HOUSTON/WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – Tributes to former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, who died late Friday at the age of 94, poured in from around the world yesterday as global leaders honoured him for his role in helping to end the Cold War and reduce the threat of nuclear annihilation.
Bush, the 41st U.S. president who served in the office from 1989 to 1993, also routed President Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi army in the 1991 Gulf War but lost his chance for a second term in the White House after breaking a no-new-taxes pledge.
“Many of my memories are linked to him,” said Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, with whom Bush signed a strategic arms reduction treaty that scaled back the two countries’ nuclear arsenals.
“We happened to work together in years of great changes. It was a dramatic time demanding huge responsibility from everyone,” Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted Gorbachev as saying.
Bush, who also served for eight years as U.S. vice president during Ronald Reagan’s two-term presidency and earlier as head of the CIA, died on Friday night at his home in Houston. His death was announced by his longtime spokesman Jim McGrath. Speaking in Buenos Aires, U.S. President Donald Trump called Bush “a high-quality man.”
“He was a very fine man. I met him on numerous occasions. He was just a high-quality man who truly loved his family,” Trump told reporters at a G20 summit in Buenos Aires. “He was a terrific guy and he’ll be missed. He led a full life, and a very exemplary life, too.”
The White House said a state funeral is being arranged at the National Cathedral in Washington. Bush’s body will arrive at the U.S. Capitol tomorrow and will lie in state through Wednesday morning, with a ceremony set for 5 p.m. tomorrow. The public will be able to line up to view Bush’s casket continuously from tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. ET until Wednesday at 7 a.m. ET.
Trump said he spoke yesterday to former President George W. Bush about his father’s death. Trump also said the presidential plane will be flown to Houston to bring Bush’s body to Washington after Trump returns from Argentina.
The president, who plans to attend the funeral with first lady Melania Trump, also designated Wednesday as a national day of mourning, and ordered the lowering of the American flag for 30 days.
Trump yesterday signed an order closing the federal government on Wednesday as a mark of respect for Bush. The New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq will also be closed on Wednesday in his honour.
Former U.S. presidents lauded Bush. “His administration was marked by grace, civility and social conscience,” Jimmy Carter, a Bush predecessor and now the oldest living former president at 94, said in a statement.
Barack Obama described Bush as “a patriot and humble servant” while Bill Clinton, who defeated Bush in the 1992 presidential election, recalled his “great long life of service, love and friendship.”
Bush, a U.S. naval aviator during World War Two, was the father of former President George W. Bush, who served two terms in the White House in the 2000s, and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who unsuccessfully sought the 2016 Republican nomination for president. Like his sons, he was a Republican.
His death came seven months after that of his wife, former first lady Barbara Bush, to whom he was married for 73 years. He was admitted to a Houston hospital with a blood infection that led to sepsis a day after her funeral in April.
“The entire Bush family is deeply grateful for 41’s life and love, for the compassion of those who have cared and prayed for Dad, and for the condolences of our friends and fellow citizens,” George W. Bush said in a statement.
At a gate outside the Houston neighborhood where the Bushes lived, residents yesterday created a makeshift memorial by laying flowers before a U.S. flag.