Political figures and dignitaries around the world paid tribute on Saturday to George Herbert Walker Bush, America’s 41st president, who died at the age of 94.
Mr. Bush served as U.S. president from 1989 to 1993. He was in office during the end of the Cold War and led America to a decisive victory in the first Persian Gulf War.
His death was announced late Friday by his son, George W. Bush, who followed in his footsteps to become America’s 43rd president in 2001. “George H.W. Bush was a man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could hope for,” he said.
President Trump said Mr. Bush inspired generations of Americans to public service. “Along with his full life of service to country, we will remember President Bush for his devotion to family—especially the love of his life, Barbara,” he said in a statement from himself and first lady Melania Trump.
Mr. Trump is set to name Dec. 5 as a national day of mourning, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement, adding that a state funeral is being arranged at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.
Bill Clinton, who defeated Mr. Bush in the 1992 presidential election but went on to become friends with his former rival, said few Americans would be able to match Mr. Bush’s record of service. “I saw it up close, working with him on tsunami relief in Asia and here at home after Hurricane Katrina,” Mr. Clinton said in statement with his wife, Hillary. “His remarkable leadership and great heart were always on full display.”
Mr. Bush was the last American president to serve in World War II. He went on to work in the oil industry before serving as a congressman, an envoy to the United Nations and China and head of the Central Intelligence Agency—before becoming Republican Ronald Reagan’s vice president and then succeeding him in the White House.
“While our hearts are heavy today, they are also filled with gratitude,” former President Barack Obama said.
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Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev applauded Mr. Bush’s contributions toward ending the Cold War.
“I have a lot of memories of this man. We had the opportunity to work together during the era of great changes. It was a dramatic period, which required everyone to be tremendously responsible,” Mr. Gorbachev said.
“I pay tribute to George Bush’s contribution to this historical achievement. He was a true partner,” he said.
During the dying days of the Cold War, Mr. Bush played a pivotal role in the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany. “We mourn a great statesman and a friend of Germany,” said German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. “Like few other U.S. presidents, George H.W. Bush was destined to provide his country with an orientation in a moment of historic change.”
In China, Mr. Bush was remembered as a steadfast supporter of engagement, shielding relations from domestic U.S. criticism. He played key roles in Washington’s dealing with Beijing, as an envoy prior to full diplomatic relations; as vice president, helping to forge common cause against the Soviet Union; and, as president, preserving ties after the Chinese military crushed the Tiananmen Square democracy demonstrations in 1989.
“Old Bush, Without Doubt an ‘Old Friend of the Chinese People,’” ran the headline in the Global Times, a popular, nationalistic tabloid and an offshoot of People’s Daily. Posts on Weibo, a Twitter-like service, with the hashtag “Old Bush Passes Away” drew 70 million page views.
North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg hailed Mr. Bush as a visionary with political will, capabilities and commitment. “He will be remembered as one of the architects of the post-Cold War era and as a true trans-Atlantist,” Mr. Stoltenberg said in a tweet Saturday. “He seized the moment and shaped history.”
The emir of Kuwait, which Mr. Bush came to the aid of after an invasion by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 1990, praised the former president for “his rejection of the Iraqi occupation in its early hours…and his pivotal role in forming an International coalition.” The victory over Hussein’s forces was swift and decisive.
John Major, Britain’s prime minister from 1990 to 1997, said, “As president, he saw America’s obligation to the world and honored it—and he remained committed to public service until the day he died.”
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said, “President George H.W. Bush’s ethos of public service was the guiding thread of his life and an example to us all.”
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Twitter, “On behalf of the French people, I convey all my condolences to the American nation for the loss of former President George Bush. He was a world leader, who strongly supported the alliance with Europe. Our sympathy to his family and beloved ones.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, “President Bush was the embodiment of the values of the United States, standing up for what was right and fighting throughout his life for freedom from tyranny and oppression in any guise.”
—Charles Hutzler in Beijing and Emre Peker in Brussels contributed to this article.