The Unites States begins its formal farewell to the 41st president, George H.W. Bush, with a service at the U.S. Capitol after the casket carrying his remains arrived Monday afternoon. (Dec. 3)
WASHINGTON – Mourners filed through the U.S. Capitol early Tuesday to see the coffin holding the remains of former President George H. W. Bush, and to pay respects to someone they said exemplified public service and public integrity.
“He was just a really great guy – classy, intelligent,” said Rick Johnson, 64, of Maryland, who worked at Texas A&M University as part of a team that helped raise money to build Bush’s presidential library. “He would treat everyone like a friend. That part of my life was just exceptional.”
Bush, 94, died late Friday at his home in Houston after a battle with Vascular Parkinsonism.
The flag-draped coffin of the nation’s 41st president, who will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda through Wednesday morning, arrived in Washington for the final time on Monday afternoon aboard the blue-and-white presidential plane that serves as Air Force One.
Among those paying respects Monday night were President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump.
Well-wishers began gathering outside the Capitol starting Monday morning even before Bush’s coffin arrived. When they finally were allowed in, onlookers walked slowly past and absorbed the tranquil scene as a military honor guard stood watch.
On Monday, Bush was eulogized at a ceremony in the Capitol as a gracious, humble public servant who remained a model of human decency throughout his life. In attendance were his son former President George W. Bush and other members of the Bush family.
“President George Herbert Walker Bush loved his family and he served his country,” Vice President Mike Pence said. “His example will always inspire and his lifetime of service will be enshrined in the hearts of the American people forever.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. called Bush “a great leader and a good man.”
“In consequential times, George Herbert Walker Bush demonstrated the finest qualifies of our nation and of humankind,” Ryan said.
The 41st president is expected to draw a large contingent of former and current world leaders to his state funeral Wednesday at the Washington National Cathedral.
Following the service, Bush’s remains will be transported to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland for a departure ceremony before being taken back to Texas where he will lie in repose at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston until 7 a.m. on Thursday.
President Donald Trump has declared Wednesday a national day of mourning.
“President George H.W. Bush led a life that exemplified what is truly great about America,” Trump said in a presidential message to the Congress released Monday evening. “As with so many of his generation, the Greatest Generation, President Bush worked selflessly throughout his long life to bring about a world of justice and lasting peace. With his passing, we mark one of the last pages of a defining chapter in American history.”