late president's Secret Service detail, and a service dog named Sully — boarded a plane normally reserved for transporting sitting American presidents to accompany the body on its flight from Texas to Maryland, where the plane arrived at Joint Base Andrews at 3.22pm before the late president was transported to the Capitol rotunda in Washington.

Members of the US Military presented a 21-gun salute and an air force band played solemn tributes after the one-term president arrived back in the nation's capital for the final time, accompanied by a brilliant sunset of orange and magenta that framed the Capitol building as the flag-draped casket was carried up the steps to the rotunda by Marines.

In the Capitol Rotunda, several members of Bush's administration sat behind the junior former President Bush and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, the late president's other son as the late president was brought in and placed on a pedestal in the centre of a throng of mourners. During the ceremony that followed, the president's memory was honoured in speeches by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and Vice President Mike Pence.

"The Greatest Generation achieved all-American accomplishments and exhibited all-American virtues," Mr McConnell said in his remarks. "And it may just be that no one did that as fully as our forty-first president. Even in the ranks of his remarkable generation, he will stand out forever as one of its most especially remarkable sons. George Bush was the best — of the best".

Mr Pence, who this week said he views that the late president was a role model, gave the longest remarks in the Capitol. Like many in the wake of Bush's death on Friday, he remembered him as a man of principle and kindness.

"While he was known as the quiet man, it was not for lack of nerve or daring," Mr Pence said. "For in all of his 94 years, President Bush never lost his love of adventure and he never failed to answer the call to serve his country".

Bush served as America's 41st president from 1988 until 1992, and served before that as vice president during Ronald Reagan's administration. Before then, Bush served in the Navy during the Second World War.

He was married to his wife Barbara from 1945 until her death just a few months ago. He had five children with her.

Bush will be eulogized in a funeral service at the National Cathedral in Washington on Wednesday morning before his body will be brought back to his home state of Texas to be buried.

Rev Michael Curry, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, will lead the funeral. The surviving Bush president is set to eulogise his father, alongside three other individuals close to the late president including former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, former Senator Alan Simpson, and Bush's biographer Jon Meacham, who also eulogised Barbara Bush.

Former US President George Bush Sr diesaged 94

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump are expected to attend the funeral, though Mr Trump has not been invited to speak during the ceremony in a break from tradition that has seen sitting presidents give remarks on their deceases predecessors previously. Mr Trump will be joined by every living former president at the funeral — Mr Bush, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter — as well as all but one former first lady of the US.

In response to Bush's death, the nation has seen an outpouring of respect and mourning, with Mr Bush saying that his late father — whose last words were reportedly "I love you" after a call with his son — will be remembered as a great president.

“I think he's going to go down as the greatest one-term president ever,” George W. Bush, the late former president’s son, said of his father in an interview in 60 Minutes that aired over the weekend.

The casket will go by train to the Texas A&M University in College Station in a glass car, through which onlookers can see. After that, Mr Bush’s body will be buried next to his wife and daughter.

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

The former president died at the age of 91 after suffering with a variety of health problems, including Parkinson’s. The day after his wife died, he was hospitalised for a blood infection. This will be the first funeral for a former US president in 12 years.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments