George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st President of the United States has passed away at the age of 94. The former president died at his home in Houston, Texas. His passing was announced by his son and former President George W. Bush. My father was “a man of the highest character” the younger Bush’s statement read.
In addition to the former president, Bush is survived by three sons, Jeb, Neil and Marvin; his daughter Dorothy; his brother Jonathan; his sister Nancy; seventeen grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.
His wife of 73 years and family matriarch, Barbara, died earlier this year after a lengthy battle with multiple ailments in the later part of her life.
Bush’s departure from the White House in 1993 capped a remarkable 40-year career in public service. Bush enlisted in the Navy on his eighteenth birthday and served during WWII. He flew combat missions over the Pacific and was shot down in September 1944. He survived, floating on a raft for hours and eventually being rescued by a submarine. Two other men on the plane did not survive. The incident earned him a Distinguished Flying Cross.
After returning home later that year, he married Barbara Pierce and through a family friend, entered the oil business. He would become a millionaire within years.
Bush would go on to amass one of the most impressive resumes of any American political figure, serving as a congressman from Texas, an ambassador to the UN, chairman of the Republican National Committee, U.S. envoy to China, CIA Director, vice president under Ronald Reagan and president.
Barbara Bush would once say teasingly of her husband’s career, “One thing I can say about George … he may not be able to keep a job, but he’s not boring.”
Bush’s political career came to an end when his bid for reelection failed in 1992. Bush lost to a Democratic governor from Arkansas, Bill Clinton.
Bush was stung by the defeat but that pain was tempered a little bit in subsequent years as Bush would go on to become a respected political elder, forging an unlikely friendship with Clinton, the man who defeated him in the 1992 campaign.
Bush will be remembered for his deft handling of foreign policy, as he oversaw the end of the Cold War, guiding the country and the world through the end of that conflict with no outbreak of hostilities. His building of a coalition to take on Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in the first Persian Gulf War has also been widely revered.
Domestic policy was Bush’s weakness however as he raised taxes in 1990, breaking one of the most famous political promises ever made in the U.S – “Read my lips: no new taxes.” Bush made that promise during the 1988 presidential campaign but struck a budget deal with Democrats in 1990 to raised taxes on the wealthy. The tax hike was necessary to reign in ballooning national debt. Influential conservatives however never forgave him.
“It did destroy me,” Bush would tell a biographer years later, speaking of the promise.
President Trump has sent Air Force One to carry Bush back to Washington, D.C., where it will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol before a memorial service at the National Cathedral. A second memorial service will follow at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston. Bush’s body will eventually be laid to rest at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas.
Photo by AJ Guel via Wikimedia Commons