The body of 41st US president George H.W. Bush was placed in the US Capitol to lie in state Monday as mourners gathered to remember a hero who kept America "flying high."
Bush, a decorated World War II fighter pilot and former CIA chief who served as vice president to Ronald Reagan before winning the White House, died Friday at age 94, at his home in Houston.
"Through the Cold war and the Soviet Union's collapse, he kept us on course. When the rule of law needed defending in the Persian Gulf, he kept us on course," Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said in the first of several eulogies.
McConnell lauded Bush -- who occupied the White House from 1989 to 1993 -- as a patriot who steered the country as straight as he had steered his airplane.
"He kept us flying high and challenged us to fly higher still. And he did it with modesty and kindness that would have been surprising in someone one tenth as tough and accomplished as he was," he added.
Only the second president to see his son follow him to the Oval Office, Bush will be honored with four days of services and tributes in Washington and in Texas, where he will be buried Thursday.
Members of the military served as pallbearers, carrying the flag-draped casket from a hearse into the rotunda.
"Throughout his life of service, President Bush personified grace. His character... was second to none. He reached the heights of power with uncommon humility," House Speaker Paul Ryan said.
"He made monumental contributions to freedom with a fundamental decency that resonates across generations. No one better harmonized the joy of life and the duty of life."