Former President George H.W. Bush, who presided over the end of the Cold War and became only the second president to father another president, George W. Bush, has died. He was 94.
“Jeb, Nell, Marvin, Doro, and I are saddened to announce that after 94 remarkable years, our dear Dad has died,” George W. Bush said in a statement released Friday night. “George H. W. Bush was a man of the highest character, and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for. The entire Bush family is deeply grateful for 41’s life and love, for the compassion of those who have cared and prayed for Dad, and for the condolences of our friends and fellow citizens.”
Since at least 2012, Bush had been confined to a wheelchair due to vascular parkinsonism, a form of Parkinson’s disease.
The former president’s death comes just months after the passing of his wife Barbara Bush, who died in April.
Bush was born June 12, 1924 to Connecticut senator and Wall Street banker Prescott Sheldon Bush and Dorothy Walker in Milton, Massachusetts. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Bush enlisted in the Navy on his 18th birthday, going on to become a distinguished pilot with 58 combat missions to his name during World War II. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery in action and honorably discharged in 1945.
After leaving the Navy, Bush enrolled at Yale University, where he was president of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity and captain of the baseball team. He also married his high school sweetheart Barbara Pierce, with whom he would go on to have five children.
Bush’s post-graduation career in the oil industry earned him a fortune, but his aspirations would turn political in the ’60s. Following early victories in local Texas elections, Bush was appointed by president Richard Nixon to ambassador to the United Nations in 1971 and chairman of the Republican National Committee in 1973. Nixon’s successor, Gerald Ford, named Bush CIA director in 1976.
In 1980, Bush campaigned for the Republican nomination for President of the United States, but was defeated by frontrunner Ronald Reagan in a number of key primaries. In an attempt to unify the party against Democratic incumbent Jimmy Carter, Reagan selected Bush as his running mate.
Reagan and Bush unseated Carter in a landslide in November 1980, and Bush was given responsibility in domestic areas including federal deregulation and anti-drug programs.
Early on in his second term as vice president, Bush began planning a second bid for the Oval Office in 1988. After defeating Bob Dole, Jack Kemp, Pete DuPont and conservative Christian televangelist Pat Robertson in the Republican primary, Bush and his running mate, Indiana Sen. Dan Quayle, defeated Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis with 53 percent of the vote and a still-unmatched margin in the electoral college.
Bush was inaugurated in 1989, and faced a number of historic moments during his term, including the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the first Gulf War in 1990, and the invasion of Panama to overthrow the corrupt regime of General Manuel Noriega. But he also faced rising unemployment and a struggling economy.
Despite high approval ratings, Bush was defeated by then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton in the 1992 presidential election.
The Bush political dynasty would continue with his kids, including George W. Bush, who served as the 43rd President of the United States from 2001 to 2009. George and Barbara Bush’s second son, John Ellis “Jeb” Bush, served as Florida governor for two terms and made his own bid for president in 2016.
George H.W. Bush is survived by five children, 14 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.