George H. W. Bush the Forty-First President of the United States

George H.W. Bush
George H.W. Bush. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images News/Getty Images

George Herbert Walker Bush was born on June 12, 1924, in Milton, Massachusetts. He was an oil businessman and politician, serving as Texas congressman, ambassador to the United Nations, CIA director, vice president, and as the 41st president of the United States. He died on November 30, 2018, at the age of 94.

Fast Facts: George H.W. Bush

  • Born: June 12, 1924
  • Died: November 30, 2018
  • Term in Office: January 20, 1989 - January 20, 1993
  • Education: Graduated from Yale University with a degree in economics
  • Spouse: Barbara Bush (nee Pierce)
  • Children: George W. Bush, 43rd President of the U.S., Pauline Robinson (Robin) who died at age three, John F. "Jeb" Bush - Governor of Florida (1999-2007), Neil M. Bush, Marvin P. Bush, and Dorothy W. "Doro" Bush
  • Key Accomplishments: 41st president of the U.S. Enlisted in World War II at the age of 18 and became the youngest aviator at the time. Founded his own oil company in Texas and became a millionaire by the age of 40. U.S. congressman from Texas’ 7th District from 1967-1971. Ambassador to the United Nations and director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Family Ties and Marriage

George H. W. Bush was born to Prescott S. Bush, a wealthy businessman and Senator, and Dorothy Walker Bush. He had three brothers, Prescott Bush, Jonathan Bush, and William "Buck" Bush, and one sister, Nancy Ellis.

On January 6, 1945, Bush married Barbara Pierce. They had been engaged before he went off to serve in World War II. When he returned from the war in late 1944, Barbara dropped out of Smith College. They were married two weeks after his return. Together they had four sons and two daughters: George W. (43rd President of the U.S.), Pauline Robinson (who died at age three), John F. "Jeb" Bush (former governor of Florida), Neil M. Bush, Marvin P. Bush, and Dorothy W. "Doro" Bush. At time of Barbara’s death on April 17, 2018, she and George H.W. had been married for 73 years, making them the longest-married presidential couple in U.S. history.

Of his beloved Barbara, Bush once wrote, “I have climbed perhaps the highest mountain in the world, but even that cannot hold a candle to being Barbara's husband.”

George Bush's Military Service

Before going to college, Bush signed up to join the navy and fight in World War II. He rose to the level of lieutenant. He was a navy pilot flying 58 combat missions in the Pacific. He was injured bailing out of his burning aircraft during a mission and was rescued by a submarine.

Life and Career Before the Presidency

Bush came from a wealthy family and attended private schools. After high school, he joined the Navy to fight in World War II before going to Yale University. He graduated from Yale with honors in 1948, earning a degree in economics.

Bush began his career right out of college working in the oil industry in Texas and created a lucrative career for himself. He became active in the Republican Party. In 1967, he won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1971, he was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. He served as the chairman of the Republican National Committee (1973-74). He was the chief liaison to China under Ford. From 1976-77, he served as the director of the CIA. From 1981-89, he served as vice president under Reagan.

Becoming the President

Bush gained the nomination in 1988 to run for president and chose Dan Quayle to run as vice president. He was opposed by democrat Michael Dukakis. The campaign was extremely negative and centered around attacks instead of plans for the future. Bush won with 54% of the popular vote and 426 out of 537 electoral votes.

Events and Accomplishments of George Bush’s Presidency

Much of George Bush's attention was focused on foreign policies.

  • Invasion of Panama (1989) — Codenamed Operation Just Cause, the invasion was the result of continuing dissatisfaction with the actions of general and dictator Manuel Noriega. His side lost the election but refused to step down. Because of United States interests in the canal zone and Noriega’s shifting allegiance to the Soviet Union, in December 1989, Bush sent troops into Panama to depose General Manuel Noriega. Noriega was heavily involved in drug trafficking. The attack was a success with Noriega removed from power.
  • Persian Gulf War (1990-91) — Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces invaded and occupied Kuwait in August of 1990. Other Middle Eastern states such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia became alarmed and called on the US and other allies to assist. From January to February 1991, a US led coalition fought and defeated the Iraqi forces in Kuwait. This action was given the name Desert Storm. When the Iraqi forces were removed from Kuwait, Bush stopped all military activity and did not pursue deposing Saddam Hussein. Bush’s handling of the invasion in Kuwait is often considered to have been his greatest presidential success.
  • From 1990-91, the Soviet Union began breaking up as the Communist Party let go of its stranglehold on the country. The Berlin Wall came down in 1990.
  • Economically, Bush had boxed himself into a corner with his campaign promise, "Read my lips: No new taxes." However, he was required to sign a bill into law to raise taxes to try and reduce the deficit.
  • Savings and Loan bailout (1989) — At the time considered to be the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Bush signed into law a ​bailout plan paid for by taxpayers.
  • Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska (1989) — The oil tanker hit Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound on March 23rd and subsequently lost 10.8 million gallons of oil. The disaster was further compounded by a slow emergency response and impacted over 1300 miles of coastline.
  • Clean Air Act (1990) — President Bush officially added his support to the Clean Air Act, hastening its long-delayed passage in Congress.
  • Daily Point of Light Award (1990) — Bush created the Daily Point of Light Award to recognize ordinary Americans for taking voluntary action to solve serious social problems in the communities. Over the course of his presidency, Bush recognized 1,020 Daily Points of Light award recipients representing all 50 states who had worked to address problems ranging from childhood AIDS to adult illiteracy and from gang violence to homelessness. Today, the Points of Light organization continues to award Daily Point of Light recognition annually. The 5,000th Daily Point of Light Award was awarded by President Barack Obama on July 15, 2013.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) — A civil rights law designed to grant similar protections as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to people with disabilities.

Life After the Presidency

After losing the 1992 election to Bill Clinton, Bush largely retired from public service. When his eldest son, George W. Bush won the presidency in 2000, Bush Sr. made frequent public appearances in support of his son and many political and social causes. In 2005, he joined with former president Clinton to raise funds for the victims of Hurricane Katrina which devastated the Gulf Coast region in 2005. In a matter of months, the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund raised more than $100 million in donations.

In 2011, President Barack Obama honored Bush by awarding him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

Death

Suffering from Parkinson's disease since 2012, Bush died at his home in Houston, Texas on November 30, 2018, at age 94. In a statement issued from the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, President Donald Trump praised Bush’s leadership and accomplishments. “Through his essential authenticity, disarming wit, and unwavering commitment to faith, family and country, President Bush inspired generations of his fellow Americans to public service—to be, in his words, ‘a thousand points of light,’” the statement read in part.Former President George H.W. Bush will be buried on the grounds of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas, next to Barbara and their long-lost daughter, Robin, who died at age three.

Historical Significance

Bush was president when the Berlin Wall fell, and the Soviet Union fell apart. He sent troops into Kuwait to help fight Iraq and Saddam Hussein in the First Persian Gulf War. In 1989, he also ordered the removal of General Noriega from power in Panama by sending troops in.

 George H W Bush Quotes

  • "Appeasement does not work. As was the case in the 1930s, we see in Saddam Hussein an aggressive dictator threatening his neighbors."
  • “I think the 24-hour news cycle has helped exaggerate the differences between the parties. You can always find someone on TV somewhere carping about something. That didn't happen 20 years ago.”
  • “I do not like broccoli. And I haven't liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I'm President of the United States and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli.”

Updated by Robert Longley