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News: Top Stories

A Statesman Remembered

Houston Chronicle logo Houston Chronicle 12/1/2018 Mike Tolson, Houston Chronicle
George H. W. Bush posing for the camera © Hearst Newspapers

George Herbert Walker Bush, whose lone term as the 41st president of the United States ushered in the final days of the Cold War and perpetuated a family political dynasty that influenced American politics at both the national and state levels for decades, died Friday evening. He was 94.

a vintage photo of a little girl posing for a picture: George H.W. Bush is pictured when he was one and a half year old. Born 12 June 1924 in Milton, Massachussetts, George Bush yale graduated with a degree in Economics in 1948, made a fortune drilling oil before entering politics in 1964. (FILM) (Photo credit should read /AFP/Getty Images) © AFP, AFP/Getty Images George H.W. Bush is pictured when he was one and a half year old. Born 12 June 1924 in Milton, Massachussetts, George Bush yale graduated with a degree in Economics in 1948, made a fortune drilling oil before entering politics in 1964. (FILM) (Photo credit should read /AFP/Getty Images)

Bush was the last president to have served in the military during World War II and the last whose worldview had been shaped by the imperative to contain Communist expansionism. His experience in international diplomacy served him well as he dealt with the unraveling of the Soviet Union as an oppressive superpower, and later the rise of China as a commercial behemoth and potential partner.

a group of people posing for a photo: 1930, George Bush with his sister in 1930. (AP Photo) © ASSOCIATED PRESS 1930, George Bush with his sister in 1930. (AP Photo)

As cautious and restrained as he was in foreign matters, Bush had an inclination for personal risk-taking that showed up early in his life, when he became a carrier pilot in the war — one of the most dangerous jobs in the military — and then stuck out on his own at war’s end, eschewing a comfortable job in New York to become an oilman in Texas.

a person in a white sheep standing next to a fence: George H.W. Bush at summer camp in this 1939 photo. (AP Photo) © ASSOCIATED PRESS George H.W. Bush at summer camp in this 1939 photo. (AP Photo)

Likewise, when his interest turned to politics a decade or so later, he was more than willing to give up his executive suite for a chance at public office.

a black and white photo of a group of people posing for the camera: George Bush, left, with unknown boy, as finalists in the Field Club Jr. Tournament in 1939. © ASSOCIATED PRESS George Bush, left, with unknown boy, as finalists in the Field Club Jr. Tournament in 1939.

Steeped in noblesse oblige and the importance of public service, Bush always felt the lure of political life. It finally snared him in 1962 when he was chosen to head Houston’s fledgling GOP. He spent the next three decades in the political limelight, enjoying a roller-coaster career that saw more defeats than victories yet improbably landed him in the White House.

a baseball player posing for a photo: George H. W. Bush poses in his baseball uniform as a student at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. Bush was the first baseman on the Yale team that lost to California in the first College World Series in Kalamazoo, Mich. in 1947. © AP George H. W. Bush poses in his baseball uniform as a student at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. Bush was the first baseman on the Yale team that lost to California in the first College World Series in Kalamazoo, Mich. in 1947.

Bush was elected president in 1988 as the successor to Ronald Reagan, a conservative icon whom he ran against and then served as vice president. Unlike Reagan, he was a pragmatic leader guided by moderation, consensus building, and a sense for problem-solving shorn of partisan rhetoric. Like his father, who served in the U.S. Senate, he swore no allegiance to orthodox tenets. That put him at odds with a take-no-prisoners attitude of a new breed of Republicans and helped do in his reelection bid, sending him home to Houston in forced retirement.

a man wearing a helmet: One of a series of photos from the George Bush Gallery at the Admiral Nimitz Museum in Fredericksburg Texas. Photo shows a young George Bush in the cockpit writing in his logbook during WWII. Former President Bush during his World War II days. For use with FLYBOYS story to run 10-18 in Houston section. © Tom Harvey, Admiral Nimitz Museum One of a series of photos from the George Bush Gallery at the Admiral Nimitz Museum in Fredericksburg Texas. Photo shows a young George Bush in the cockpit writing in his logbook during WWII. Former President Bush during his World War II days. For use with FLYBOYS story to run 10-18 in Houston section.

Most of Bush’s political career was spent in appointed jobs, where he demonstrated loyalty and a quick-study competence, rarely making headlines. Expectations were modest when he became president. Many in his party hoped he would simply follow in Reagan’s footsteps. Instead, he quickly distinguished himself as the postwar order began to undergo dramatic changes.

a group of people posing for a photo: A young George Bush (center), Joe Reichert (L), Leo Nadeau (R) photographed December 31, 1942. © ROBERT B. STINNETT NATL ARCHIVES, ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT NETWORK A young George Bush (center), Joe Reichert (L), Leo Nadeau (R) photographed December 31, 1942.

Bush was put to the test shortly after taking office. Surging movements in Eastern Europe saw opportunity to free themselves from the Soviet yoke, thanks in part to the liberalizing influence of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Bush’s measured response allowed events to unfold, including the destruction of the Berlin Wall, without triggering potentially catastrophic responses from Soviet hard-liners.

a ship in a body of water: George Bush being rescued by the submarine, the U.S.S. Finback, after being shot down while on a bombing run of the Island of Chi Chi Jima on August 2, 1944. © Hearst Newspapers George Bush being rescued by the submarine, the U.S.S. Finback, after being shot down while on a bombing run of the Island of Chi Chi Jima on August 2, 1944.

Bush again displayed his diplomatic skills in the summer of 1990 when he coordinated a multinational response to the military invasion of tiny Middle East nation Kuwait by neighboring Iraq and its dictator, Saddam Hussein. The victorious Operation Desert Storm brought high approval ratings that appeared to guarantee a second term.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd posing for the camera: 05/06/1979 - George Bush, candidate for the Republican nomination for president, addresses supporters at rally in Sam Houston Park at the start of his Texas campaign tour. Joel Draut / Houston Post © Joel Draut, Houston Chronicle 05/06/1979 - George Bush, candidate for the Republican nomination for president, addresses supporters at rally in Sam Houston Park at the start of his Texas campaign tour. Joel Draut / Houston Post

Domestic matters proved a different sort of challenge. Plagued by inherited budget deficits and a Congress under the control of Democrats, Bush was pushed into a tax increase that belied his explicit promise to allow none. He agreed to it because he recognized it was in the country’s best interest, but the political damage was severe. His reelection bid fell short, a failing that haunted him for years. Uncharacteristically, it even caused him to wonder whether history would regard him as a failed president.

Bob Dole et al. posing for a photo: Republican presidential hopefuls Ronald Reagan, left, John Anderson, Howard Baker, Robert Dole Philip Crane who all showed up for a debate that was to be between Ronald Reagan and George Bush Saturday night, February 23, 1980, at Nashua Senior High School in Nashua, N.H. © Anonymous, ASSOCIATED PRESS Republican presidential hopefuls Ronald Reagan, left, John Anderson, Howard Baker, Robert Dole Philip Crane who all showed up for a debate that was to be between Ronald Reagan and George Bush Saturday night, February 23, 1980, at Nashua Senior High School in Nashua, N.H.

It has not.

a group of people posing for the camera: Republican presidential candidates Ronald Reagan, left, and George H.W. Bush, right, greet prior to their Thursday night debate February 28, 1980 on public television. © Anonymous, AP Republican presidential candidates Ronald Reagan, left, and George H.W. Bush, right, greet prior to their Thursday night debate February 28, 1980 on public television.

“I think over the years he fares well,” said presidential historian Henry Brands, the author of seven presidential biographies and a professor at the University of Texas. “If voters have a referendum and they vote you down, that automatically puts you down a rung. It’s unfair. Bush always was rated very highly by historians more than he was by the public. I think that is changing.”

George H. W. Bush, Ronald Reagan are posing for a picture: George Bush peeks around a partition which has a poster of Ronald Reagan, one of his opponents for the Republican party presidential nomination, before he speaks at Columbia, S.C., March 4, 1980. © Anonymous, ASSOCIATED PRESS George Bush peeks around a partition which has a poster of Ronald Reagan, one of his opponents for the Republican party presidential nomination, before he speaks at Columbia, S.C., March 4, 1980.

Bush was born into privilege and reared in the cradle of America’s economic aristocracy, yet from an early age, he refused to ride the coattails of entitlement. Approaching his graduation from Yale University in 1948, he was offered a job at his family’s Wall Street investment firm, close to his native Connecticut. He turned it down. Whatever his destiny, he vowed that it would be fully earned.

a group of people posing for a photo: George Bush, who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, watches as his grandson, George, 4, meets another child at "Bush for President" headquarters,in Hartford, Conn., March 24, 1980. © Bob Child, AP George Bush, who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, watches as his grandson, George, 4, meets another child at "Bush for President" headquarters,in Hartford, Conn., March 24, 1980.

So began a remarkable journey that would lead him from the elegant estates of New England to the dusty plains of West Texas, to the leafy precincts of Houston’s nicest neighborhoods, to foreign capitals and back to America’s own, into political campaigns at the humblest level and one that ultimately netted him the White House.

a man standing in front of a building: Using Independence Hall as a backdrop, Republican presidential hopeful George Bush addresses supporters and newsmen April 9, 1980 in Philadelphia. Bush is seeking votes in the April 22 Pennsylvania primary. © Bill Ingraham, AP Using Independence Hall as a backdrop, Republican presidential hopeful George Bush addresses supporters and newsmen April 9, 1980 in Philadelphia. Bush is seeking votes in the April 22 Pennsylvania primary.

Bush’s long life encompassed the full arc of the 20th century, beginning in an era of steamships and a new ideology called communism, and ending as American spaceships explored distant planets and the hammer-and-sickle was mostly a fading emblem on old flags. He was to be the last president of his generation, which came of age during the Great Depression, participated in a cataclysmic world war, and ushered in unprecedented American power and prosperity.

Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush standing in front of a crowd: On July 14, 1980, the Republican National Convention convened at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan. Former Gov. Ronald Reagan of California was nominated for president and former congressman George H.W. Bush of Texas for vice president. (Joe Kennedy/Los Angeles Times/MCT) © Joe Kennedy, MBR On July 14, 1980, the Republican National Convention convened at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan. Former Gov. Ronald Reagan of California was nominated for president and former congressman George H.W. Bush of Texas for vice president. (Joe Kennedy/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

Turning away from the preordained comfortable life, Bush struck out for Texas and found success, first as an independent oilman and later as a young Congressman from Houston. The misfortune of bad timing hurt him at times in his pursuit of higher office, yet a string of high-profile appointed positions reflected the faith others had in his ability and kept alive his dream of fulfilling his father’s prediction that someday he would become president.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd posing for the camera: George Bush, foreground, raises his arms as a floor demonstration erupts before speaking to the Republican Convention delegates in Detroit, Mich., Wednesday evening, July 16, 1980. Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan later announced Bush as his running mate. © ASSOCIATED PRESS George Bush, foreground, raises his arms as a floor demonstration erupts before speaking to the Republican Convention delegates in Detroit, Mich., Wednesday evening, July 16, 1980. Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan later announced Bush as his running mate.

“The world was fortunate to have his background and instincts at a turning point,” said Robert Gates, who served as Bush’s CIA director and deputy national security adviser. “The collapse and end of the Cold War look sort of pre-ordained in hindsight, but for those who were there, it was not clear how it would happen.”

a man wearing a suit and tie: Republican vice presidential candidate George Bush reacts to applause from the assembled Republican delegates at the Republican National Convention at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Mich., Thursday evening, July 17, 1980. Bush was selected by Ronald Reagan as his running mate on Wednesday. (AP Photo) © ASSOCIATED PRESS Republican vice presidential candidate George Bush reacts to applause from the assembled Republican delegates at the Republican National Convention at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Mich., Thursday evening, July 17, 1980. Bush was selected by Ronald Reagan as his running mate on Wednesday. (AP Photo)

Gates, who served in eight presidential administrations, suggested that Bush never received the credit he deserved for quietly “greasing the skids” that saw communists slide from power in the Soviet Union.

a vintage photo of a group of people posing for the camera: PHOTO FILED: GEORGE HW BUSH-GROUP. 07/19/1980 - George Bush, left, returned in triumph to greet his neighbors near his southwest Houston home Saturday after being tapped by Ronald Reagan for the GOP vice presidential nomination. He took time off from having breakfast at his home with Reagan and a joint appearance at a Galleria rally to shake hands with neighbors Walter and Lois Taber and their children, Keith and Tom. David Breslauer / Houston Chronicle © David Breslauer, Houston Chronicle PHOTO FILED: GEORGE HW BUSH-GROUP. 07/19/1980 - George Bush, left, returned in triumph to greet his neighbors near his southwest Houston home Saturday after being tapped by Ronald Reagan for the GOP vice presidential nomination. He took time off from having breakfast at his home with Reagan and a joint appearance at a Galleria rally to shake hands with neighbors Walter and Lois Taber and their children, Keith and Tom. David Breslauer / Houston Chronicle

“There is no precedent in all of history for the collapse of a heavily armed empire without a major war,” Gates said. “He was a figure of enormous historical importance.”

