Wednesday, September 10, 2014

10 Fun Facts About George H. W. Bush

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George Bush, the 41st President of the United States

1. George Herbert Walker Bush was born in Massachusetts in 1924, but grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut.  His father, Prescott Bush, was a prominent banker who entered politics and became a U.S. Senator in the 1950's.

2. Attending high school at the prestigious Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, Bush was a standout student and athlete, lettering in both baseball and soccer.  After graduating in the spring of 1942, Bush immediately joined the Navy's air service where, at just 18 years of age, he was the Navy's youngest aviator at the time of his enlistment.

3. As a naval aviator, Bush saw action in World War II in the Pacific theater, serving in the Battle of the Philippine Sea, which was one of the largest aerial battles of the war.  Stationed aboard the USS San Jacinto, Bush flew a total of 58 combat missions in torpedo bombers and received multiple medals and citations, including the Distinguished Flying Cross.

4. After returning from the war in 1945, Bush married Barbara Pierce and they eventually had six children.  Following his marriage, he began attending Yale, where he graduated in less than three years, earning a degree in economics.  He captained the Yale baseball team during his time there, and played in two College World Series.

5. After graduating from Yale, Bush began working for an oil company in Texas, and by 1951 had started his own oil exploration company.  A few years later, he helped start another oil company, Zapata Petroleum Corporation, and became the company's president.  By the early 1960's, Bush was a millionaire and had begun getting involved in local politics in Texas, serving in Houston as the chairman of the Harris County Republican Party.

6. In 1964, Bush ran for his first public office, attempting to win a seat in the U.S. Senate, like his father before him.  He lost badly to the incumbent Democrat, but won election to the U.S. House of Representatives two years later, becoming the first Republican to represent the Houston district in Washington.  He served two terms in the House before trying again in 1970 for the U.S. Senate.  He was again defeated and instead took an appointment by president Richard Nixon to become an ambassador to the United Nations.  Later, after serving as the director of the CIA for a year under Gerald Ford, Bush temporarily retired from politics in 1977, returning to Houston to serve as a bank chairman and to teach part-time at Rice University.

7. During the 1980 presidential primary season, Bush ran for the Republican nomination.  He gained a lot of momentum and national attention when he won the season's first contest in Iowa, defeating the presumed front-runner, Ronald Reagan, by a slim margin.  Reagan, however, surged back in the following weeks, and Bush eventually dropped out of the race.  After Reagan won the nomination later that year at the party's national convention, he named Bush as his running mate.

8. Bush served as vice-president under Reagan for the next 8 years, before running for president again in 1988 after Reagan's two terms were finished.  This time, he easily won the Republican nomination, and, following a bitter campaign against Democrat Michael Dukakis, won the presidency by a comfortable margin.  He became the first sitting vice-president since Martin Van Buren to be elected to the presidency (a span of more than 150 years).

9. Bush's presidency was primarily notable for the first Gulf War, in which the U.S. drove Iraqi forces out of oil-rich Kuwait, which Iraq had invaded in the summer of 1990.  Though the military operation was successful, Bush's popularity began to wane in the last half of his term, as people felt he had not finished the job with Iraq, leaving Saddam Hussein in power.  He was also widely criticized for breaking a prominent campaign promise about raising taxes.  Faced with an uphill battle for reelection in 1992 against a young, charismatic Bill Clinton, and a prominent third party candidate in fellow Texan Ross Perot, Bush lost his reelection bid.  To date, it was the last time a sitting president failed to win reelection.

10. After his presidency, Bush retired to his home in Houston, and in the years since, he has seen his oldest son, George W. Bush, serve two terms as president, as well as another son, Jeb Bush, serve as governor of Florida.  In 1999, he and his wife Barbara became the longest-married presidential couple in history, surpassing John and Abigail Adams.  Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn are roughly 18 months behind them.  The Bushes spend their time between their homes in Maine and Texas.    

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