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Obituary: George H.W. Bush, 41st President And Father Of A President

George H.W. Bush helped reshape the landscape of Texas politics and transform Houston into a hub of international trade.

This file photo shows former President George H.W. Bush while he was hospitalized in Houston shortly after the passing of his wife Barbara earlier this year.

George Herbert Walker Bush, the nation’s 41st president and father of the nation’s 43rd president, died on Friday, November 30, 2018, at the age of 94. Bush spent much of his professional life either in Washington, D.C. or traveling the world in government service. But he was a Houstonian at heart.

“We had a beautiful home on Briar Drive, with a big, giant yard in the back,” says Neil Bush, the third son of the former president and the chairman of the non-profit Points of Light. The family moved to Houston from Midland, Texas in 1959, when Neil Bush was four and his father was building his career in the oil industry.

“My dad became active in local politics when he became the precinct chairman and then the party chairman for Harris County,” Neil Bush says. “So he rose through the ranks of being involved in politics at the local grassroots level.”

George Bush entered Texas politics at a time when Democrats dominated the landscape. After an unsuccessful 1964 Senate campaign, Bush won a seat in Congress two years later, representing Texas’ 7th district in West Houston.

 

 

Chase Untermeyer volunteered for Bush in that first congressional race and went on to work for him in several offices through the end of his presidency.

“George Bush represented a new wave of Texas,” Untermeyer says. “That is, not only was he a Republican, but he did represent a fresh approach to politics, completely divorced from the old cronyism and corruption of the longtime Democratic establishment that existed in Austin.”

That fresh approach included a willingness to advocate for civil rights.

“Dad, I remember, in 1968 came back to Houston to address a very raucous crowd,” Neil Bush says. “He had voted for the open housing laws, and his justification was that if men of color, if African Americans and Latinos were going to fight for our country, they should have the same access and rights to housing as other people. His constituents, many of them, were irate, and so he addressed the crowd at a particular gathering that we all attended. And he did it with such dignity.”

After a second run for the Senate in 1970, George Bush served as U.N. Ambassador and chairman of the Republican National Committee under President Nixon, then as U.S. envoy to China and CIA director under President Ford. And after seven years as Ronald Reagan’s vice president, Bush came home to Houston to launch his own quest for the White House.

“And when I thought about what we’re to say, what I’m about to say, there was really only one choice where to say it. I had to come here, to my home, to Texas,” Bush said at the time.

As president, Bush brought the world to Houston’s door. He chose his hometown as the host city for the 1990 G-7 summit and the 1992 Republican national convention. He negotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which transformed Houston into a major hub of international trade. And when he lost his bid for reelection, it was to Houston that he returned to, as he put it, “get very active in the grandchild business.”

“I don’t know if you’ve been over to the George Bush Memorial over there,” says his grandson, Pierce Bush.“But there’s a quote there from, I believe it’s from 1997, and it basically says, ‘The titles that I still have are the ones that are the most important: Father, Husband, Grandfather, and Friend.’ And as far as I can note for the record here, he really lived out that quote.”

George H.W. Bush was one of only two American presidents to also be the father of a president – the other was John Adams, father of John Quincy Adams. In addition to his son Neil, he is survived by his three other sons – former President George W. Bush, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and Marvin Bush – and by his daughter Dorothy Bush Koch, as well as more than a dozen grandchildren. He will be buried on the grounds of the Bush Presidential Library in College Station, where his wife Barbara and daughter Robin already rest.

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media’s coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas delegations in the U.S. House and Senate, as well as the Texas governorship, the state legislature, and county and city governments. Before taking up his current post, Andrew...

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