a group of people standing in front of a crowd posing for the camera: PHOTO FILED: RONALD REAGAN-HOUSTON VISIT. 07/19/1980 - The GOP nominees - George Bush and Ronald Reagan and their wives, Barbara and Nancy - make their first post-convention appearance at the Houston Galleria shopping mall. (l-r): GOP VP Nominee George H.W. Bush, Barbara Bush, Nancy Reagan, GOP Pres. nominee Ronald Reagan. Curtis McGee / Houston Chronicle HOUCHRON CAPTION (07/20/1980): It was hand-waving and cowboy hats Saturday at the Galleria as the Republican Party nominees made their first post-convention campaign appearance. Ronald Reagan, the GOP standard-bearer, and George Bush of Houston, his running mate, spoke to several thousand at the shopping center. Responding to cheers are, from left, Bush, wife Barbara, Nancy Reagan and Reagan. © Curtis McGee, Houston Chronicle PHOTO FILED: RONALD REAGAN-HOUSTON VISIT. 07/19/1980 - The GOP nominees - George Bush and Ronald Reagan and their wives, Barbara and Nancy - make their first post-convention appearance at the Houston Galleria shopping mall. (l-r): GOP VP Nominee George H.W. Bush, Barbara Bush, Nancy Reagan, GOP Pres. nominee Ronald Reagan. Curtis McGee / Houston Chronicle HOUCHRON CAPTION (07/20/1980): It was hand-waving and cowboy hats Saturday at the Galleria as the Republican Party nominees made their first post-convention campaign appearance. Ronald Reagan, the GOP standard-bearer, and George Bush of Houston, his running mate, spoke to several thousand at the shopping center. Responding to cheers are, from left, Bush, wife Barbara, Nancy Reagan and Reagan.

Though Bush came to be widely respected by foreign leaders and diplomats, his political profile at home was different. He had long been dogged by assertions that he was a bland and hazy character, aloof and dilettantish. The image baffled him and many who knew him. He was chided for a lack of apparent vision, yet it was not his nature to view himself as a visionary.

Barbara Bush, Nancy Reagan, Ronald Reagan posing for a photo: PHOTO FILED: RONALD REAGAN-HOUSTON VISIT. 07/19/1980 - Vice presidential nominee George Bush, Barbara Bush, Nancy Reagan and GOP presidential nominee Ronald Reagan. The GOP nominees make their first post-convention appearance at the Houston Galleria shopping mall. David Breslauer / Houston Chronicle © David Breslauer, Houston Chronicle PHOTO FILED: RONALD REAGAN-HOUSTON VISIT. 07/19/1980 - Vice presidential nominee George Bush, Barbara Bush, Nancy Reagan and GOP presidential nominee Ronald Reagan. The GOP nominees make their first post-convention appearance at the Houston Galleria shopping mall. David Breslauer / Houston Chronicle

“What’s wrong with trying to help people,” he once asked. “What’s wrong with trying to bring peace? What’s wrong with trying to make the world a little better?”

a group of people posing for a photo: Republican presidential candidates Ronald Reagan, left, and George H.W. Bush, right, greet prior to their Thursday night debate February 28, 1980 on public television. © Wally Fong, ASSOCIATED PRESS Republican presidential candidates Ronald Reagan, left, and George H.W. Bush, right, greet prior to their Thursday night debate February 28, 1980 on public television.

To some, Bush paled in comparison to his strong-willed predecessor in the White House, but he was simply a different breed of politician: a traditional Republican whose belief in limited government was in no way at odds with his view that public service was a calling.

Barbara Bush et al. posing for a photo: 11/04/1980 - (L-R) Barbara Bush leads her mother-in-law, Dorothy Walker Bush, and husband, GOP Vice Presidential candidate George Herbert Walker Bush. through a hallway at the Houston Oaks Hotel in Houston. The Bushes gathered with familly and supporters at the hotel to await the 1980 presidential election results. By the end of the evening family and supporters celebrated his election as the next Vice President of the United States. Jerry Click / Houston Post © Jerry Click, Houston Chronicle 11/04/1980 - (L-R) Barbara Bush leads her mother-in-law, Dorothy Walker Bush, and husband, GOP Vice Presidential candidate George Herbert Walker Bush. through a hallway at the Houston Oaks Hotel in Houston. The Bushes gathered with familly and supporters at the hotel to await the 1980 presidential election results. By the end of the evening family and supporters celebrated his election as the next Vice President of the United States. Jerry Click / Houston Post

Reagan’s famous maxim that government was not the solution to a problem but the problem itself was not Bush’s view, which might explain why his single term arguably resulted in more significant legislative achievements than Reagan’s two, among them the Americans with Disabilities Act, a bolstered Clean Air Act, and an increased minimum wage.

a vintage photo of Barbara Bush et al. posing for the camera: 11/04/1980 - (L-R) Barbara Bush and husband, George Herbert Walker Bush, celebrate his election as the next Vice President of the United States at the Houston Oaks Hotel in Houston. The Bushes gathered with familly and supporters at the hotel to await the 1980 presidential election results. Bill Thompson / Houston Post HPOST CAPTION (11/05/1980): Bush, wife Barbara celebrate victory at Houston Oaks Hotel © Bill Thompson, Houston Chronicle 11/04/1980 - (L-R) Barbara Bush and husband, George Herbert Walker Bush, celebrate his election as the next Vice President of the United States at the Houston Oaks Hotel in Houston. The Bushes gathered with familly and supporters at the hotel to await the 1980 presidential election results. Bill Thompson / Houston Post HPOST CAPTION (11/05/1980): Bush, wife Barbara celebrate victory at Houston Oaks Hotel

Bush’s career from start to finish, especially as president, was largely free of scandal or great controversy, with one troubling exception — his role as vice president in the Iran-Contra scandal.

Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush are posing for a picture: **FILE** U.S. President-elect Ronald Reagan, left, and Vice President-elect George Bush share a laugh during their first news conference in which they announced their transitional team in Los Angeles, Ca., in this Nov. 6, 1980 file photo. Reagan, the cheerful crusader who devoted his presidency to winning the Cold War, trying to scale back government and making people believe it was ``morning again in America,'' died Saturday, June 5, 2004 after a long twilight struggle with Alzheimer's disease. He was93. (AP Photo, file) (AP) © Hearst Newspapers **FILE** U.S. President-elect Ronald Reagan, left, and Vice President-elect George Bush share a laugh during their first news conference in which they announced their transitional team in Los Angeles, Ca., in this Nov. 6, 1980 file photo. Reagan, the cheerful crusader who devoted his presidency to winning the Cold War, trying to scale back government and making people believe it was ``morning again in America,'' died Saturday, June 5, 2004 after a long twilight struggle with Alzheimer's disease. He was93. (AP Photo, file) (AP)

His ethical standards rarely were questioned. His judgment was the product of studied deliberation and ample give-and-take with advisers. He regularly entertained Democratic leaders at the White House and made a great effort to develop personal relationships over drinks and a game of horseshoes, just as he had in the diplomatic world over many years.

