June 12th, 2020

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George H. W. Bush's Birthday

George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st President of the United States was born June 12, 1924, 96 years ago today. Sadly he passed away on November 30, 2018 at the age of 94. In those 94 years he lived a full and amazing life. Besides being President, he was a war hero, captained a baseball team in two world series, served as a congressman, an ambassador, Director of the CIA, and Vice-President. He was a father, grandfather and a great-grandfather and was the last living former President to be a veteran of World War II. He had a very active retirement, celebrating his 90th birthday with a "Crazy Socks Party" at his Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Texas and also by jumping out of an airplane. His last year was a challenging one, with the passing of the love of his life, former first lady Barbara Bush, who died on April 17, 2018.



The first President Bush was born in Milton, Massachusetts. His parents were Senator Prescott Bush and Dorothy Walker Bush. he was raised in Connecticut, the state his father represented in the senate. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, George H. Bush postponed college and enlisted in the U.S. Navy on his 18th birthday. He became the youngest aviator in the U.S. Navy at the time and served until the end of the war. In the war he piloted a Grumman TBM Avenger and on September 2, 1944, his aircraft was hit by flak and his engine caught on fire. Despite his plane being on fire, Bush completed his mission, then flew several miles before he and one other crew member bailed out of the aircraft. Bush waited for four hours in an inflated raft, until he was rescued by the lifeguard submarine USS Finback.

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When he returned home from the war he attended Yale University. He was Captain of the Yale baseball team that played in two college world series. Graduating in 1948, he moved his family to West Texas and entered the oil business, becoming a millionaire by the age of 40. He became involved in politics soon after founding his own oil company. He served as a member of the House of Representatives from 1967 to 1971 and as Ambassador to the UN fro, 1971 to 1973 and Director of the CIA from 1976 to 77. In 1974 as Chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC) he was the one who asked Richard Nixon to resign as President.

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Bush ran for the Republican nomination for President in 1980, finishing second to Ronald Reagan. But he was chosen by Reagan to be his running mate, and the ticket was elected twice. In 1988, Bush ran a successful campaign to succeed Reagan as President, defeating Democratic opponent Michael Dukakis. Foreign policy was the main focus of his presidency. Military operations were conducted in Panama and in the Persian Gulf where he led a coalition during the First Gulf War. The Berlin Wall fell in 1989, and the Soviet Union dissolved two years later.

Domestically, President Bush suffered a major setback when he had to go back on a 1988 campaign promise (in which he famously said "read my lips, no new taxes!") and after a struggle with Congress, he signed a tax increase that Congress passed. In spite of record high approval ratings after the First Iraq War, he was hurt by a weak recovery from an economic recession, along with continuing budget deficits, and he lost the 1992 presidential election to Democrat Bill Clinton.

George H. W. Bush left office in 1993, but remained active in a number of humanitarian pursuits. His presidential library was dedicated in 1997. I visited there in 2012 and highly recommend it to anyone who visits the Houston area. His eldest son, George Walker Bush, later served as the 46th Governor of Texas from 1995 to 2000 and as the 43rd President of the United States from 2001 to 2009. George H. W. Bush and John Adams are the only two presidents to have a child who later became president. His second son, Jeb Bush, served as the 43rd Governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007.



In early 2017, Bush experienced some health issues. He sent a letter to president-elect Donald Trump in January 2017, to inform him that he would not be able to attend Trump's inauguration on January 20, and gave his best wishes. On January 18, he was admitted to the intensive care unit at Houston Methodist Hospital, where he was sedated for a procedure to treat an acute respiratory problem stemming from pneumonia. He was later discharged on January 30th, after surgery successfully removed a blockage from his lungs. On April 14, 2017, Bush was admitted to the hospital in Houston with a recurrence of pneumonia and was released from hospital two weeks later.

On November 25, 2017, Bush became the longest-lived U.S. president when he surpassed the 93 years and 165 days lifespan of Gerald Ford. On April 22, 2018, the day after his wife's funeral, Bush was hospitalized with a blood infection, which led to sepsis. One month later, he was briefly hospitalized again, after experiencing fatigue and low blood pressure.

His death was announced by his son, George W. Bush, who released a statement, on behalf of himself and his siblings, saying:

"Jeb, Neil, Marvin, Doro, and I are saddened to announce that after 94 remarkable years, our dear Dad has died. George H.W. Bush was a man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for. The entire Bush family is deeply grateful for 41's life and love, for the compassion of those who have cared and prayed for Dad, and for the condolences of our friends and fellow citizens."
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Presidents in Their Youth: George H. W. Bush

Prescott Bush was a Wall Street investment banker who was born in Ohio in 1895 and who served as a Republican Senator representing Connecticut from 1952 to 1963. He married Dorothy Wear Walker on August 6, 1921, in Kennebunkport, Maine and together the couple had five children, four sons and one daughter. Their second oldest child, George Herbert Walker Bush grew up to be President of the United States. He was born on June 12, 1924 in Milton, Massachusetts. He was named after his maternal grandfather, George Herbert Walker, who was the manager of the Wall Street investment bank W. A. Harriman & Co. (today known as Brown Brothers Harriman.) Dorothy Bush's father, for whom golf's Walker Cup is named, was called "Pop" and his namesake grandson was soon called "Poppy" to distinguish the two. Many of these accounts of presidents in their youth tell the story of men who rose from rags to riches. This narrative does not apply to the 41st President. He skipped the rags part.

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In 1926 Prescott Bush moved his family to Greenwich, Connecticut. He took a job as an executive with US Rubber in New York City. Prescott Bush had amassed a number of powerful connections, many of which stemmed from the legendary Skull and Bones club at his alma mater, Yale University. He was going places in the corporate world and soon he left US Rubber to join his father-in-law's investment bank. In 1931 the firm would merge with Brown Brothers to form Brown Brothers Harriman. Prescott Bush was one of 19 founding partners in the firm.

The Bush family were High Church Episcopalians. Prescott Bush loved to sing and had once founded a glee club. Their son Poppy was more interested in sports, and proved to be very athletic. In 1937 George H. Bush followed the example of his older brother Prescott Jr., who he admired, and he chose to enroll in Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. There he excelled in baseball and soccer and became the captain of both school teams. He was said to have had a strong competitive nature like his father. (Prescott Bush refused to let President Dwight Eisenhower win when the two men went golfing together.) George H. Bush was elected to be president of his senior class and was also on the editorial board of the school newspaper, the Phillipian. He chaired the annual campus charity drive as well. Bush suffered a setback in his senior year when he nearly died from a staph infection in his right arm. He was hospitalized for a long period of time.

Being born wealthy did not seem to make George H. Bush feel self-entitled, and his mother is credited for this. She was said to have preached the value of not being self-centered and to have taught him to give credit to others. From his father, he was taught the importance of service. Prescott Bush had joined the US Army in 1917 when the US entered the First World War and he saw action with the American Expeditionary Force in France. After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, George H. Bush enlisted as soon as he turned 18 in June of 1942, following his high school graduation. Secretary of War Henry Stimson had been the graduation guest speaker at Andover that year and he was encouraging the class to stay in school, but this did not deter the 41st President. He signed up to become an aviator, earning his wings in 1943 and becoming the youngest pilot in the US Navy.

On a Christmas break, Bush met Barbara Pierce at a country club dance. She was home from the girls' school she was attending in Charleston, South Carolina. Her parents were Marvin and Pauline Pierce. Marvin was a director of McCall's Publishing Company, and she became the "girl back home" that Bush wrote letters to when he was sent overseas to join the Pacific Theater of the war.

Bush was trained in photographic intelligence by the navy. He flew a torpedo bomber that was also equipped with cameras. His first bombing mission took place in May of 1944, flying from an aircraft carrier called the San Jacinto. Following the capture of Guam in August of 1944, Bush's squadron was assigned the task of taking out a Japanese radio transmission center on the island of Chichi Jima in order to prevent Japanese communication of the movement of US forces. On September 2, 1944, Bush flew his Avenger into Japanese anti-aircraft fire. His plane was hit and the cockpit of his aircraft filled with smoke, but a determined pilot was able to drop his payload of bombs before heading back to the San Jacinto. Not being able to make it, he and his two crew mates bailed out of the plane. Bush his his head on the tail of the plan and ripped his parachute. He fell 2000 feet into the Pacific, but somehow managed to escape injury. Another pilot saw him in the water, enabling his rescue by a submarine before approaching Japanese ships could get to him.

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Bush's crewmates were not as fortunate. He blamed himself for their loss, stating in a letter to his parents, "I feel so terribly responsible for their fate." Although he could have asked to be sent home, he chose to return to his ship instead, and flew another eight missions before going back in November of 1944. By that time he had flown 58 missions.

After he returned, he married Barbara Pierce on January 6, 1945. He was mustered out of the service after the Japanese surrender in August of 1945. George H. Bush was 20 years old, married, and had been awarded a distinguished flying cross, and two gold stars. He returned to Yale where he would play first base for the school's baseball team and play in the first two College World Series. He modestly described himself as "all glove, no hit" referring to the fact that he was a better fielder than a hitter. He joined the Skull and Bones society, but was instrumental in convincing the club to break its color barrier and allow African-American members to join.

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On July 6, 1946, George and Barbara Bush welcomed their first child into the world, a baby boy that they named George Walker Bush.