DALLAS -- President Bush headed up a who's who of the Republican Party at Monday's memorial tribute to former Texas Sen. John Tower and his daughter, victims of a Georgia commuter plane crash that killed 23 people.
Bush, his wife Barbara, and their son, George W., were among an estimated 1,000 mourners who attended the hourlong memorial service for Tower, 65, and his daughter, Marian, 35. They died en route to a party honoring his new book.
The book, 'Consequences: A Personal and Political Memoir,' was a bitter, personal recollection of his Senate rejection in 1989 as Bush's nominee for defense secretary -- a defeat some friends say he never overcame.
A delegation of Tower's former Senate colleagues were in the sanctuary of the Highland Park United Methodist Church. One of them was Senate Republican leader Bob Dole of Kansas, a Tower friend for nearly 20 years.
'The reason we can hail our success in the Persian Gulf is that he was chairman of the Armed Services Committee in the years when President Reagan began spending more for defense,' Dole said, following the service.
Dole said Tower's 'strong leadership' in those years assured the nation of the readiness required later by the Gulf War. 'He earned his place in history,' the senator said.
Sens. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C.; Richard Lugar, R-Ind.; Phil Gramm, R- Texas; and Lloyd Bentsen, D-Texas, were among the congressional delegation.
'John was a tough man, but he was intelligent, an independent spirit. He was a patriot, and an advocate of those things he believed, and he fought for them in a strong manner,' Bentsen said outside the church.
Tower was hailed by the state party faithful as the man who brought two-party politics to Texas when he was elected to the Senate in 1961. He was the first Republican elected to statewide office since Reconstruction.
'Senator Tower always represented the Texas position ably in the Senate, and he is one of the reasons we had the kind of defense system that paid off in the Gulf War,' said State GOP Chairman Fred Meyer.
The Rev. Leighton Farrell conducted the memorial from an altar surrounded by a rainbow of irises and other spring flowers.
Farrell and another family friend, David Switzer, a minister and professor of theology at Southern Methodist University, who was Tower's freshman college roomate, offered some personal and emotional recollections.
'We knew and loved John's fun-loving side and his serious side,' Switzer said, at times overcome by emotion.
Farrell spoke of Marian Tower as being 'fiercely loyal' to her father and said the senator was always very dignified and stylish in appearance, yet 'Texas and country at heart.' He said Tower's rejection as defense secretary was 'one of the low points of his entire life.'
Bush also was accompanied by Commerce Secretary Robert Mosbacher and a number of White House aides, including legislative strategist Fred McClure, a Texan who said he had known Tower well for 15 years and who sang 'Amazing Grace.' Education Secretary Lamar Alexander also attended.
Bush made a last-minute change in his schedule to attend the service. He was already scheduled to be in nearby Arlington Monday night to toss out the first pitch of the Texas Rangers' home opener. His son is a part owner of the team.
Tower served four terms in the Senate and six years as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. In 1985 and 1986, he served as U.S. negotiator on strategic arms in Geneva. He headed the panel appointed by President Reagan to investigate the Iran-contra scandal. After his defeat as defense secretary nominee, Tower had formed an international consulting firm specializing in international business and investment opporities, headquartered in Dallas.