It’s the 90th birthday of George H.W. Bush, the former U.S. president and former National Constitution Center chairman. So how much do you know about the 41st president?
President Bush had an incredible number of experiences before he succeeded Ronald Reagan in the White House in 1989. After leaving office in 1993, he was one of the most active former presidents ever, making headlines with annual parachute jumps and public appearances.
Today, Bush’s son, Jeb Bush, is the current National Constitution Center chairman and a national figure. And the ex-president has a son who is also an ex-president, George W. Bush—a rarity indeed.
Here are 10 interesting facts about President George Herbert Walker Bush:
1. Bush came from a political family. His father was Prescott Bush, a U.S. senator from Connecticut and a prominent businessman. Prescott Bush defeated Thomas Dodd (the father of future senator Chris Dodd) in one of his campaigns.
2. Bush was one of the youngest pilots in the Navy. He joined the Navy at the age of 18 after Pearl Harbor instead of heading on to Yale. Lieutenant Bush was shot down while on active duty in the Pacific in 1944. He has the Distinguished Flying Cross among his medals.
3. Bush met Babe Ruth while playing baseball at Yale. He was a captain of Yale’s baseball team during his senior year, and there is a photo of Bush and the Bambino posing together, several months before Ruth’s death.
4. Bush did well in the oil business. After graduating from Yale, Bush went out on his own and entered the oil business. Bush started his own firm in 1951 and gained success over the next 15 years in Texas.
5. Bush quickly became successful in the Republican Party. After winning a seat in the House of Representatives in 1966, Bush was on the fast track in the GOP. But President Nixon asked him to give up his House seat in 1970, in a move that led to Bush losing to Lloyd Bentsen in a Senate race. A grateful GOP gained more respect for Bush.
6. Bush gained a wealth of experience in a few years. How grateful was the GOP? In the 1970s, Bush was the ambassador to the United Nations, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, the U.S. envoy to China, and the director of the CIA—all before 1977.
7. Bush was an academic. During the administration of Democratic president Jimmy Carter, Bush jumped off the fast track for a few years, taught some college classes, and worked with the Council on Foreign Relations.
8. Bush beat Reagan in the 1980 Iowa caucus. Reagan and Bush were top contenders for the Republican presidential nomination in 1980, with Bush taking an early lead in Iowa. But Reagan gained momentum in New Hampshire and won the nomination. In 1981, Bush became Reagan’s vice president.
9. Bush was connected to Martin Van Buren. In 1989, George H.W. Bush became the first sitting vice president to win a presidential election since Martin Van Buren in 1836. The other sitting vice presidents who became president by winning an election were John Adams (1796) and Thomas Jefferson (1800).
10. Bush was also connected to John Adams. When George W. Bush was elected president in 2000, it was only the second time that a father and son had been elected president. John Adams and John Quincy Adams were the first father-son duo.
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