George H. W. Bush wearing a suit and tie: 11/10/1980 - Vice-President elect George Bush holds a press conference in Houston before leaving for Washington, DC where he will meet with President-elect Ronald Reagan and begin work on the transition. Betty Tichich / Houston Post © Betty Tichich, Houston Chronicle 11/10/1980 - Vice-President elect George Bush holds a press conference in Houston before leaving for Washington, DC where he will meet with President-elect Ronald Reagan and begin work on the transition. Betty Tichich / Houston Post

“President Bush was inclined to forgive and forget past slights, defeats, and even outrages,” said longtime aide Chase Untermeyer. “Thus did he offer rides to Maine for Senator George Mitchell, make the daughter of Senator Sam Nunn the head of the Points of Light Foundation, and — to clinch the case — become buddies with Bill Clinton.”

an old photo of a person: PHOTO FILED: GEORGE HW BUSH-GROUP. 11/10/1980 - Vice president-elect George Bush wearing a "Luv ya Blue" vest, enjoys a laugh with NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle during Monday night football game between Houston and New England in the Astrodome. © John Everett, Houston Chronicle PHOTO FILED: GEORGE HW BUSH-GROUP. 11/10/1980 - Vice president-elect George Bush wearing a "Luv ya Blue" vest, enjoys a laugh with NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle during Monday night football game between Houston and New England in the Astrodome.

Bush was by nature a practical manager. He believed his job was to get something done, taking incremental steps when big ones were unobtainable. He had no use for those who would sacrifice progress on the altar of philosophical purity, nor did he regard opponents as enemies.

a black and white photo of a person: Vice President Bush and Panamanian leader Manuel Antonio Noriega are seen at Panama City Airport, Dec. 10, 1983, in a photo from Britain's Thames Television. © ASSOCIATED PRESS Vice President Bush and Panamanian leader Manuel Antonio Noriega are seen at Panama City Airport, Dec. 10, 1983, in a photo from Britain's Thames Television.

He was defeated in an unusual three-way contest with Democrat Clinton and Texas billionaire Ross Perot — a sour coda to a stellar career. Though he had been ambivalent about even running for reelection, the loss would gnaw on him. He believed that he left the job he signed up for unfinished.

Ronald Reagan et al. standing around a table: Ronald Reagan State of the Union 1984 - VP George HW Bush; Speaker of the House Thomas "Tip" O'Neill © Bob Daugherty, Associated Press Ronald Reagan State of the Union 1984 - VP George HW Bush; Speaker of the House Thomas "Tip" O'Neill

Even years later, Bush recalled the sick feeling he carried inside for having let down the people who believed in him.

George H. W. Bush, Zhao Ziyang posing for a photo: Former Chinese Premier and General Secretary of the Communist Party Zhao Ziyang, right, shakes hands with then Vice President George Bush Jan.11,1984, at a reception in Washington. © AP Former Chinese Premier and General Secretary of the Communist Party Zhao Ziyang, right, shakes hands with then Vice President George Bush Jan.11,1984, at a reception in Washington.

“That was the sad part for me,” he told an interviewer, “and I felt very strongly about that. I still do.”

a group of people posing for a photo: President Ronald Reagan, left, and Vice President George H. Bush don western-style straw hats presented to them by two cheerleaders at an outdoor political rally on Wednesday, July 25, 1984 in Austin, Texas. Houston Oilers? cheerleader Cathy Ludwig, with Reagan, and University of Texas? cheerleader Leslie Scott, with Bush, made the presentation. (AP Photo) © DC, ASSOCIATED PRESS President Ronald Reagan, left, and Vice President George H. Bush don western-style straw hats presented to them by two cheerleaders at an outdoor political rally on Wednesday, July 25, 1984 in Austin, Texas. Houston Oilers? cheerleader Cathy Ludwig, with Reagan, and University of Texas? cheerleader Leslie Scott, with Bush, made the presentation. (AP Photo)

Bush was born on June 12, 1924 in Milton, Mass., to Prescott and Dorothy Bush, the second of five children, four of them boys. His was an idyllic childhood spent among the nation’s economically privileged, with numerous trips to family estates in Maine and South Carolina.

a man wearing a suit and tie: President Reagan and Vice President Bush make an appearance on the North Portico of the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Sunday, Jan. 20, 1985 after the President was sworn in for his second term. (AP Photo/Barry Thumma) © Barry Thumma, STF President Reagan and Vice President Bush make an appearance on the North Portico of the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Sunday, Jan. 20, 1985 after the President was sworn in for his second term. (AP Photo/Barry Thumma)

Although the hardships of the Great Depression did not severely affect the Bushes, his parents tried to stress that good fortune should not be taken for granted, insisting on modesty at all times, along with concern for those going through hard times. Work mattered. Life, they insisted, was no country club affair.

a group of people posing for a photo: U.S. Vice President George Bush, accompanied by Chinese Vice Premier Wan Li, reviews a Chinese armed forces honor guard during a ceremony to welcome him to Peking October 13, 1985. © Neal Ulevich, ASSOCIATED PRESS U.S. Vice President George Bush, accompanied by Chinese Vice Premier Wan Li, reviews a Chinese armed forces honor guard during a ceremony to welcome him to Peking October 13, 1985.

Bush attended Phillips Academy, a famous boarding school in Andover, Mass., where he excelled academically and athletically. He was a favorite of his classmates, often chosen to captain the teams he was on and known to call out bullies who bedeviled the less popular students.

a man throwing a ball: George H W Bush NL Baseball 1986 © Ron Heflin, Associated Press George H W Bush NL Baseball 1986

As he grew to adulthood, he slowly soaked up the history of generations of Walkers and Bushes and began to understand the expectations for those of his class and background — a demand for service to the public good largely divorced from personal gain. It made a deep impression on him.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: 10/12/1987 - Vice President George HW Bush officially launched his 1988 presidential campaign in the main ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Hotel. The announcement party moved from the ballroom to the hotel's massive lobby where the elevators were decorated with lights spelling out "Bush 88." Mary Urech Roberts / Houston Chronicle © MARY URECH ROBERTS, Houston Chronicle 10/12/1987 - Vice President George HW Bush officially launched his 1988 presidential campaign in the main ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Hotel. The announcement party moved from the ballroom to the hotel's massive lobby where the elevators were decorated with lights spelling out "Bush 88." Mary Urech Roberts / Houston Chronicle

