George H.W. Bush: From birth to death and his Texas legacy

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In memory of the 41st president of the United States, here’s a look back the life of George Herbert Walker Bush.
USA TODAY

George Herbert Walker Bush, the president who managed the end of the Cold War and forged a global coalition to oust Iraqi forces from Kuwait, has died at age 94.

Here’s a look at his life, his legacy and how he impacted Texas through the years.

Where was George H.W. Bush from?

Bush was born in Milton, Mass., on June 12, 1924, into a family of wealth, energy and public service. His mother, Dorothy Walker Bush, was a particular force throughout his life.

His father was a United States senator after a career as a Wall Street banker, and his grandfather was a steel industry executive who was tapped to help reorganize the federal War Industries Board in the run-up to the first World War.

On the day he turned 18 years old, Bush both graduated from Phillips Academy Andover and enlisted in the Navy, little more than six months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

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George and Barbara Bush

Their romance started at a Christmas dance.

In 1941, George Bush, then 17, and Barbara Pierce, then 16, took notice of each other at the dance, just weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. According to the Associated Press, Bush wrote of the meeting in his autobiography. He asked a friend if he knew her, and the pair were officially introduced.

And when a waltz started to play, the two sat it out, because he didn’t know how to waltz. Instead, they had to talk and get to know one another. “It was a storybook meeting,” he wrote.

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Less than a year later, he was deployed to fight in the war as one of the youngest naval pilots at the time. 

Their engagement was officially announced in the newspaper in December 1944. Pierce dropped out of school, and the couple was reunited on Christmas Eve that year, while Bush was on leave.

They married two weeks later, on Jan. 6, 1945.

“I married the first man I ever kissed,” then-first lady Barbara Bush told TIME magazine in 1989, during the first year of George H. W. Bush’s presidency.  “When I tell this to my children, they just about throw up.”

MORE: Barbara and George H. W. Bush met at a Christmas dance: ‘It was a storybook meeting’

H.W. Bush’s children and family 

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A look back at the life and legacy of former U.S. President George H.W. Bush who died on November 30th.
USA TODAY

Former President George H.W. Bush was more than just a political career-man  — He was a husband, father and grandfather.

Bush bristled at the term “dynasty” but in fact his family defined the term. He was the son of a senator, Prescott Bush of Connecticut, and the father of Jeb Bush, the two-term governor of Florida, and George W. Bush, the two-term governor of Texas who went on to win two terms as president.

George H.W. and Barbara Bush had six children: George W., Robin, Jeb, Neil, Marvin and Dorothy. All were raised in Texas, first in Odessa and then Houston.

  • The eldest son, George W., was born in 1946, only a year after George H.W. and Barbara Bush were married.
  • The couple’s second child, Robin, was born in 1949. She died from leukemia at age 3 in 1953.
  • Jeb Bush served as the 43rd governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007. He campaigned to be the Republican candidate for president in 2016.
  • Still based in Houston, Neil Bush is a businessman and chairman to the Points of Light Conference on Volunteering and Service.
  • Marvin Bush is the youngest son of George H.W. and Barbara Bush.
  • The youngest of the Bush clan, Dorothy celebrated her father’s legacy in a 2006 book “My Father, My President: A Personal Account of the Life of George H.W. Bush.”

Two of his and the late Barbara Bush’s children would go on to be governors of two of the country’s largest states.

George W. Bush became president less than a decade after his father led the country, and Jeb Bush ran to be the Republican candidate for president in 2016.

The pair is survived by at least 17 grandchildren, several of them involved in public service.

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How Bush’s daughter, Robin, died

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Pauline Robinson “Robin” Bush was born in 1949. She was the couple’s second child. George Walker Bush was born in 1946. 

Robin Bush died from leukemia at age 3 in 1953. She was diagnosed seven months before her death.

The three are depicted in a viral cartoon by Clarion Ledger cartoonist Marshall Ramsey

MORE: 3 things to know about Robin Bush, George H. W. Bush’s daughter who died young

Texas embraces George H.W. Bush

George Bush was in Corpus Christi on June 7, 1978 on a fundraising swing through Texas. Bush was recently retired as the director of the CIA and was fundraising for Republicans across the state. Alfredo Cardenas (right) stands next to him.

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President George H.W. Bush was the youngest Navy pilot when he completed his training at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi.
George H.W. Bush was the youngest pilot trained at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi. This is his graduating class in the June 9, 1943 Corpus Christi Times. Bush is in the top row, sixth from the left.

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George H.W. Bush at Corpus Christi International Airport on Oct. 29, 1980.

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George H.W. Bush in Corpus Christi, October 1980.

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George H.W. Bush stands next to Nelson Rodriguez (right) at the Corpus Christi International Airport on Oct. 29, 1980.

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George Bush in Corpus Christi, 1980.

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George Bush speaks at a press conference at Corpus Christi International Airport on Oct. 29, 1980.

