Biography of President George H.W. Bush
- Grades: 3–5, 6–8, 9–12
George Herbert Walker Bush was born on June 12, 1924, in Milton, Massachusetts, to Dorothy Walker Bush and Prescott Bush (Republican Senator from Connecticut, 1952 to 1962).
Mr. Bush graduated from Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts on his 18th birthday, June 12, 1942. That same day, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy as a Seaman 2nd Class. Receiving his wings and commission in June 1943 while still 18 years old, he was the youngest pilot in the Navy at that time.
On active duty from August 1942 to September 1945 during World War II, Mr. Bush flew torpedo bombers off the USS San Jacinto. On September 2, 1944, Mr. Bush's plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire while making a bombing run over the Bonin Island of Chichi Jima, 600 miles south of Japan. Although the plane was afire and severely damaged, he completed his strafing run on the targeted Japanese installation before flying towards sea to bail out. Mr. Bush was able to bail out successfully and was rescued by a Navy submarine, the USS Finback. Tragically, his two crew members were killed. For his courageous service in the Pacific Theater, Mr. Bush was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and three Air Medals.
On January 6, 1945, George married Barbara Pierce of Rye, New York. Today they are the parents of five children: George, John (Jeb), Neil, Marvin, and Dorothy Bush Koch. Their second child, Robin, died of leukemia in 1953. The Bushes have 15 grandchildren and one great grandchild.
Following World War II, Mr. Bush entered Yale University, where he pursued a degree in economics and served as captain of the varsity baseball team. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1948.
After his graduation, George and Barbara Bush moved to Texas, where he worked as an oil field supply salesman for Dresser Industries. In 1951, he co-founded a small royalty firm, The Bush-Overbey Oil Development Company. Two years later he co-founded the Zapata Petroleum Corporation. In 1954, at the age of 30, he became co-founder and president of a third firm, Zapata Off-Shore. Zapata pioneered in experimental offshore drilling equipment.
Following an unsuccessful bid for a Senate seat in 1964, Mr. Bush was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1966 from Texas'7th District. One of the few freshman members of Congress ever elected to serve on the Ways and Means Committee, he was reelected to the House two years later without opposition. Mr. Bush lost a second campaign for the Senate in 1970.
During the 1970s, Mr. Bush held a number of important leadership positions. In 1971, he was named U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. He served there until 1973, when he became Chairman of the Republican National Committee. In October 1974, Mr. Bush traveled to Peking, where he served as Chief of the U.S. Liaison Office during the critical period when the United States was renewing ties with the People's Republic of China. In 1976, Mr. Bush was appointed Director of Central Intelligence. He is given credit for strengthening the intelligence community and helping to restore morale at the CIA while director of the agency.
In 1980, Ronald Reagan selected George Bush to be his running mate. On January 20, 1981, Mr. Bush was sworn in for the first of two terms as Vice President. In that office, Mr. Bush coordinated Administration efforts to combat international terrorism and wage the international war on drugs. Vice President Bush also piloted a task force on regulatory relief aimed at reducing government and increasing American competitiveness.
In 1988, George Bush became his Party's nominee and the American people's choice to be the 41st President of the United States.
President Bush's leadership proved critical to the resolution of some of the most daunting conflicts of our time. After 40 years of superpower stalemate, historic events became almost commonplace: the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany; the end of the Cold War and the flowering of democracy in Eastern Europe; the emergence of a new partnership with Russia, anchored by the historic arms reduction treaties, START I and START II — the first-ever agreements to dismantle and destroy strategic weapons since the advent of the nuclear age.
On the international economic front, President Bush sought to seize new opportunities through a policy of free trade, pushing to lower trade restrictions and tariff barriers in the GATT talks. In the Northern hemisphere, Mr. Bush's free trade efforts culminated in the Enterprise for the Americas Initiative and the North American Free Trade Agreement.
With the passing of the Cold War came new challenges. Seeking to demonstrate the post-Cold War possibilities for collective security, President Bush marshaled a 30-nation coalition to oppose Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. Desert Storm stands as a testament to presidential leadership and American resolve in an uncertain and often dangerous world.
On the domestic front, the Bush Administration pushed new ideas for educational reform, home ownership, and environmental protection. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) legislation paved new ground for aiding the disadvantaged, and the revision of the Clean Air Act was deemed to be the most significant environmental legislation ever passed.
The President and Mrs. Bush are residents of Kennebunkport, Maine and Houston, Texas, and serve on the Board of Visitors of M.D. Anderson Hospital. They are members of St. Martin's Episcopal Church, where President Bush was a former vestryman. He is currently on the board of the Episcopal Church Foundation and serves on the vestry of St. Ann's Episcopal Church in Kennebunkport, Maine.