“Bush was a figure of an older, fading order of American power,” wrote Bush biographer Jon Meacham in “Dynasty and Power,” a 2015 authorized biography. “When his family and … friends looked at him, they saw a man who could have spent his life making and spending money, but who had chosen to obey the biblical injunction, drilled into him by his parents, that to whom much is given much is expected.”

a man and a woman sitting on a table: Vice President George H.W. Bush sits with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, prior to a breakfast at the Soviet Embassy in Washington on Thursday, Dec. 10, 1987. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) © Scott Applewhite, ASSOCIATED PRESS Vice President George H.W. Bush sits with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, prior to a breakfast at the Soviet Embassy in Washington on Thursday, Dec. 10, 1987. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Bush’s first great test came as his days at Andover were ending, graduating in the face of a world succumbing to a widening war. He might have been able to use connections for a service academy appointment or a plum job that did not place him in harm’s way. Like many of his friends and others of his class, including Joseph and John Kennedy, he chose the opposite path.

a group of people wearing costumes: Then Vice President George Bush serves as grand marshal of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo parade in 1988. © Jerry Click, HP Staff Then Vice President George Bush serves as grand marshal of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo parade in 1988.

Bush enlisted in the U.S. Navy upon finishing high school in 1942 and hoped to become a pilot. He earned his wings and was commissioned an ensign before his 19th birthday. His wartime duty was spent in the Pacific flying a three-man Avenger torpedo bomber.

George H. W. Bush holding a sign: 03/08/1988 - Celebrating his Super Tuesday election night victory, Vice President George Bush holds up a "Bush '88, Texas Victory" t-shirt at the Westin Oaks Hotel ballroom in Houston. The shirt was presented to him by GOP state co-chair, Tom Loeffler. His wife, Barbara, stands beside him. Bruce Bennett / Houston Post © Bruce Bennett, Houston Chronicle 03/08/1988 - Celebrating his Super Tuesday election night victory, Vice President George Bush holds up a "Bush '88, Texas Victory" t-shirt at the Westin Oaks Hotel ballroom in Houston. The shirt was presented to him by GOP state co-chair, Tom Loeffler. His wife, Barbara, stands beside him. Bruce Bennett / Houston Post

Bush piloted 58 combat missions from the carrier USS San Jacinto, but one stood out. During a Sept. 2, 1944, attack on Japanese positions on Chichi-Jima, one of the Bonin Islands, his Avenger was badly hit by flak. He was able to complete the bombing run but ordered the other two crewmen to “hit the silk” as the plane headed toward the water. He did likewise and was able to haul himself into a life raft after popping up from the sea, dazed and out of breath. His crew mates were never found.

Barbara Bush et al. sitting at a table: 06/09/1988 - Vice President George Bush waves to delegates attending the Texas Republican Party convention at the George R. Brown Convention Center. Behind him are his wife, Barbara Bush, and Texas GOP Chairman George Strake. Craig Hartley / Houston Post © Craig Hartley, Houston Chronicle 06/09/1988 - Vice President George Bush waves to delegates attending the Texas Republican Party convention at the George R. Brown Convention Center. Behind him are his wife, Barbara Bush, and Texas GOP Chairman George Strake. Craig Hartley / Houston Post

Bush was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, yet never considered himself a war hero despite the efforts of later political advertising. “They wrote it up as heroism,” Bush said late in his life of the paperwork leading to the decoration, “but it wasn’t — it was just doing your job.”

a group of people around each other: Vice President George Bush is nuzzled by granddaughter Marshall Bush as she is hold by Laura Bush on Thursday, Aug. 17, 1988 in New Orleans. © Scott Applewhite, ASSOCIATED PRESS Vice President George Bush is nuzzled by granddaughter Marshall Bush as she is hold by Laura Bush on Thursday, Aug. 17, 1988 in New Orleans.

In January 1945, while on leave, Bush wed his pre-war fiancee, Barbara Pierce. The two had met at a dance when he was at Phillips and she at a tony boarding school in South Carolina. Her family, like his, came from old money, and among her ancestors were early New England settlers. A distant relative, Franklin Pierce, was the 14th American president.

Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush posing for the camera: 09/22/1988 - Pres. Ronald Reagan and Vice Pres. George Bush at the Brown Convention Center at Republican Victory '88 fund-raiser for Bush's campaign for US presidency. Ira Strickstein / Houston Post © Ira Strickstein, Houston Chronicle 09/22/1988 - Pres. Ronald Reagan and Vice Pres. George Bush at the Brown Convention Center at Republican Victory '88 fund-raiser for Bush's campaign for US presidency. Ira Strickstein / Houston Post

After the war, Bush and his new wife moved to New Haven, Conn., where he would begin his college education at Yale, the alma mater of his father and four other relatives.

George H. W. Bush wearing a suit and tie: Vice President George Bush tosses a football back to members of the traveling press corps after arriving in Houston on Monday, Nov. 7, 1988. Bush, in the last full day of campaigning, returned to Houston where he will vote on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) © Eric Gay, ASSOCIATED PRESS Vice President George Bush tosses a football back to members of the traveling press corps after arriving in Houston on Monday, Nov. 7, 1988. Bush, in the last full day of campaigning, returned to Houston where he will vote on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

He graduated in under three years because of an accelerated program offered to veterans eager to make up for lost time. He again excelled at sports and captained the baseball team, for which he played first base. He was just as adept in the classroom, gaining Phi Beta Kappa distinction and an economics degree. Yet, as he acknowledged, what should have been idyllic college years had been altered by the war. The class of 1948 were serious men intent on getting out and getting going.

George H. W. Bush wearing a suit and tie: CONTACT FILED: GEORGE BUSH. 11/09/1988 - Vice President George Bush press conference day after election for President of the United States. HOUCHRON CAPTION (11/05/2000): None (George Bush Mug) HOUCHRON CAPTION (11/05/2000): Then-President-elect George Bush in 1988 HOUSTON CHRONICLE SPECIAL SECTION/TEXAS MAGAZINE: 100 TALL TEXANS. © Carlos Antonio Rios, Houston Chronicle CONTACT FILED: GEORGE BUSH. 11/09/1988 - Vice President George Bush press conference day after election for President of the United States. HOUCHRON CAPTION (11/05/2000): None (George Bush Mug) HOUCHRON CAPTION (11/05/2000): Then-President-elect George Bush in 1988 HOUSTON CHRONICLE SPECIAL SECTION/TEXAS MAGAZINE: 100 TALL TEXANS.

