Congress has also suspended votes — even in the midst of a looming potential shutdown that requires congressional action before midnight Friday.
The passing of Bush, only the second president to see his son follow him to the Oval Office, has led Americans to reflect on his life of duty and service to country as a leader of the so-called “Greatest Generation.”
At a time of extraordinary and deep political fissures, Bush was looked to this week as a gracious, humble servant of country who aimed to bridge the divide.
“Quite frankly I think it’s more important in many cases than the policies of a president,” Monica Harisson, who worked eight years for the Reagan administration, told AFP.
“We can agree or disagree with the policies. But if we respect the human being, I think it’s a much broader framework for civility and good will in the country.”
Bush was a decorated World War II aviator who nearly lost his life when he was shot down on a bombing mission.
He served as ambassador to China, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and vice president to Ronald Reagan before winning the White House.
The former president struggled for years with Parkinson’s disease, which left him wheelchair-bound and often hospitalized — including after Barbara’s death.
After the Washington service, Bush’s casket will be flown back to Houston. The former head of state will lie in repose at St Martin’s Episcopal Church, where the Bushes worshipped for decades, until Thursday’s funeral.
He will be interred at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library Center in College Station, Texas, next to his wife, who died in April, and their daughter Robin who died of leukemia at age three.