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'Courage of a warrior': George H.W. Bush laid to rest in Texas after emotional tributes from family, friends

Bush's casket was transported by train to his library in College Station after a second funeral service in Houston.
Image: George H.W. Bush dies at age 94
The flag-draped casket of former President George H.W. Bush is carried by a joint services military honor guard followed by family members to the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Texas on Dec. 6, 2018.Jeff Roberson / EPA

Former President George H.W. Bush was buried in a private ceremony on the grounds of his presidential library in Texas on Thursday after being remembered by family and friends as a humble leader with the "courage of a warrior."

After a three-hour ride aboard a funeral train from Houston, his casket arrived in College Station, home of Texas A&M University and his final resting place at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum.

Bush was greeted at the burial site by a 21-aircraft Navy flyover. The Navy executed what is known as the "missing man" formation, signifying the loss of an aviator. Typically, the flyover is limited to just four aircraft, but the military wanted to do something unprecedented for the former president, a naval aviator.

As Bush's casket was escorted to his final resting place, his family followed solemnly behind. The casket was carried over a footbridge, across which Bush was to be interred in a private ceremony next to his wife, the late former first lady Barbara Bush, and daughter Robin, who died of leukemia at age three.

Earlier Thursday, James Baker, a close friend who served as Bush's secretary of state and chief of staff, delivered the first eulogy at the second of Bush's funeral services at the St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston, sprinkling his tribute with humorous personal stories and praise for the former president.

"Yes, he had the courage of a warrior. But when the time came for prudence, he always maintained the greater courage of a peacemaker," Baker said, referring Bush's role in maintaining diplomacy after the Berlin Wall fell during his administration.

"He understood that humility toward, and not humiliation of, a fallen adversary was the very best path to peace."

Baker, who was with the president during his last days, also drew laughs from the audience when describing the heated discussions he would have with the president about domestic issues and world events.

"He would look at me and he'd say, 'Baker, if you're so smart, why am I president and you're not?' He was a leader and he knew it," Baker said.

Bush, who died Friday at age 94, was also honored Wednesday at a state funeral at the Washington National Cathedral, which was attended by a host of world leaders and current and former presidents and first ladies.

The Thursday funeral is mainly for close friends to the former president and his family, who also attended Wednesday's service. Several of his granddaughters read from scripture during the beginning of the service.

Baker choked up toward the end of his eulogy, describing his friend as a consummate statesman.

"He was not considered a skilled speaker, but his deeds were quite eloquent—and he demonstrated their eloquence by carving them into the hard granite of history," he said.

"We rejoice...that you are safely tucked in now, and through the ages, with God's loving arms around you. Because our glory, George, was to have had you as our president, and as such a friend."

The president's five living children and their spouses were seated in the front row, including eldest son George W. Bush, the 43rd president, and his wife, former first lady Laura Bush. The other children include former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Neil Bush, Marvin Bush and Dorothy Bush.

George W. Bush, who delivered a tearful eulogy at Wednesday's service, gave Baker a hug and a kiss on the cheek after his eulogy.

Texas Land Commissioner George Prescott Bush, the former president's oldest grandson and the son of Jeb Bush, eulogized his grandfather with personal anecdotes, affectionately referring to the former president as "Gampy" and his grandmother, the late former first lady Barbara Bush, as "Ganny."

He told stories of playing horseshoe with his grandfather and his cousin and fly fishing with him in Maine, where the Bush family has a home. He said that despite Bush being a "larger than life figure," he always made time for his grandchildren.

"In a typical day, he'd wake up around 5 a.m. to review security briefings and grab his first coffee of the day. When the coast was clear all the grandkids would try our best to snag a spot on the bed and nestle up between him and 'Ganny' while they read the paper," George P. Bush said.

He called him “the most gracious and most decent and most humble man I will ever know.”

For the musical selection, The Oak Ridge Boys performed “Amazing Grace” in honor of the former president, whom they met while Bush was vice president.

Country music icon Reba McEntire also performed "The Lord's Prayer," which prompted George W. Bush to dab his eyes with a handkerchief afterward.

After Thursday's memorial service, Bush's casket embarked on its journey to College Station, chugging past thousands who lined the tracks to say goodbye.

Andrew Card, who served as secretary of transportation under the elder Bush and then as George W. Bush's White House chief of staff, said on MSNBC that as he watched the final procession to Bush's burial site, he was reminded of Barbara Bush's Secret Service code name, "Tranquility."

"Seeing the president brought to be with Barbara is tranquility," Card said.