As graduation approached, Bush balked at an offer to join a prominent investment bank started by his maternal grandfather. To a friend he wrote that it bothered him to take advantage of “the benefits of my social position.”

George H. W. Bush et al. posing for the camera: Vice President George Bush and wife, Barbara, wave to supporters that turned out in Houston, Tex., to hear him announce he was a candidate for the Republican nomination for president of the United States, Oct. 12, 1987. © Ed Kolenovsky, ASSOCIATED PRESS Vice President George Bush and wife, Barbara, wave to supporters that turned out in Houston, Tex., to hear him announce he was a candidate for the Republican nomination for president of the United States, Oct. 12, 1987.

A close family friend encouraged him to think of the oil business, which would take him to Texas. Oil drilling was as foreign to him as tightrope walking or fashion design, but it appealed to his taste for risk and held the promise of great wealth.

Dorothy Bush Koch, Barbara Bush posing for a photo: George H W Bush 1988 family at Kennebunkport © Herb Swanson, Associated Press George H W Bush 1988 family at Kennebunkport

In the summer of 1948, Bush loaded up his new Studebaker, a graduation gift, and pointed it southwest, ending up in Odessa several days later. Barbara and their new baby, George, flew down after he had found lodging in a weathered duplex, their first Texas home. Their new life began. The family friend had provided an entry-level sales position with an oilfield tool company, the bottom rung on the ladder. It should be noted this was no ordinary friend — Neil Mallon was the head of Dresser Industries, a leading oilfield equipment company.

Dan Quayle, George H. W. Bush are posing for a picture: Vice President George Bush, right, and Indiana Sen. Dan Quayle wave to the crowd after Bush announced Quayle would be his running mate following a riverboat cruise in New Orleans on Aug. 16, 1988. © Carlos Rosales, Houston Chronicle Vice President George Bush, right, and Indiana Sen. Dan Quayle wave to the crowd after Bush announced Quayle would be his running mate following a riverboat cruise in New Orleans on Aug. 16, 1988.

By 1950, he, Barbara, and their two young children were living in Midland, where he had formed an oil company with a neighbor, John Overbey. Financial backing came from Bush’s father and some of his father’s friends and business contacts.

a man standing in front of a crowd: George H W Bush 1988 family at RNC convention © Mark Duncan, Associated Press George H W Bush 1988 family at RNC convention

With no geologic or engineering background, Bush learned the business from the ground up, “walking fields, talking to people, and trying to make deals,” Overbey later recalled in an interview. Three years later, he and Overbey joined up with two brothers, Hugh and William Liedtke, to form Zapata Petroleum. An offshore subsidiary was formed a year later.

a man wearing a suit and tie: 08/27/1988 - Republican presidential candidate George Bush shows his Texas stripes, displaying a pair of cowboy boots emblazoned with the state flag during a Republican Victory 88 meeting at Houston's Stouffer's Hotel Saturday, Aug. 27, 1988. © Ira Strickstein, Houston Chronicle 08/27/1988 - Republican presidential candidate George Bush shows his Texas stripes, displaying a pair of cowboy boots emblazoned with the state flag during a Republican Victory 88 meeting at Houston's Stouffer's Hotel Saturday, Aug. 27, 1988.

Zapata raised more money and gambled on an interest in a field in Coke County that skeptics claimed was played out. One of the brothers, Bill Liedtke, said years later that the young company drilled 130 wells and never had a dry hole. As for politics, there wasn’t much time for it, though Bush did later mention his modest role as a Republican precinct worker. In one particular primary, he later recalled, perhaps apocryphally, only three GOP voters showed up: him, his wife, and a drunken Democrat who wandered into the wrong polling station.

George W. Bush et al. posing for the camera: Photographer Richard J. Carson recorded the historical significance of Bush's acceptance speech and the lighter side of the event 11/08/1988 when Barbara Bush puts her hand over her granddaughter's yawn as George Bush gives a speech. © Richard Carson, © Houston Chronicle Photographer Richard J. Carson recorded the historical significance of Bush's acceptance speech and the lighter side of the event 11/08/1988 when Barbara Bush puts her hand over her granddaughter's yawn as George Bush gives a speech.

Bush enjoyed his time in Midland, learning a business, tending to a growing family and making friends who would prove important later. The closeness of the city’s business community was evident when the Bush family’s life was interrupted by tragedy. The second of the children, daughter Robin, was diagnosed with leukemia in 1953, before the disease became largely curable.

a group of people posing for a photo: ** FILE ** In this Nov. 9, 1988, President-elect George H. W. Bush holds his hands up to acknowledge the crowds applause, and ask them to allow him to continue his speech during his victory rally with grandson, George P. Bush, right, and son, George W. Bush, left, in Houston, Texas. Bush trounced Michael Dukakis 426-111 in the electoral vote, but the popular vote was closer, 53 percent to 46 percent. © AP ** FILE ** In this Nov. 9, 1988, President-elect George H. W. Bush holds his hands up to acknowledge the crowds applause, and ask them to allow him to continue his speech during his victory rally with grandson, George P. Bush, right, and son, George W. Bush, left, in Houston, Texas. Bush trounced Michael Dukakis 426-111 in the electoral vote, but the popular vote was closer, 53 percent to 46 percent.

His fledgling business career was all but put on hold for more than six months as he, Barbara and Robin made repeated trips to Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Barbara tried to approach their new circumstances with stoic resolve, to the point of booting visitors out of Robin’s hospital room if they cried. Her husband became increasingly emotional and often was the one who had to leave the room. Robin died later in 1953.

George H. W. Bush et al. posing for the camera: 11/09/1988 - President-elect George Bush, his wife, Barbara, and his grandchildren, Jenna (left) and Barbara wave to well-wishers before they board a jet at Ellington Field the day after his election victory. At right can be seen a congratulatory sign prepared by the crew. King Chou Wong / Houston Post © King Chou Wong, Houston Chronicle 11/09/1988 - President-elect George Bush, his wife, Barbara, and his grandchildren, Jenna (left) and Barbara wave to well-wishers before they board a jet at Ellington Field the day after his election victory. At right can be seen a congratulatory sign prepared by the crew. King Chou Wong / Houston Post

“I hadn’t cried at all when Robin was alive, but after she died, I felt I could cry forever,” she recalled in a 1988 interview with Texas Monthly. “George had a much harder time when she was sick. He was just killing himself, while I was very strong. That’s the way a good marriage works. Had I cried a lot, he wouldn’t have. But then things reversed after she died. George seemed to accept it better.”

