HOUSTON (AP) — 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 favorites, 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 humor 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.”
On Wednesday morning, a military band played “Hail to the Chief” as Bush’s casket was carried down the steps of the U.S. Capitol, where he had lain in state. Family members looked on as servicemen fired off a cannon salute.
His hearse was then driven in a motorcade to the cathedral ceremony, slowing in front of the White House. Bush’s route was lined with people much of the way, bundled in winter hats and taking photos.
Trump tweeted Wednesday that the day marked “a celebration for a great man who has led a long and distinguished life.” Trump and his wife took their seats after the others, briefly greeting the Obamas seated next to them.
Bush’s death makes Carter, also 94 but more than 100 days younger, the oldest living ex-president.
George P. Bush told mourners Thursday that the former president would challenge his grandkids to games like “the first to sleep award.” The line drew laughs at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, where the Bush family worshipped.
The 42-year-old George P. Bush holds the office of Texas land commissioner. He joined former Secretary of State James Baker in eulogizing the 41st president, who died last week at age 94.
George P. Bush is the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. He was easily re-elected in November to a second four-year term in Texas.