NASHVILLE (WATE) – Thousands of fans gathered in Nashville Thursday to pay their respects to one of country’s most famous crooners, George Jones.
The funeral for the man many knew as “The Possum” was held Thursday morning at the Grand Ole Opry House, drawing everyone from big-name country music stars to well-known political figures.
The venue, which seats 4,400, was overwhelmed with mourners and many late arrivals had to observe the funeral from outside.
Fans began lining up outside of the Grand Old Opry House before 10 p.m. the night before. Those who didn’t make it inside listened to audio that was provided in the plaza.
Singer Randy Travis began the musical tributes with his rendition of ‘Amazing Grace,’ followed by the Oak Ridge Boys singing ‘Farther Along.’
CBS’ Bob Schieffer spoke of Jones’ honesty and humility, saying the singer was always surprised by the awards that he won.
“Everyone wanted to sing like Jones, but no one could because they weren’t George Jones,” Schieffer said. “He lives on in our hearts forever and God made just one like him.”
Charlie Daniels said a few words before singing ‘Softly and Tenderly.’
Travis Tritt told the audience that Jones used to say that his wife Nancy ‘saved his life’ and was his ‘angel’ and sang ‘Why Me Lord’ in tribute.
There was an emotional moment when Vince Gill and Patty Loveless shared a duet on ‘Go Rest High on that Mountain.’
Gill choked up during several lines in the song, bringing the Opry to its feet.
Former First Lady Laura Bush told the audience that former President George W. Bush would often listen to ‘White Lightning’ while running on the treadmill in the White House during his time in office.
“His music is a beautiful gift to the world. My husband says he’s fortunate to have spent time with a star. He’s now with the stars,” Bush said.
Brad Paisley also said a few words before turning things over to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee for the eulogy.
“Jones understood feelings and pressures and he sang the songs that cried for us,” Huckabee said. “George has been called the king of country music, but kings have the title handed to them. Jones earned it.”
Ronnie Millsap, Wynonna Judd and Kenny Chesney all took the stage before the final performance.
Alan Jackson concluded the service by singing one of George Jones’s biggest hits, ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today.’
Fans mourn the loss of a legend
Fans from all over the country and even internationally descended on Nashville to pay their respects to The Possum.
Jones’ publicist said the funeral was made public because Jones would have wanted his fans and friends everywhere to be able to come and pay their respects along with his family.
Freida Melton said she felt honored and privileged to attend the funeral.
“I thought it was a very touching service,” she said. “I’ll always remember him as true country. It was true, from the heart.”
Melton said Vince Gill’s performance was one of the most emotional parts of the service.
“When Vince Gill and them started singing, it was just so surreal that he’s gone. But he’s gone to a better place,” she said.
Knoxville residents Allan and Karen Marcum lined up at 4 a.m. to say goodbye to their all-time favorite singer.
“I grew up listening to everyone of his songs,” said Karen.
She said it wasn’t surprising to see such a huge turnout.
“It’s going to be like Elvis. Security on top of the buildings,” she said, ahead of the service.
Fans 6 News talked to traveled from as far as way as Ontario, Canada to say goodbye the country star.