US President George H.W. Bush mourned in family service

Former President George W. Bush embraces former Secretary of State James Baker after he gave a eulogy during the funeral for former President George H.W. Bush at St. Martin's Episcopal Church, Thursday, in Houston. — Reuters

HOUSTON — Former US President George H.W. Bush's family took center stage at his funeral at a Houston church on Thursday, with his grandsons as honorary pallbearers and his granddaughters reading Psalms.

Bush, the 41st U.S. president, died last week in Texas at age 94. His remains were flown to Texas on Wednesday evening after the state funeral at Washington's National Cathedral attended by US President Donald Trump, the four living former US presidents and foreign leaders.

The service began at St. Martin's Episcopal Church, where Bush worshipped for many years, with more than 1,000 attendees singing "America the Beautiful."

Country music star Reba McEntire was due to be among the musical performers at the service. Following the funeral at St. Martin's, where Bush and his late wife, Barbara Bush, were long-time worshippers, a train will carry his remains about 80 miles (130 km) northwest to College Station, Texas, where he will be laid to rest at his presidential library.

The train is a Union Pacific Corp locomotive, numbered 4141 and bearing the name "George Bush 41" on the side that has been in service since 2005.

Bush, who narrowly escaped death as a naval aviator who was shot down by Japanese forces over the Pacific Ocean in World War Two, will be buried with military honors, including a flyover by 21 aircraft from the US Navy.

Bush was president from 1989 to 1993, navigating the collapse of the Soviet Union and expelling former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's forces from Kuwait.

He supported the passage of the American with Disabilities Act, a major civil rights law protecting disabled people from discrimination.

A patrician figure, Bush was voted out of office in part for failing to connect with ordinary Americans during an economic recession. He has also been criticized for supporting tough drug laws that led to the disproportionate incarceration of black people, as well as what activists call an insufficient response to the AIDS epidemic when he was in power during some of its deadliest years.

But many tributes in recent days have focused on the former Republican president as a man of integrity and kindness who represented an earlier era of civility in American politics.

That image has been burnished in recent years by the divisiveness and anger in the United States that accompanied the rise of President Donald Trump. — Reuters