George Herbert Walker Bush (June 12, 1924 – November 30, 2018), 41st President of the United States, lived a rich life of service. He served as a naval aviator who nearly gave his life in World War II and an entrepreneurial Texas oil pioneer before devoting his life to politics.
As Commander in Chief from 1989 – 1993, President Bush faced a dramatically changing world. In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell, marking the beginning of the end of the Cold War. President Bush built a trusting relationship with Chancellor Helmut Kohl and President Mikhail Gorbachev, which ultimately helped result in German reunification and ensured that the end of the Soviet Union would be peaceful.
Faced with President Saddam Hussein invading Kuwait in 1990, President Bush helped lead a grand coalition of 32 nations to drive Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. After successfully liberating Kuwait, the Bush Administration helped reduce the threat of nuclear threat by signing two Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties (START).
With Democratic control in both the House and Senate, President Bush worked across the aisle to help pass the historic Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). He went on to sign the Clean Air Act of 1990 and the Civil Rights Act of 1991.
Born on June 12, 1924, in Milton, Massachusetts, George Bush credited his parents, Prescott and Dorothy, for raising him with strong values and enduring life lessons. On his 18th birthday, George Bush enlisted in the U.S. Navy and flew torpedo bombers in the Pacific during World War II. He was shot down on September 2, 1944, while completing a mission over Chi Chi Jima Island. After returning from war, George Bush married Barbara Pierce in Rye, New York on January 6, 1945. He received a bachelor’s degree in economics from Yale University and served as the captain of the Yale baseball team. After graduating the Bushes moved to West Texas where he began his career in the oil industry, later co-founding Zapata Petroleum Corporation.
George Bush’s political career became active when he was elected as the Chairman of the Harris County Republican Party. In 1966, George Bush was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Following two terms of service, Mr. Bush accepted a series of senior-level appointments: U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (1971); Chairman of the Republican National Committee (1973); Chief of the U.S. Liaison Office in Beijing, China (1974); and Director of Central Intelligence (1976). In 1980, Mr. Bush lost his first bid for the Republican presidential nomination to former California Governor Ronald Reagan, but accepted a spot on the GOP national ticket and served as the 43rd Vice President of the United States from 1981 to 1989. Vice President Bush prevailed over a crowded GOP primary field to gain the Republican nomination for president in 1988 and went on to defeat the Democratic nominee, Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts. George Bush was sworn into office on January 20, 1989.
As president, he launched the “Points of Light” initiative to promote volunteerism and community service across America. After leaving the White House, President and Mrs. Bush dedicated the George Bush Presidential Library at Texas A&M University. Known today as the George Bush Presidential Center, the Center is comprised of the Library & Museum and the Bush School for Government & Public Service – his living legacy. President Bush also remained closely involved with the University of Texas’ M.D. Anderson Cancer Center; National Constitution Center; C-Change, a collaborative group of key cancer leaders; Points of Light Foundation; and World Golf Foundation’s First Tee. A special partnership with former President Bill Clinton was developed to help raise financial relief for victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, and Hurricane Ike in 2008.
President Bush was the author of two books, Looking Forward and A World Transformed, co-authored with General Brent Scowcroft. His personal writings served as the basis for two additional books, All the Best, George Bush: My Life in Letters and Other Writings, and The China Diary of George H.W. Bush – The Making of a Global President.
Together, George and Barbara Bush had six children – George W., Robin, Jeb, Neil, Marvin, Doro – along with 17 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. The Bushes tragically lost Robin from leukemia in 1953. Two of President and Mrs. Bush’s sons went on to achieve high office: George W. served as the 46th Governor of Texas and the 43rd President of the United States, and Jeb served as the 43rd Governor of Florida.