COLLEGE STATION, United States -- Flags flew at half-staff across the United States on Saturday as Americans prepared for a week of solemn tributes to George H.W. Bush, in his home state of Texas and in the US Capitol, a day after the former president died aged 94.
Tributes poured in from world leaders in memory of the 41st US president, who guided America through the end of the Cold War and launched the international campaign to drive Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait.
Many of those same leaders are expected to attend Bush’s state funeral next week, alongside President Donald Trump and his wife Melania. Trump was notably absent from the funerals of the statesman’s late wife Barbara, and of veteran fellow Republican John McCain.
Although the two Republican presidents were in many ways polar opposites — the soft-spoken, patrician Bush reportedly once dismissed the blustering New Yorker as a “blowhard” and even voted for his rival Hillary Clinton — Trump paid the late leader a gracious tribute, saying he had “inspired generations of his fellow Americans to public service.”
“His accomplishments were great from beginning to end,” Trump tweeted.
Declaring a national day of mourning for December 5 — when the federal government and New York Stock Exchange will close in Bush’s honor — Trump also signaled his respect by calling off a press conference planned at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires.
The days-long national farewell to Bush will begin Monday with a commemoration in Houston, where the Bushes lived for years and where he died on Friday surrounded by friends and family.
From there, Bush’s casket will travel to Washington on board Trump’s presidential aircraft — in what the US leader called “a special tribute that he deserves very much.”
The former president will lie in state in the US Capitol between Monday and Wednesday ahead of a state funeral at the towering National Cathedral, expected to draw dozens of dignitaries from around the world.
Bush’s remains will travel back to Texas late Wednesday, where he will lie in repose at St Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston with a funeral service the next day preceding his internment at the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station. He will make his final journey aboard a funeral train.
At the presidential library on Saturday, people came to sign the memorial book in Bush’s honor, or lay flowers at the feet of his statue.