He’s got a big ol’ ranch in Crawford and a presidential library in Dallas. And Arlington National Cemetery, the nation’s final resting place of honor, might want him. But former President George W. Bush has decided he will be buried at the Texas State Cemetery in East Austin (in a county he carried twice and lost twice).
Confirmation of the decision about the future graves for Bush and wife Laura — both alive and well — came Tuesday from his spokesman Freddy Ford.
“They never want to leave the home state they love,” Ford said. “President Bush would just like to point out one thing: This doesn’t mean he already has one foot in the grave.”
The decision is a big deal for the cemetery. Bush will become the first president buried there.
“The Texas State Cemetery Committee and cemetery staff are honored that President and Mrs. Bush have chosen the cemetery for their burial sites,” said Harry Bradley, the cemetery superintendent, adding an exact location in the cemetery hasn’t been chosen.
This is the culmination of a process dating back to shortly after Bush left the White House in January 2009. In September of that year Texas State Cemetery officials said they were hoping their facility would be picked by the Bushes for their final resting place. The cemetery is a beautiful place that holds the graves of more than 3,000 folks who did something to distinguish themselves as Texans. A walk around the well-kept grounds is an inspiring lesson in Texas history.
Among the topics of discussion for the Bushes has been exactly where in the cemetery they’d be buried. They have long-standing reservations in Row T in the cemetery’s Republic Hill section. (That’s Republic Hill, not Republican Hill.) Those are nice spots, under a shady oak tree but kind of close to the cemetery’s western boundary on Navasota Street and decidedly less than presidential.
That location also could be problematic for the kind of security required for a presidential burial place. Back in 2009, there were discussions of an upgrade to something more appropriate for a president and first lady. Sounds like that’s where we’re headed.
Bush, who in 2013 had a stent inserted into his heart to clear an artery blockage, turned 70 in July and, from the looks of photos from the recent annual Warrior 100K mountain bike ride with disabled vets at his ranch, remains hale and hearty. Laura Bush turns 70 on Nov. 4 and likewise looks fit.
The current Republic Hill location where the Bushes have a reservation isn’t far from where Rick Perry, Bush’s gubernatorial successor and recent TV dance show sensation, and wife, Anita Perry, also have reserved plots.
Though he only lived in Austin during his six years as governor, the Texas State Cemetery seems like an appropriate burial place for Bush, who, though born in Connecticut, revels in all things Texas. Other options, it would seem, could have included his presidential library at Southern Methodist University or his ranch 100 miles north of Austin or Midland, where he grew up. Arlington National Cemetery seems far too Washington for Bush. The only presidents buried there are John F. Kennedy and William Howard Taft.
All presidents who’ve died since JFK — save for Lyndon B. Johnson — are buried at their presidential libraries. That includes Herbert Hoover (West Branch, Iowa), Dwight Eisenhower (Abilene, Kan.), Harry Truman (Independence, Mo.), Richard Nixon (Yorba Linda, Calif.), Ronald Reagan (Simi Valley, Calif.) and Gerald Ford (Grand Rapids, Mich.).
LBJ, who died in 1973, is buried at his Stonewall ranch.
George H.W. Bush and wife, Barbara, plan to be buried at his presidential library at Texas A&M University in College Station where their daughter Robin, who died of leukemia in 1953 at age 3, is buried. She initially was buried in Greenwich, Conn., but her remains were moved to A&M in 2000.
And, in case you’re curious, none of the four presidents of the Republic of Texas (David Burnet, Sam Houston, Mirabeau B. Lamar and Anson Jones) are buried in the Texas State Cemetery.
Another note: Bush has decided that his remains will be interred in a county that couldn’t make up its mind about him. He didn’t carry Travis County in his 1994 gubernatorial race but did so in his 1998 re-election. He carried the county in his 2000 presidential bid but not in his 2004 re-election win over John Kerry.
The Bushes’ decision is an honor for the Texas State Cemetery and, in a lasting way, a fitting tribute to the late Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, a Democrat who was key in Bush’s political rise. Bullock, who’s buried in that cemetery, was the driving force in the mid-1990s renovation project that upgraded the graveyard into the great facility the great state of Texas deserves.
Notable people buried in the Texas State Cemetery:
Gov. John Connally
Gov. Ann Richards
Govs. Ma and Pa Ferguson
Gov. Preston Smith
Gov. Alan Shivers
Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock
U.S. Sen. Ralph Yarborough
U.S. Rep. Barbara Jordan
U.S. Rep. Jake Pickle
Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston
Former Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox
Author Bud Shrake