Former Secretary of State James Baker Remembers 'A Man of Great Faith'

By Susan Jones | December 3, 2018 | 5:11 AM EST

Former President George W. Bush, left, wheels his father, former President George H.W. Bush, into the church for the funeral for former first lady Barbara Bush at St. Martin's Episcopal Church on April 21, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Brett Coomer/ Pool/Getty Images)

( - Former Secretary of State James Baker was with his best friend George H.W. Bush when the former president died Friday in Texas. Baker described his friend of almost 60 years as a man of great faith; a family man; and a patriot who kept his sense of humor to the very end.

I was there when he passed. His passing was very, very peaceful, gentle, if you will. There were a number of things that I remember about it, the caregivers.

I went to see him on the Friday morning. I hadn't seen him for a while. He had had three bad days. And I went to check on him after a run. And one of the caregivers said, "Mr. President, Secretary Baker is here."

And he looked up at me, opened both eyes to look at me and said, "Jim, where are we going?"

And I said, "Well, Jefe," because that's what I called him, Jefe, which is Spanish for chief. I said, "Well, jefe, we're going to heaven."

He said, "That's where I want to go."

And then, as he began to go downhill, they got all of his children on the telephone. Only one of them was able to be with him at the time, his son Neil. They got the others on the telephone. And they were all able to tell their father how much they loved him and to say goodbye.

And his very last words, the very last words he spoke were spoken to George W. Bush, President Bush 43, who had told him how much he loved him, and that he would see him on the other side. And 41 said, "I love you, too."

And that was about 40 minutes before he passed away. He kept his sense of humor, Margaret, right up until the very end. My wife Susan was there with me. And at one point, she went over and put her hand on his forehead, and she said, "We love you very much, Jefe."

And he cocked one eye open, and he said, "Well, you better hurry."

So, he was -- his sense of humor was intact right up until the very end. His passing was really very peaceful, no struggling, no pain at all.


Baker said the 41st president was a "man of great faith," a "religious person who didn't wear his religion on his sleeve."

But he was a man of great faith. He was a family man. He -- as one of your -- in your lead-in, someone said, one of the things he said that he was proudest of was that his children came home. And he was proud of that.

He was a selfless, patriotic servant of the United States of America for many, many years. And he was one who didn't believe in taking credit. He was one who believed in letting other people get the credit.

He was courageous, courageous enough to run for president when nobody knew who he was. He was an asterisk in the polls. He jumped into that race in 1980. He ended up beating such -- more popular political figures as John Connally and Howard Baker and Bob Dole and others to become the last man standing with Ronald Reagan, and, therefore, ended up being his vice president.

So, he was a man of great capacity. He was a man of great tenderness and sensitivity. He was, as someone said, the last gentleman that we have had as president.

President Donald Trump has declared December 5 as a national day of mourning in tribute to a man who "personified two of our Nation’s greatest virtues: an entrepreneurial spirit and a commitment to public service. Our country will greatly miss his inspiring example," Trump said in his proclamation.

Beyond his formal statements, Trump also tweeted: "President George H.W. Bush led a long, successful and beautiful life.  Whenever I was with him I saw his absolute joy for life and true pride in his family. His accomplishments were great from beginning to end. He was a truly wonderful man and will be missed by all!


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