George H. W. Bush wearing a suit and tie in front of a crowd: George HW Bush being sworn in as President of the United States © Ron Edmonds, Associated Press George HW Bush being sworn in as President of the United States

The Bushes lived in Midland for almost a decade. It was where he made his first real money — his own money — and where he established his image as a true, if transplanted, Texan, one who could down to a bowl of chili at lunch and a chicken-fried steak at dinner, snacking in between on pork rinds. Everyone in town knew George Bush — “Poppy,” his childhood nickname, had been jettisoned along with the Brooks Brothers suits — but isolated West Texas was not where he needed to be.

a group of people standing in front of a building: Former President Ronald Reagan, left, his wife Nancy Reagan, new first lady Barbara Bush and her husband President George Bush, right, walk down the Capitol steps after the inaugural ceremony in Washington, D.C., Friday, Jan. 20, 1989. President Bush was sworn in as the nation's 41st president. The Reagans are heading to an awaiting helicopter to take them to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., and onto California. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) © J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE, ASSOCIATED PRESS Former President Ronald Reagan, left, his wife Nancy Reagan, new first lady Barbara Bush and her husband President George Bush, right, walk down the Capitol steps after the inaugural ceremony in Washington, D.C., Friday, Jan. 20, 1989. President Bush was sworn in as the nation's 41st president. The Reagans are heading to an awaiting helicopter to take them to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., and onto California. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

A disagreement over the direction of the company led Bush to buy out the other investors in Zapata Offshore in 1959, and he soon moved the company to Houston.

a group of people walking down the street: President and Mrs. Bush walk along Pennsylvania Avenue after the President's Inauguration on January 20, 1989. © Hearst Newspapers President and Mrs. Bush walk along Pennsylvania Avenue after the President's Inauguration on January 20, 1989.

During the early 1960s, Bush began to feel the political itch, or to be more precise, respond to an itch that had been there for years, and waded into a successful race for Harris County GOP Chairman to make sure it did not fall into the hands of perceived extremists in the party’s right wing, many of whom were members of the conspiracy-hawking John Birch Society.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd posing for the camera: Barbara Bush had a reputation as a grandmotherly figure when her husband took office in 1989, but she proved that grandmothers can be fashionable in this royal blue gown with velvet bodice, square neck and diagonal dropped waist designed by Arnold Scaasi. © Hearst Newspapers Barbara Bush had a reputation as a grandmotherly figure when her husband took office in 1989, but she proved that grandmothers can be fashionable in this royal blue gown with velvet bodice, square neck and diagonal dropped waist designed by Arnold Scaasi.

Perhaps because his father had just left the U.S. Senate, Bush then brashly decided to take on incumbent U.S. Sen. Ralph Yarborough in 1964.

George H. W. Bush wearing a suit and tie: Portrait of the forty-first president of the United States George Bush, circa 1989. © Hulton Archive, Getty Images Portrait of the forty-first president of the United States George Bush, circa 1989.

Though little known outside of Houston and Midland, Bush campaigned vigorously as a different sort of Republican, less in step with the northeastern wing of his father and closer to the politics of Barry Goldwater and George Wallace. He went full-tilt conservative, opposing, among other socially progressive initiatives, the pending Civil Rights Act.

a group of people sitting at a table with wine glasses: Republican National Committee Chairman Lee Atwater, left, attends a meeting with Pres. Bush and Republican congressional leaders at the White House, March 8, 1989. © BARRY THUMMA, ASSOCIATED PRESS Republican National Committee Chairman Lee Atwater, left, attends a meeting with Pres. Bush and Republican congressional leaders at the White House, March 8, 1989.

Yarborough portrayed Bush as an extremist and won easily, gaining 56 percent of the vote as Lyndon Johnson swamped Goldwater in the presidential race.

a group of people standing next to a man in a suit and tie: President George H.W. Bush turns and shakes hand with House Speaker Jim Wright of Texas after he announced in the White House briefing room in Washington, on Friday, March 24, 1989 that he is unveiling a Bipartisan Contra aid plan as the first plank of his emerging foreign policy. Center is Secretary of State James Baker and left is House Minority Leader Robert Michel of Ill. © Barry Thumma, ASSOCIATED PRESS President George H.W. Bush turns and shakes hand with House Speaker Jim Wright of Texas after he announced in the White House briefing room in Washington, on Friday, March 24, 1989 that he is unveiling a Bipartisan Contra aid plan as the first plank of his emerging foreign policy. Center is Secretary of State James Baker and left is House Minority Leader Robert Michel of Ill.

After his defeat, Bush struggled to reconcile his moderate views with an election that had seen him embrace, however tentatively, an anti-progressive tone and a segregationist posture.

a man wearing a suit and tie talking on a cell phone: President George H.W. Bush holds one of first dog Millie's six puppies for the press on Wednesday, March 29, 1989 at the White House in Washington. © Ron Edmonds, ASSOCIATED PRESS President George H.W. Bush holds one of first dog Millie's six puppies for the press on Wednesday, March 29, 1989 at the White House in Washington.

“This mean, humorless philosophy which says everybody should agree on absolutely everything is not good for the Republican Party or our state,” Bush wrote to a friend after the loss. “When the word moderate becomes a dirty word, we have some soul-searching to do.”

a man standing next to a tree: President George H.W. Bush lets loose of a horseshoe during the dedication of the new horseshoe pit on the White House lawn Saturday April 1, 1989 in Washington. Other people are unidentified. © Barry Thumma, AP President George H.W. Bush lets loose of a horseshoe during the dedication of the new horseshoe pit on the White House lawn Saturday April 1, 1989 in Washington. Other people are unidentified.

In November 1966, Bush ran for Congress and won, becoming the first Republican from Houston and the star of the growing Texas GOP. He ended up with a plum appointment to the Ways and Means committee — a party nod to the importance of Texas. His voting record was predictably conservative, though not as hard right as his previous rhetoric suggested, and he ended up voting for the Civil Rights Act, as a result receiving stacks of hate mail and some death threats.

a man and a woman sitting at a table: President George H.W. Bush meets with Jerry Jones, the new owner of the Dallas Cowboys, in the Oval Office of the White House on Wednesday, April 6, 1989 in Washington. © Barry Thumma, ASSOCIATED PRESS President George H.W. Bush meets with Jerry Jones, the new owner of the Dallas Cowboys, in the Oval Office of the White House on Wednesday, April 6, 1989 in Washington.

“I want (the party’s) conservatism to be sensitive and dynamic, not scared and reactionary,” Bush told The Wall Street Journal at the time.

