Remembering George H. W. Bush

Daniel Hautzinger
Official portrait of George H. W. Bush, 41st president of the United States, c. 1989.

The funeral of George H. W. Bush will be broadcast on WTTW World beginning at 10:00 am on Wednesday, December 5.

Former President George H. W. Bush died on Friday at the age of 94. A World War II veteran who served in various national political positions before being elected the 41st President of the United States, Bush was also the head of a political dynasty that includes his son George W. Bush, the 43rd President of the United States, and Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida. His wife, Barbara Bush, died earlier this year.

While Bush's presidential campaign, under the direction of Republican operative Lee Atwater, is notorious for airing the racially charged Willie Horton ad against his Democratic opponent Michael Dukakis, in his speech accepting the Republican presidential nomination, Bush famously called for a "kinder, gentler nation." Upon assuming the presidency, he sought to move past the ideological crusades of his predecessor Ronald Reagan, under whom he had served as vice president, and institute a more moderate rule, as recalled in this excerpt from an American Experience documentary about the presidents.

Even when he was chosen as vice president, Bush drew ire from more ideological conservatives for being too moderate, and he was a marked contrast to Reagan. As the American Experience documentary points out in this excerpt, "In many ways, George Bush was what Reagan pretended to be."

During his single term as president, Bush oversaw the end of the Cold War with Russia as well as the dissolution of the Soviet Union. He also presided over a major conflict, when he led an international coalition to oust Saddam Hussein of Iraq from Kuwait, which the dictator had invaded. American Experience recalls Bush's intuitive decision to use force in Kuwait and the political opposition to an ultimately successful intervention.

Bush's death leaves five remaining living presidents: Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump.