HOUSTON -

A spokesman says former President George H.W. Bush's condition continues to improve, and that he was moved Saturday out of intensive care into a regular hospital room at Methodist Hospital.

Bush, the oldest living former president, was in intensive care since Sunday. He was admitted to Methodist Hospital in Houston on Nov. 23 for treatment of what his spokesman Jim McGrath described as a "stubborn" cough. He had spent about a week there earlier in November for treatment of the same condition.

"The President is alert and, as always, in good spirits," McGrath said Friday. "The Bushes thank everyone for their prayers and good wishes and, like their doctors, are cautiously optimistic that the current course of treatment will be effective."

At the request of Barbara Bush, the Oakridge Boys serenaded former President George H.W. Bush over the phone with a rendition of "Amazing Grace."

William Lee Golden, the silky smooth baritone of the famous country group, talked to local 2 by phone Saturday.

“Well, he said his first request he would love to hear some of Elvira and then “Amazing Grace.”

The performance came as news spread that the former president’s condition was upgraded.

The 88-year-old, who's had bronchitis, is now in a regular hospital room and out of Methodist's ICU.

“He sounded like he was stronger and he sounded fine like the president we know,” said Golden.

Jean Becker, Bush's longtime Houston chief of staff, said "most of the civilized world" contacted her Wednesday after word spread that Bush had been placed in intensive care unit when physicians were having difficulty bringing a fever under control.

"Someday President George H.W. Bush might realize how beloved he is, but of course one of the reasons why he is so beloved is because he has no idea," Becker said in the at-times lighthearted statement that made multiple references to jokes and the former president's sense of humor.

She said updates about Bush's condition have been limited "out of respect for President Bush and the Bush family who, like most of us, prefer to deal with health issues in privacy." She said another factor was "because he is so beloved we knew everyone would overreact."

"I hope you all know how much your love, concern and support are appreciated," Becker said.

While the president's treatment was "unequaled anywhere," she said prayers also were needed and welcomed.

"I am thinking heaven has not seen such a barrage of prayer intentions since 'It's a Wonderful Life,'" she said, referring to the classic Christmas movie.

It was hoped Bush would be well enough to spend Christmas at home. But while his cough eased, he developed a persistent fever and his condition was downgraded to "guarded."

The former president has had visits from family and friends, including longtime friend James Baker III, his former Secretary of State. Bush's daughter, Dorothy, arrived Wednesday from her home in Bethesda, Md. Other visitors have included his sons George W. Bush, the 43rd president, and Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor.

Bush and his wife, Barbara, live in Houston during the winter and spend their summers at a home in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Bush, the 41st president, had served two terms as Ronald Reagan's vice president when he was elected in 1988 to succeed Reagan. Four years later, after a term highlighted by the success of the 1991 Gulf War in Kuwait, he lost to Democrat Bill Clinton amid voters' concerns about the economy.

Bush suffers from a form of Parkinson's disease that forced him in recent years to use a motorized scooter or wheelchair for mobility.

Bush's nephew shares thoughts with Local 2

As Bush remains hospitalized in the intensive care unit of The Methodist Hospital, Local 2 received an email from his nephew, Jim Pierce. Local 2 first met Pierce in Manhattan shortly after he narrowly avoided the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center. Below is the email sent to Local 2:

"I hesitate to say anything about George H W Bush that even remotely sounds pessimistic about his status because the fact is that he is better today than he was yesterday, and yesterday he was better than he was the day before! He has been in the hospital since November 23rd, and that would take a toll on the best of us, not to mention an 88 year old man. What our fellow Houstonians need to know is that this man is a fighter. He is caring, funny, considerate, and immensely full of love. For anyone who wants to explore his heart, read his book "All the Best, My Life in Letters and other Writings". Everyone should have a dad, husband, father in law, grandfather, or uncle as kind and wonderful as George H W Bush. Another aspect of his character of which fellow citizens should be aware is his faith. He has always recognized the higher power that is God, and his resolute faith helped him countless times as he made tough decisions during his Presidency.

"I remember spending Thanksgiving day at the Bush house in November of 1993. We had our 14 month old daughter and our second child, born just a week before. Both Uncle George and Aunt Bar could not have been more gracious hosts. I remember thinking, "wow, what a change for both of them. A year ago they were at Camp David, and here we are clearing the dishes and celebrating Thanksgiving just like millions of Americans from coast to coast." And the beauty of it was that they were probably thinking the same thing, but they never even remotely let those feelings be known. They were home in Houston, and living their lives with no regrets.

"As I look across the landscape that is today's political scene, I see no one who even remotely resembles George H W Bush. And that folks, is a shame. We desperately need leaders with his intellect, ability to make tough (unpopular) decisions, and desire to stand up and lead."