Visitors Stream Through Capitol Rotunda As George H.W. Bush Lies In State
Updated at 10:17 p.m. ET
The U.S. Capitol is host to a hushed stream of mourners Tuesday, paying their respects to former President George H.W. Bush, whose flag-draped casket, attended by a military honor guard, lies in the center of the building's rotunda.
Former President George W. Bush, the late president's firstborn child and eldest son, former first lady Laura Bush, their twin daughters Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Bush, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and several other members of the Bush family paid their respects to the family's patriarch in a visit to the Capitol Rotunda Tuesday evening.
Some of the mourners came by themselves. Seventy-five-year-old retired government worker John Fawcett of Washington came because "I just want to say goodbye." He called Bush "a fantastic leader," adding "I have the greatest respect for him."
Among some of the who paid their respects, there was a sense of longing for the "kinder, gentler" nation that Bush spoke of during his inaugural address.
DeForest Mapp, a freelance writer and producer from Portsmouth, Va., said Bush governed with poise and and charm. "He was a president with conviction," Mapp said, and added that "right now the country is in dire need of someone in leadership that has the right temperament for that position."
Thirty-five-year old Katie Perez came along with her husband and two young children. "I really appreciated the way he led the country with such grace, and I think we need more of that nowadays among all politicians. It was kind of the end of an era in that sense," Perez said.
Tom Creguer drove overnight from Michigan to pay his respects. A Gulf War veteran, Creguer said Bush "set out to make a difference, and he did that until his last breath." Creguer added "I think that's what we as Americans need to do, in our hometowns, in our back yards and across the world."
Suellen Wheatley-Wilkins, a 66-year-old retiree from Delaware, said she saw the late President Bush and his wife Barbara "as the parents of my generation." He just set such a standard for the entire country," she added.
Among the many dignitaries paying their respects Tuesday was former senator and onetime political foe Bob Dole, who like Bush served and narrowly avoided death in World War II. Dole, 95, was assisted from his wheelchair to stand and snap off a salute to his fellow member of the "greatest generation." Tuesday afternoon, Jeb acknowledged Dole's touching gesture, tweeting "Just incredible. Thank you Senator Dole."
The country's 41st president was eulogized Monday night by Republican congressional leaders and Vice President Pence, who said Bush "never lost his love of adventure and he never failed to answer the call to serve his country."
President Trump and first lady Melania Trump stopped by later Monday evening to pay their tributes.
Trump also tweeted Tuesday that he will meet with "the wonderful Bush family" at Blair House, where they are staying, across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House. He also said that former first lady Laura Bush will be given a tour of the White House Christmas decorations by Melania Trump. "The elegance & precision of the last two days have been remarkable!," Trump also tweeted about the events so far to honor the late president.
Looking forward to being with the wonderful Bush family at Blair House today. The former First Lady will be coming over to the White House this morning to be given a tour of the Christmas decorations by Melania. The elegance & precision of the last two days have been remarkable!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 4, 2018
Around the time of Trump's tweet Tuesday morning, a spokesman for the office of the 41st president tweeted thanks to Trump and the first lady and others in official Washington "for their amazing support as we attempt to give this great and good man the send-off he surely deserves."
The Office of George H. W. Bush thanks The President and First Lady, their White House staff, and the Congressional leadership from both parties -- and their staff -- for their amazing support as we attempt to give this great and good man the send-off he surely deserves. #Bush41 https://t.co/yKLBYpVUv3— Jim McGrath (@jgm41) December 4, 2018
Trump has had a frosty relationship with the Bush family. He called his 2016 GOP primary opponent Jeb Bush "low energy," criticized the leadership of President George W. Bush and recently mocked the elder Bush's "thousand points of light" volunteer program.
Bush will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda until Wednesday morning, when his casket will be transported to the Washington National Cathedral for a state funeral.
Those giving eulogies at the service there include former President George W. Bush, former Sen. Alan Simpson, former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Bush biographer Jon Meacham.
Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.