George H. W. Bush

George H. W. Bush

41st President, 1989-1993

Early Life and Pre-presidency

Vice-presidential portrait of George H.W. Bush Courtesy Library of Congress

Vice-presidential portrait of George H.W. Bush
Courtesy Library of Congress

  • Born George Herbert Walker Bush on June 12, 1924, in Milton, Massachusetts.
  • Parents: Prescott Sheldon Bush and Dorothy Walker. Siblings: Prescott, Jonathan, William “Buck,” and Nancy.
  • Attended Greenwich Country Day School in Greenwich, Connecticut, then Philips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts in 1936, graduating in 1942.
  • Enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1942, becoming its youngest pilot in 1943. He was honorably discharged in September 1945.
  • Married Barbara Pierce on January 6, 1945. Children: George W. (1946–), Robin (1949–1953), John Ellis “Jeb” (1953–), Neil (1955–), Marvin (1956–), and Dorothy “Doro” (1959–).
  • Enrolled at Yale University in 1945 and graduated in 1948.
  • Worked as a salesperson for an oil company in Midland, Texas. He later formed his own oil company in 1950, then moved to Houston, Texas in 1954.
  • Became Chairman of the Republican Party in Harris County in 1964 and ran for a seat in the U.S. Senate but lost. He ran and lost again in 1970.
  • Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1966 and served from 1967 to 1971.
  • Appointed U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations by President Nixon in 1971 and served until 1973.
  • Became Chairman of the Republican National Committee in 1973 and asked for President Nixon’s resignation in light of the Watergate scandal.
  • Appointed Chief of the U.S. Liaison’s Office in the People’s Republic of China by President Gerald Ford in 1973 and served until 1975.
  • Appointed Director of the Central Intelligence Agency in January 1976 and served until January 1977.
  • Campaigned for the Republican Party’s Presidential nomination to the 1980 election but lost to Ronald Reagan. Reagan then asked Bush to be his Vice Presidential running mate. They won and he served as Vice President from1981 to 1989.
  • Nominated as the Republican Party’s presidential candidate in the 1988 election. He won with 53.4% of the popular vote and the majority of the electoral votes.


George Bush with Ronald Reagan, 1981 Courtesy Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation

George Bush with Ronald Reagan, 1981
Courtesy Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation

  • Took his oath of office on January 20, 1989 at the West Front, U.S. Capitol.
  • Imposed limited sanctions on China after the government’s violent crackdown of peace demonstrators in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.
  • Signed the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 in August.
  • Signed the Fair Labor Standards Amendments of 1989 in November, which raised the minimum hourly wage.
  • Met with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in December 1989 in Valetta, Malta to discuss nuclear disarmament. They announced the end of the Cold War.
  • Ordered U.S. troops to invade Panama on December 20, 1989 to capture the country’s military dictator, Manuel Antonio Noriega. Noriega was brought to the U.S. in January 1990 to face charges of drug trafficking and was convicted and sent to prison in April 1992.
  • Signed the Americans with Disabilities Act in July 1990. The law prohibited the discrimination of people with disabilities in employment, public accomodations, and transportation.
  • Condemned the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq on August 2, 1990 and began plans to free Kuwait. After Iraq threatened to invade Saudi Arabia, Bush ordered 400,000 U.S. troops to the country in November.
  • Signed the Immigration Act of 1990 in November. The law increased the admission of aliens to 700,000 a year.
  • Despite promising no new taxes during his term, he signed the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990 on November 5. The law was intended to reduce the budget deficit by raising taxes.
  • On January 17, 1991 Bush gave the go ahead for Operation Desert Storm to liberate Kuwait. The Persian Gulf War began with a U.S.-led airstrike on Iraq, followed by the entry of ground troops into Kuwait from Saudi Arabia. On February 27, 1991, after liberating Kuwait, Bush ordered the end of the offensive.
  • Signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) in Moscow with Gorbachev on July 31, 1991. The treaty required the two countries to reduce their nuclear weapons by 35% and for the Soviet Union to reduce its intercontinental ballistic missiles by 50%.
  • Signed the Civil Rights Act of 1991 in November. The law gave more rights to employees to sue their employers for discriminiation.
  • To address the rising unemployment, signed the Unemployment Compensation Amendments of 1992 in July. The law extended the unemployment coverage to 52 weeks.
  • Ran for re-election in the 1992 but lost to Democrat William J. Clinton.


Bush with Barack Obama, 2010

Bush with Barack Obama, 2010

  • Retired to their home in Houston, Texas.
  • Although he was a Life Member of the National Rifle Association, he resigned his membership after losing his re-election bid due in part to a lack of support from the NRA over his decision to halt the importation of semi-automatic rifles in 1989, and because the NRA had maligned the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in 1992.
  • Serves as honorary Chairman of Points of Light, a non-profit organization established in 1990 whose name was inspired by Bush’s 1989 inaugural address in which he talked about “a thousand points of light.”
  • Awarded an honorary knighthood, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath, by Queen Elizabeth II in 1993.
  • Served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Eisenhower Fellowships from 1993 to 1999.
  • When Bush visited Kuwait in 1993 to commemorate the success of the Gulf War, a plot to assassinate him using a car bomb was discovered. Seventeen suspects were arrested, and when the investigation revealed that the plot originated from Baghdad, Iraq, then President Clinton retaliated by firing 23 cruise missiles at the country’s intelligence service headquarters in Baghdad.
  • Dedicated the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum on November 6, 1997. The building is on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.
  • His eldest son George Bush was elected President of the United States in 2000. They are only one of two fathers and sons to become U.S. President. The first one was John Adams (1797-1801) and John Quincy Adams (1825 to 1829).
  • Delivered a eulogy at the state funeral of President Reagan on June 11, 2004. He served as Reagan’s Vice President prior to being elected President.
  • Appeared with former President Clinton on television in 2004 and 2005 to appeal for donations for the tsunami that hit Indonesia and Thailand and for Hurricane Katrina, respectively.
  • Awarded the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award in February 2007.
  • Visited the People’s Republic of China with his son and then-President George Bush in August 2008. They met with Chinese President Hu Jintao.
  • Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama on February 15, 2011.
  • Awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree by Dartmouth College in 2011.
  • Bush and his wife Barbara are the longest married Presidential couple in U.S. history. They celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary in January 2013.