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Vice President George H.W. Bush puts on his best surly face while campaigning for Ronald Reagan in a campaign stop in Corpus Christi in October 1980.

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Vice president George Bush at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi on Oct. 28, 1983.

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George Bush addresses auditorium audience in Corpus Christi in October 1983.

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Vice President George H.W. Bush exclaims

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Vice President George H.W. Bush on the campaign trail in Beeville, Texas on May 31, 1984.

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Vice president George H.W. Bush on the campaign trail in Beeville, Texas on May 31, 1984.

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Vice president George Bush speaks to a crowd in South Texas at the Salinas Ranch in Hebbronville, Texas on Sept. 14, 1985.

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Vice president George Bush

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Vice President George H.W. Bush points out his wife Barbara at the podium as members of the Hebbronville band wave in September 1985.

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Vice president George H.W. Bush at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi in March 1986. He was on a four-day visit to Texas.

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Vice president George Bush waves goodbye to Corpus Christi's Naval Air Station outside the cabin door to Air Force Two on March 4, 1986. He was winding up a four-day visit to Texas.

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Vice President George H.W. Bush speaks at a fundraiser in Corpus Christi in March 1987.

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Vice President George H.W. Bush (center) salutes National Chairman of the American G.I. Forum Mario Diaz (left) as GI Forum founder Dr. Hector P. Garcia looks on. Bush was in town for the national convention of the American GI Forum in August 1988.

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George H.W. Bush in Corpus Christi on Aug. 7, 1988.

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President George H.W. Bush (from left), Rear Admiral Jimmie Taylor, wife Annette Taylor and Corpus Christi Mayor Betty Turner in December 1989. Turner and the Taylors greeted the president as he arrived at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi for a local fishing trip, then a quail hunting trip near Beeville.

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President George H.W. Bush and Secretary of State James Baker show off their catches on San Jose Island in December 1989.
President George H.W. Bush waves to the crowd at NAS-Chase Field before departing for Houston on Air Force One. Bush had been quail hunting and fishing in the area in December 1989.

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President George H.W. Bush hunts for quail in December 1989 at the Lazy F Ranch in Berclair, owned by Will Farish. Photo courtesy Bill Weeks
President George Bush addresses the crowd inside the Bee County Coliseum on Dec. 30, 1989, during the Presidential Appreciation Barbecue prior to his hunting trip in Berclair. Behind him are Jay Kimbrough, Beeville Bush Appreciation dinner co-organizer, left, and Secretary of State James Baker.

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Vice President/President-elect George H.W. Bush tosses a marker after naming the plane

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Chairman of the Texas A&M System Board of Regents, William A. McKenzie (eft), and Texas A&I University President Dr. Manuel L. Ibanez present President George H.W. Bush with a doctoral hood after presenting him an honorary degree medal prior to Bush's commencement address in May 1990.

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President George Bush delivers his commencement address at Texas A&I University on May 11, 1990. Bush stressed America's need to return to the forefront in science and technology and promised to put a man on Mars in the future.

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U.S. President George Bush aves to a handful of well-wishers as he and U.S. Senator Alan Simpson board their plane and leave Naval Air Station Chase Field in Beeville, Texas in December 1991.

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President George Bush during a speech at a barbecue in Beeville, Texas on Dec. 27, 1991.

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George H.W. Bush during a hunting trip near Beeville in 1991. Photo courtesy Bill Weeks.
A sign at the north gate of Naval Air Station Corpus Christi welcoming President George Bush on Dec. 27, 1992.

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Connie Guerra waits to greet President George Bush on Dec. 29, 1992 at the home of Rachel and Rufino Martinez of Berclair, Texas where he usually stops to talk to the residents during his annual quail hunts at the Lazy F Ranch. Guerra and six others waited more than three hours, but the president never showed up.

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President George H.W. Bush greets Corpus Christi Mayor Mary Rhodes at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi in December 1992.

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George H.W. Bush (from left), Will Farish and Bill Weeks rest during a quail hunt at the Lazy F Ranch in this undated photo from Bill Weeks' personal collection.
George Bush poses with Verta Hardegree, when Bush came
Hal Sayles (left), George H.W. Bush, and John Matthews in an undated photo.
Barbara Rollins tabulates voting results for the Bush-Quayle campaign on a blackboard hard while Dave Dalzell and his son Jonathan, 11, watch on Election Day Nov. 8, 1988.
The stage setup at the Abilene Civic Center in July 1984 during the re-election campaign for the Reagan-Bush Administration.
A handout photograph of an early portrait of George H. W. Bush.
George H.W. Bush campaigning for a second term as Vice President in July 1984 at the Abilene Civic Center.
George H.W. Bush campaigning for a second term as Vice President in July 1984 at the Abilene Civic Center.

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The decision by Bush to come to Texas helped set in motion the events that would transform the Lone Star State, which had produced such Democratic lions as Lyndon B. Johnson and Sam Rayburn, into the nation’s largest and most reliably Republican state.

