George Herbert Walker Bush was born in Milton, Massachusetts, on June 12, 1924. His parents, Prescott Sheldon Bush and Dorothy Walker Bush, moved the family to Greenwich, Connecticut, when George was a young boy. His family was wealthy but his parents raised their children to be modest, stressing the importance of public service and giving back to society. An investment banker, Prescott Bush later became a Republican senator from Connecticut, serving from 1952 until 1963.
Bush left home as a teenager to attend Phillips Academy Andover, an exclusive boarding school in Massachusetts. At Andover, Bush was captain of the baseball and soccer teams, and the senior class president. He graduated on his eighteenth birthday in 1942. That same day, he enlisted in the United States Navy.
He served in the Navy during World War II from 1942 until September 1945. When he became a pilot in July 1943, he was the youngest pilot in the Navy. He flew torpedo bombers in the Pacific theater and went on fifty-eight combat missions during the war. On September 2, 1944, while flying a mission to bomb an enemy radio site, his plane was shot down by Japanese fire; Bush bailed out over the ocean. He was rescued by a submarine a short time later and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism under fire. While still in the Navy, Bush married Barbara Pierce on January 6, 1945, in Rye, New York. He met her in 1941 during the Christmas holidays at a country club dance in Greenwich. They went on to have six children.
Bush was discharged from the Navy in September 1945 and enrolled at Yale University. He was part of a surge of World War II veterans who flooded colleges and universities after the war. He completed an undergraduate degree in economics on an accelerated program that allowed him to graduate by 1948. At Yale, he was active and involved on campus, playing baseball and eventually becoming captain of the team. He was also a member of the Skull and Bones society, an exclusive secret society on campus.
After graduation, Bush chose to go out on his own. Rather than stay in the Northeast, Bush moved with his wife and young son to Midland, Texas, where he began working in the oil industry as a salesperson for Dresser Industries, which was owned by an old family friend. In 1950, Bush and a friend formed an oil development company in Midland. Three years later, they merged with another company to create Zapata Petroleum. In 1954, Bush became president of a subsidiary, Zapata Off-Shore Company, which developed offshore drilling equipment. He soon relocated the company and his family to Houston, Texas.
Like his father, Prescott Bush, who was elected a Senator from Connecticut in 1952, George became interested in public service and politics. In 1964, Bush ran for a U.S. Senate seat against incumbent Democratic Senator Ralph Yarborough. Bush ran a hard campaign but struggled against charges of being a carpetbagger from the North. He also faced an uphill battle running as a Republican in Texas because of the strength of the local Democratic Party. In November, Democrat Lyndon Johnson of Texas was overwhelmingly elected President, and Yarborough defeated Bush by a margin of 1,463,958 to 1,134,337.
In 1966, Bush ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives from Houston's Seventh district. Running as a moderate Republican, he won the election with more than fifty percent of the vote. He was reelected in 1968. In Congress, Bush gained a seat on the coveted Ways and Means Committee, which was rare for a freshman congressman. He supported the Vietnam War and voted for parts of President Johnson's Great Society program, including the Civil Rights Bill of 1968 to outlaw discrimination in housing, a courageous vote for a congressman from Texas.
After serving two terms in the House, Bush eyed another run for the Senate in 1970. Bush ran against Lloyd Bentsen, a conservative Democrat. Since the Democratic Party was still very strong in Texas and Bush and Bentsen did not differ greatly on the issues, Bush again lost the election.
In December 1970, President Richard Nixon nominated Bush as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Critics opposed the nomination because Bush lacked foreign policy experience but the Senate confirmed him. Bush was not part of the Nixon administration's inner circle, which undercut his effectiveness at the United Nations. Nonetheless, he used his tenure to continue to make influential friends within the U.S. government and throughout the foreign policy establishment. The ambassador relished his person-to-person contacts with foreign envoys and began assembling his legendary rolodex that would serve him well in the years to come.
President Ford appointed Bush as the U.S. envoy to the People's Republic of China. Because the United States did not yet have full diplomatic relations with China, Bush served as chief of the U.S. Liaison's Office instead of as ambassador. China offered the Bushes a respite from Washington, but they stayed only two years. They returned to the United States in 1975 when President Ford asked Bush to serve as the new director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The CIA was emerging from a controversial period in its history and needed a strong, effective leader to improve morale and reform the agency. By most accounts, Bush was a popular director and able administrator. After Ford lost the 1976 presidential election to Jimmy Carter, Bush offered to stay on as director of the CIA but Carter declined his offer. The Bushes left Washington, D.C., and returned to Houston
In 1980 Bush campaigned for the Republican nomination for President. He lost, but was chosen as a running mate by Ronald Reagan. As Vice President, Bush had responsibility in several domestic areas, including Federal deregulation and anti-drug programs, and visited scores of foreign countries. In 1988 Bush won the Republican nomination for President and, with Senator Dan Quayle of Indiana as his running mate, he defeated Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis in the general election.
George Bush was sworn in as president of the United States in January 1989 and served until January 1993. During his term in office, the Cold War ended; the threat of nuclear war was drastically reduced; the Soviet Union ceased to exist, replaced by a democratic Russia with the Baltic states becoming free; Berlin Wall fell and Germany was reunified with Eastern Europe; and he put together an unprecedented coalition of 32 nations to liberate Kuwait.
President Bush was the first sitting vice president to ascend to the presidency since 1837, and he was also only the second American president to serve a full term without party control in either chamber of Congress. Nevertheless, among the laws President Bush signed into effect were the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Clean Air Act — landmark civil rights and environmental legislation. He also successfully fought for and negotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which was later signed into law.
President Bush has written three books: — Looking Forward, an autobiography; A World Transformed, co-authored with General Brent Scowcroft, on foreign policy during his administration, and All The Best, a collection of letters written throughout his life. In 2008, President Bush's diary, written during his time in China, was published under the title, The China Diary of George H.W. Bush — The Making of a Global President.
George and Barbara Bush have five children and 17 grandchildren. Their oldest son, George W., was sworn in as the 43rd President of the United States in 2001 and served two terms, returning to Texas in January 2009. Their son Jeb was governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007. The Bushes have been married since Jan 6, 1945 and reside in Houston, Texas, and Kennebunkport, Maine.