Melania Trump Will Attend Barbara Bush's Funeral, But POTUS Might Not Join Her
After mourning the loss of the Bush family matriarch in a statement, the White House announced that Melania Trump will attend Barbara Bush's funeral in Texas. The former first lady died in her Houston home Tuesday night at the age of 92. "Mrs. Trump plans to pay her respects at the funeral on Saturday," a spokesperson for Trump told CNN on Wednesday.
The Bush family announced on Sunday that the wife of one former president and mother of another was in "failing health" and wouldn't seek additional treatment. She died two days later. The funeral service will take place at St. Martin's Church in Houston, followed by a private burial. The first lady will return to Washington, D.C. on Saturday evening, according to CNN. It's unclear if the president or any other White House officials will join the first lady in Texas.
The Trumps issued a statement on Tuesday celebrating Bush's life and her many accomplishments at the helm of a political dynasty. "She will be long remembered for her strong devotion to country and family, both of which she served unfailingly well," the statement read. "The President and First lady's thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Mrs. Bush."
Since the funeral of Eleanor Roosevelt in 1962, the current first lady has traditionally attended the funerals of other women who held the same White House role. Nancy Reagan’s funeral in 2016 was attended by four fellow first ladies: Michelle Obama, Laura Bush (Barbara's daughter-in-law), Hillary Clinton, and Rosalynn Carter. Similarly, the 2011 funeral for Betty Ford was attended by Obama, Clinton, Carter, Reagan, and Barbara. As the National First Ladies' Library explains on its website:
"It was, however, the funeral of Eleanor Roosevelt that seems to have set in motion the modern tradition of First Ladies being honored by others who have had the challenge of interpreting a puzzling role in a way that manages to permit them to remain authentic, support the administration of their spouse and initiate effective, positive change for ignored demographics."
Sitting presidents don't typically accompany their wives to the funerals of former first ladies, however. Former first lady Obama attended Reagan's funeral in 2016 and Ford's in 2011 without her husband.
Like the Trump White House, the Obama administration issued statements expressing condolences for the families and honoring the former first ladies' legacies. "Nancy Reagan once wrote that nothing could prepare you for living in the White House,” the Obamas wrote after Reagan's passing. "She was right, of course. But we had a head start, because we were fortunate to benefit from her proud example, and her warm and generous advice."
Barbara served as first lady for four years and second lady for eight. She was known for her work increasing literacy and founded the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation. The foundation honored her legacy on its website, promising to continue her work ensuring everyone has the chance to learn how to read and write:
"Mrs. Bush had an unwavering desire to help others with her innate kindness and piercing wisdom. As a role model for leading a life of service to others and a champion of the literacy cause for more than three decades, she will forever be our inspiration for helping people reach their fullest potential in life through the power of literacy."
Barbara and former president George H.W. Bush retired to Houston after leaving the White House in 1993. The public can pay their respects to the former first lady at a Friday visitation at St. Martin's Church, where the funeral will be held the following day.