“Barbara and I packed, and I drove my red Studebaker from the Eastern States of our upbringing to the oil fields of West Texas,” Bush recalled about 18 months into his term as president. “And we chose a future that would be uniquely our own. And like most Americans, we were free to live where we pleased, do what we wanted.

Moving first to Midland where he entered the oil business, Bush and his family ultimately settled in Houston where he launched his political career.

He ran for the U.S. Senate from Texas in 1964, but lost in a Democratic landslide led by Johnson’s election to the presidency in his own right. Two years later, Bush ran for and won a seat representing a conservative area of Houston. He held the seat until he made a second run for the Senate, losing this time to Democrat Lloyd Bentsen in 1970.

In his 1990 address to the University of Texas graduates, he seemed to describe his decision to make Texas his home as a stroke of luck.

“But the truly great decisions we make in life are rarely logical or practical,” he told the UT Class of 1990.

“There’s no doubt Bush’s presence in Texas helped give those Democrats permission, if you will, to leave the party of their fathers and find their true home in the Republican Party,” Minutaglio told the USA Today Network in a 2017 interview. “And we are still seeing that influence today.”

The elder Bush won the further endearment of his adopted home state when he parachuted, for the first time after being shot down in the war, on his 75th birthday near his presidential library on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station. He would repeat the feat on his 80th, 85th and 90th birthdays.

One of his last public appearances in Texas was in April for the funeral of Barbara Bush.

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The 41’s presidency

The elder Bush entered the Oval Office with the longest political resume of any president in modern times: congressman. United Nations ambassador. Republican national chairman. U.S. liaison to China. Director of the CIA. 

He lost his first bid for the presidency to Ronald Reagan, the former California governor. He would serve as vice president for eight years until he became president in 1988.

Four years later, Bush would lose the election to Democrat Bill Clinton.

The 1992 campaign was hard-fought. Clinton made the economy his weapon, tapping into many Americans’ economic anxieties. Bush also faced challenges from fellow Texan, H. Ross Perot’s independent campaign.

“We have fought the good fight,” Bush told his supporters on Election Night, “and we’ve kept the faith.”

After his single term in the White House, George and Barbara Bush returned to Houston to make their home. In January 1995, they were in Austin when son George W. Bush was inaugurated as governor. Six years later the son would become president.

Bush’s letter to Clinton

Bush would become close to the man who denied him a second presidential term. At the request of George W. Bush, his father and Clinton worked together to raise money for victims of an Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004. Barbara Bush later said that Clinton grew to see her husband “as the father he never had.”

When it came time for the transition of power, Bush’s words were simple and kind: “You will be our President when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well.”

MORE: A ‘fine letter to be remembered by’: Read George H.W. Bush’s gracious letter to Bill Clinton

Barbara Bush’s death 

Former first lady Barbara Bush, the wife of one president and mother of another, died April 17, 2018.

With her iconic gray hair, quick wit and devotion to her husband of more than 70 years, she became the matriarch of one of the most influential political families of modern times.

Bush had made the decision to discontinue medical treatment for congestive heart failure and lung disease after consulting with her family and friends, Family spokesman McGrath announced. “It will not surprise those who know her that Barbara Bush has been a rock in the face of her failing health, worrying not for herself – thanks to her abiding faith – but for others,” he said.

The Clintons remembered Bush the day of her death as a woman of “grit and grace, brains and beauty.”

“She was fierce and feisty in support of her family and friends, her country and her causes,” former president Bill Clinton said in a statement. “She showed us what an honest, vibrant, full life looks like. Hillary and I mourn her passing and bless her memory.”

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National Day of Mourning 

Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2018 will be declared a National Day of Mourning for former President George H.W. bush.

The public will be able to pay its respects to Bush from 6:30 p.m. Monday to 6 a.m. CT Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.

The cause of George H.W. Bush’s death

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Learn about vascular Parkinsonism the disease former president George H. W. Bush had and the differences between it and Parkinson’s disease.
USA Today Network with contribution from Eric Lacy, National Parkinson Foundation

Former President Bush death comes after a years-long fight against a rare disease called vascular Parkinsonism.

Bush’s battle with vascular Parkinsonism robbed him of his ability to walk, and in recent years made it increasingly difficult for him to speak more than a few words at a time.

The disease’s symptoms are similar as people with Parkinson’s.

In July of 2015, Bush had broken a bone in his neck after a fall in his home in Kennebunkport, Maine. He was also hospitalized for a week in December 2014 in Houston after being admitted for shortness of breath.

Bush has used a wheelchair since 2012. 

The funeral for the 41st president

Bush will lie in state in the United States Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C., after an arrival ceremony will be held for President Bush at 4 p.m. CT Monday.

Legislative leaders said in a statement members of the public may pay their respects from 6:30 p.m. Monday until Wednesday, December 4, at 6 a.m. All times are Central.

“This process may take up to 24 hours,” read an announcement on the official government website. “The final schedule will be announced upon completion of the review.”

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USA Today staff contributed to this report.

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