Thousands of people waved and cheered Thursday as funeral train No. 4141 -- named for the 41st president -- carried President George H.W. Bush from Houston to his final resting place on the grounds of his presidential library in College Station.
Bush, who shaped history as America's 41st president and patriarch of a family that occupied the White House for a dozen years, arrived at Texas A&M University at about 4 p.m. Thursday. Shortly before 5:30 p.m., university officials said the graveside service had ended and the president had been buried.
Shortly after the caravan arrived at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum Thursday, wave after wave of F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets flew overhead, taking part in the largest 21-aircraft missing man formation ever flown in the United States -- an honor bestowed on the former president who was among the youngest naval aviators in history. The former president flew 58 combat missions in World War II, one of which ended up with him crashing in the Pacific Ocean before being rescued.
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After the flyover, Bush was carried to a secluded cemetery on library grounds where the family took part in a private graveside ceremony. Bush was then interred alongside his wife of 73 years, Barbara Pierce Bush, and their daughter, Robin, who died at the age of 3 from leukemia.
The morning began Thursday at St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston, where the night before thousands of people waited to pay their respects to the 41st president remembered as having the "courage of a peacemaker."
Thursday's service began with "America the Beautiful" and a robust rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner."
It attracted local sports stars including Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt and featured eulogies from Bush's grandson, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush and James Baker, his former secretary of state and a close friend for decades.
Baker remembered his longtime friend as having "had the courage of a warrior but the greater courage of a peacemaker" and began the eulogy Thursday with an apology. Using the nickname "Jefe," which is Spanish for "boss," Baker said he was going to brag about Bush, even though the former president hated boasting.
[NATL] George H. W. Bush Mourned by Nation He Led
Baker called Bush the "best one-term president" in the nation's history. He also praised Bush's grace after the fall of the Berlin Wall, saying that Bush understood that humility toward a fallen adversary "is the very best path."
George P. Bush — the only member of the Bush dynasty still in public office — told NBC 5 earlier this week he'd be speaking from the heart about his grandfather and that he and Bush's 16 other grandchildren grew up in awe of the man they knew as "gampy." He told mourners Thursday that the former president would challenge his grandkids to games like "the first to sleep award."
He reminisced about "growing up in awe" of his grandfather, whose "typical spread included BBQ, tacos, or pork rinds with hot sauce — of course with a healthy dose of Blue Bell ice cream."
Hymns being sung were chosen and loved by the former president, said the church's pastor, Rev. Russell J. Levenson Jr. Performing were some of Bush's favorite country music stars, including the Oak Ridge Boys doing "Amazing Grace" and Reba McEntire offering "The Lord's Prayer," as three days of official ceremonies in Washington gave way to more personal touches for the former president in Texas.
After the funeral, Bush's casket was driven north to Spring where it was placed onboard a specially-outfitted Union Pacific train powered by Locomotive 4141, an engine repainted to resemble Air Force One and named in his honor after he took a spin at the controls in 2005. He joked then that if the train had been around during his presidency he might have "left Air Force One behind," and traveled the country by rail.
Thousands of people lined the train tracks between Spring and College Station Thursday to pay tribute to Bush. As Locomotive 4141 powered past, many waved flags, whelped and cheered. Others had placed coins on the tracks to be flattened into keepsakes. Doug Allen, of Cypress, left eight coins on the tracks before the train passed through the small town of Pinehurst. It left the coins flattened and slightly discolored.
The train has 11 cars, with the president in the sixth. His American flag-draped coffin will be visible to all those along the route. The trip by rail was a personal request of the late president; he'll be the first president to be transported on a funeral train since President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1969.
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.
The elder Bush was "the last great-soldier statesman," historian Jon Meacham said in his eulogy, "our shield" in dangerous times.
But he also said that Bush, campaigning in a crowd in a department store, once shook hands with a mannequin. Rather than flushing in embarrassment, he simply cracked, "Never know. Gotta ask."
Meacham recounted how comedian Dana Carvey once said the key to doing an impersonation of Bush was "Mister Rogers trying to be John Wayne."
None of those words would be a surprise to Bush. Meacham read his eulogy to him, said Bush spokesman Jim McGrath, and Bush responded to it with the crack: "That's a lot about me, Jon."
The congregation at the cathedral, filled with foreign leaders and diplomats, Americans of high office and others touched by Bush's life, rose for the arrival of the casket, accompanied by clergy of faiths from around the world. In their row together, Trump and former Presidents Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton stood with their spouses and all placed their hands over their hearts.
Simpson regaled the congregation with stories from his years as Bush's friend in Washington. More seriously, he recalled that when he went through a rough patch in the political game, Bush conspicuously stood by him against the advice of aides. "You would have wanted him on your side," he said.
Simpson said Bush "loved a good joke — the richer the better. And he threw his head back and gave that great laugh, but he never, ever could remember a punchline. And I mean never."
George W. Bush turned the humor back on the acerbic ex-senator, saying of the late president: "He placed great value on a good joke, so he chose Simpson to speak."
Meacham praised Bush's call to volunteerism — his "1,000 points of light" — placing it alongside Abraham Lincoln's call to honor "the better angels of our nature" in the American rhetorical canon. Meacham called those lines "companion verses in America's national hymn."
Trump had mocked "1,000 points of light" last summer at a rally, saying "What the hell is that? Has anyone ever figured that one out? And it was put out by a Republican, wasn't it?"
Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney praised Bush as a strong world leader who helped oversee the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union and helped bring about the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico, signed into law by his successor, Clinton.
With Trump, a bitter NAFTA critic, seated in the front row, Mulroney hailed the "largest and richest free trade area in the history of the world." The three countries have agreed on a revised trade agreement pushed by Trump.
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.
Waiting for his arrival inside, Trump shook hands with Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama, who greeted him by saying "Good morning." Trump did not shake hands with Bill and Hillary Clinton, who looked straight ahead.
Bill Clinton and Mrs. Obama smiled and chatted as music played. Carter was seated silently next to Hillary Clinton in the cavernous cathedral. Obama cracked up laughing at someone's quip. Vice President Mike Pence shook Carter's hand.
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.
Following the cathedral service, the hearse and a long motorcade drove to the National Mall to pass by the World War II Memorial, a nod to the late president's service as a World War II Navy pilot, then transferred his remains at Joint Base Andrews for the flight home with members of his family.
Trump ordered the federal government closed Wednesday for a national day of mourning. Flags on public buildings are flying at half-staff for 30 days.
Associated Press writers Laurie Kellman, Ashraf Khalil, Darlene Superville, Juan A. Lozano and David J. Phillip contributed to this report.