Last Friday, November 30, George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st president of the United States, died in Houston at the age of 94. He served one term as president, from 1989 to 1993. He and his son George W. Bush, who became president in 2001, were the second father and son to serve as president. The only other father and son who both became president were John Adams and John Quincy Adams, who held office from 1797 to 1801 and from 1825 to 1829, respectively.
As president, George H. W. Bush led the nation during the Persian Gulf War of 1991 , in which the United States and its allies defeated Iraq, whose forces had invaded Kuwait. He also signed important arms-control agreements with the Soviet Union and, after it broke apart in 1991, with Russia and other former Soviet republics. Prior to his election as president, Bush had been a successful oil company executive and had served a long career in government service.
Bush was born on June 12, 1924, in Milton, Massachusetts. Bush served as a U.S. Navy pilot during World War II (1939-1945). On Sept. 2, 1944, Bush’s plane was shot down during an attack on a Japanese-held island. Before parachuting from his plane, Bush scored damaging hits on his target, a radio station. Bush was rescued from the ocean, but his two crew members did not survive. Bush received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroism in the incident. He returned to flying after being shot down.
On Jan. 6, 1945, Bush and Barbara Pierce were married. They were to become the longest-wedded couple in the history of the U.S. presidency, celebrating their 73rd wedding anniversary in January 2018. The couple had six children—George; Robin, who died of leukemia; John, called Jeb; Neil; Marvin; and Dorothy. Their son George was governor of Texas from 1995 to 2000 before serving as U.S. president from 2001 to 2009. Jeb Bush was governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007.
In 1945, Bush graduated from Yale University with a bachelor’s degree in economics. He then worked in the oil industry, becoming president of the Zapata Off-Shore Oil Company in 1954. Bush’s career as an independent oilman made him wealthy.
Bush became interested in politics in the late 1950’s. A Republican, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1966 and was reelected in 1968. In 1970, President Richard M. Nixon appointed Bush U.S. ambassador to the United Nations (UN). He served until 1973. He was the U.S. envoy to Communist China in 1974 and 1975 and head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1976 and 1977.
In 1980, Ronald Reagan, the Republican Party candidate for president of the United States, chose Bush as his running mate. Reagan and Bush defeated their Democratic opponents, President Jimmy Carter and Vice President Walter Mondale. In the 1984 presidential election, Reagan and Bush won a landslide victory over their Democratic opponents, former Vice President Walter Mondale and Representative Geraldine Ferraro.
Bush won the Republican presidential nomination in 1988. He chose as his running mate Senator Dan Quayle of Indiana. In his acceptance speech at the Republican convention in August, Bush called on the United States to become a “kinder, gentler nation.” In November, Bush and Quayle defeated their Democratic opponents, Governor Mike Dukakis and Senator Lloyd Bentsen.
Bush and Quayle ran for reelection in 1992 but lost to their Democratic opponents, Governor Bill Clinton and Senator Al Gore.
After leaving the White House, Bush became active with charitable organizations and helped raise several million dollars for various causes. In 2005, President George W. Bush appointed his father and former President Bill Clinton to lead relief efforts for victims of natural disasters n the United States and other parts of the world.
In his later years, George H. W. Bush often used a wheelchair. Even so, in 2014 he celebrated his 90th birthday by skydiving!
To learn more about each of our 45 presidents or about the duties of the office, check out America's Presidents from World Book!