Former US president George H.W. Bush, who helped steer America through the end of the Cold War, died Friday at age 94, his family announced.
Tributes quickly poured in for the 41st US president, a decorated war pilot and onetime CIA chief who also saw his son George follow in his footsteps to the Oval Office.
Bush’s passing comes just months after the death in April of his wife and revered first lady Barbara Bush — his “most beloved woman in the world” — to whom he was married for 73 years.
“Jeb, Neil, Marvin, Doro and I are saddened to announce that after 94 remarkable years, our dear Dad has died,” former president George W. Bush said in a statement released on Twitter by a family spokesman.
“George H.W. Bush was a man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for,” he said.
“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.”
Bush is survived by five children and 17 grandchildren. A sixth child, daughter Robin, died of leukemia before her fourth birthday.
He died “at home in Houston surrounded by family and close friends,” family spokesman Jim McGrath told AFP. Funeral arrangements will be announced in due course, he said.
The former US leader is expected to lie in state in the US Capitol and then to be buried at his presidential library in Texas, where students held a candlelight vigil early Saturday, local media reported.
President Donald Trump, who was in Argentina attending a G20 summit of world leaders, hailed Bush’s “sound judgment, common sense, and unflappable leadership.”
“Through his essential authenticity, disarming wit, and unwavering commitment to faith, family, and country, President Bush inspired generations of his fellow Americans to public service,” Trump said in a statement.
“As president, he set the stage for the decades of prosperity that have followed.”
– ‘New world order’ –
Bush — who was born on June 12, 1924 in Milton, Massachusetts into a wealthy New England political dynasty — put his studies and career on hold to join the US Navy during World War II.
He flew 58 combat missions and was shot down over the Pacific by Japanese anti-aircraft fire.
He then graduated from Yale University, and launched a brief career in the oil industry.
But Bush then entered politics, serving in the US House of Representatives and as Washington’s envoy to China and chief of the Central Intelligence Agency, before being elected Ronald Reagan’s vice president.
As he accepted the Republican Party’s nomination for president in 1988, Bush pleaded for a “kinder, gentler nation.”
He went on to easily defeat Democrat Michael Dukakis that November.
Bush was a foreign policy pragmatist who led the United States through the turbulent but largely peaceful fall of the Soviet Union in 1989.
He declared a “new world order” in 1990 and drove Iraq from Kuwait in a matter of weeks with a lightning air and ground assault — and the backing of a coalition of 32 nations.
But he suffered the ignominy of being a one-term president, denied a second term over a weak economy when he lost the 1992 election to upstart Democrat Bill Clinton.
He later would see his son George occupy the Oval Office for eight years — they are only the second father-son duo in American history, after John and John Quincy Adams.
In his post-presidency, Bush turned to philanthropy — he joined forces with Bill Clinton to raise funds for victims of the 2004 Asian tsunami and the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
He worked with Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama and son George to raise money for hurricane victims in Texas in 2017.
“I am profoundly grateful for every minute I spent with President Bush and will always hold our friendship as one of my life’s greatest gifts,” Clinton said in a statement.
In 2011, Obama awarded Bush the highest US civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
“America has lost a patriot and humble servant in George Herbert Walker Bush. While our hearts are heavy today, they are also filled with gratitude,” Obama and his wife Michelle said in a statement.
“After seventy-three years of marriage, George and Barbara Bush are together again now, two points of light that never dimmed, two points of light that ignited countless others with their example.”