George H. W. Bush et al. posing for the camera: CONTACT FILED: GEORGE HW BUSH - 1989. 05/12/1989 - Pres. George Bush arrives at Texas A&M's Easterwood Airport. Steve Ueckert / Houston Chronicle © Steve Ueckert, Houston Chronicle CONTACT FILED: GEORGE HW BUSH - 1989. 05/12/1989 - Pres. George Bush arrives at Texas A&M's Easterwood Airport. Steve Ueckert / Houston Chronicle

Bush was in his second term when President Nixon asked him to take on Yarborough again. Bush was more than willing, and his instinct told him that Yarborough’s time was at an end.

a person wearing a suit and tie: Coretta Scott King has a word with President Bush before he signed legislation at the White House, May 17, 1989, extending the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday Commission. Vice President Dan Quayle stands at left. © BARRY THUMMA, ASSOCIATED PRESS Coretta Scott King has a word with President Bush before he signed legislation at the White House, May 17, 1989, extending the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday Commission. Vice President Dan Quayle stands at left.

He was right. But a former Texas congressman named Lloyd Bentsen had the same idea. When Bentsen knocked off the liberal incumbent, Bush found himself in a race he had not anticipated, running against a candidate who looked much like himself: smart, centrist, attractive to a new generation.

George H. W. Bush et al. posing for the camera: President George H.W. Bush, stands with Pope John Paul II in the papal library at the Vatican, in this May 27, 1989. © Ron Edmunds, ASSOCIATED PRESS President George H.W. Bush, stands with Pope John Paul II in the papal library at the Vatican, in this May 27, 1989.

Bush lost again and after two terms in Congress, he was out of a job.

Benazir Bhutto wearing a suit and tie: President George H.W. Bush and Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto stand together during a welcoming ceremony on the grounds of the White House, in this June 6, 1989, © Bob Daugherty, AP President George H.W. Bush and Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto stand together during a welcoming ceremony on the grounds of the White House, in this June 6, 1989,

Since Nixon had pushed him toward the Senate bid, he responded by appointing Bush to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. What followed over the rest of the decade was a series of appointed posts, each of which gave him useful experience. Nixon named him chairman of the Republican National Committee, his tenure coinciding with investigations into the Watergate affair, which resulted in Nixon’s resignation. Although Bush survived untainted, new President Gerald Ford knew it was time for a change and appointed him “envoy” to China — the two nations did not yet have full diplomatic relations, so Bush could not be called an ambassador.

George H. W. Bush et al. that are standing in the grass: President George H.W. Bush, right, and a Secret Service agent jog by a lone fisherman Monday October 30, 1989 on Haines Point in Washington, D.C. Bush took the short noon-time jog along the Potomac River where fishing is popular. © Marcy Nighswander, AP President George H.W. Bush, right, and a Secret Service agent jog by a lone fisherman Monday October 30, 1989 on Haines Point in Washington, D.C. Bush took the short noon-time jog along the Potomac River where fishing is popular.

In Ford’s final year in office, Bush was appointed director of the Central Intelligence Agency, which was in disarray after years of scandalous revelations. Though he was only there a year, he was credited for restoring the agency’s morale, and he was well thought of by longtime hands. The main building at the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Va., was renamed in his honor in 1999.

Neil Bush et al. posing for the camera: President George Bush and sons - Neil, center, and Marvin - outside St. Michael's Catholic Church 11/16/1989 after funeral services for family friend, C. Fred Chambers. © Ira Strickstein, Houston Chronicle President George Bush and sons - Neil, center, and Marvin - outside St. Michael's Catholic Church 11/16/1989 after funeral services for family friend, C. Fred Chambers.

When Ford was defeated by Jimmy Carter in 1976, Bush found himself once again unemployed. Returning to Houston, he served on the executive committee of a local bank, taught courses at Rice University and was made director of the Council on Foreign Relations, the prestigious national foreign policy organization. But it wasn’t enough.

a man holding a baseball bat on a field: US Pres. George Bush aptly dressed in hunting gear w. rifle in hand hunting quail on the Lazy F ranch in 1989. © David Valdez, Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image US Pres. George Bush aptly dressed in hunting gear w. rifle in hand hunting quail on the Lazy F ranch in 1989.

“I’ve been tense as a coiled spring,” Bush wrote to a friend not long after coming home. “There is a missing of stimulating talk. I just get bored silly....”

a man holding a wine glass: A soldier wounded in Panama hands President and Mrs. Bush an American flag during their visit at Wilford Hall, Lackland AFB, San Antonio, TX, Dec. 31, 1989. © George Bush Presidential Library A soldier wounded in Panama hands President and Mrs. Bush an American flag during their visit at Wilford Hall, Lackland AFB, San Antonio, TX, Dec. 31, 1989.

As the decade was closing, Bush saw an opening to run for the office to which he had long aspired — president. Carter’s hold on the office was not strong. Bush’s knowledge of Washington and of the demands of geopolitics were immensely greater than his opponents as campaigns ramped up ahead of the 1980 election. Yet once more, he found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

a person in a suit standing in front of a building: President George H.W Bush welcomes singer Michael Jackson, who was named "Entertainer of the Decade" by the Friends of the Children's Museum in Washington to the White House Thursday, April 20, 1990. Standing behind are daughter-in-law Margaret Bush and first lady Barbara Bush. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds) © Ron Edmonds, ASSOCIATED PRESS President George H.W Bush welcomes singer Michael Jackson, who was named "Entertainer of the Decade" by the Friends of the Children's Museum in Washington to the White House Thursday, April 20, 1990. Standing behind are daughter-in-law Margaret Bush and first lady Barbara Bush. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)

His chief opponent for the Republican nomination was Reagan, the rising power in the party. Bush claimed an early win in Iowa, and he scored big primary wins in a handful of important states. Reagan remained in front, however, and as the campaign approached the later months he had to win California, and that seemed unlikely. Longtime friend and campaign manager James Baker finally convinced him the numbers would not add up, and Bush dropped out.

a group of people sitting at a table with wine glasses: President George Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev shake hands across the Cabinet Room table prior to the beginning of their talks at the White House in Washington, May 31, 1990. (AP Photo/Marcy Nighswander) © Marcy Nighswander, ASSOCIATED PRESS President George Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev shake hands across the Cabinet Room table prior to the beginning of their talks at the White House in Washington, May 31, 1990. (AP Photo/Marcy Nighswander)

Bush dutifully showed up at the 1980 Republican National Convention skeptical that Reagan, who was decidedly cool toward Bush, would offer him the vice presidency. As the convention dragged on, no obvious choice for running mate emerged. Each prospect had limitations. But no contact left Bush convinced his political career was about to end.

a group of people standing in a room: President George Bush and first lady Barbara Bush pose with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife, Raisa, as they arrive for the state dinner at the White House in Washington in May 31, 1990, © J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE, AP President George Bush and first lady Barbara Bush pose with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife, Raisa, as they arrive for the state dinner at the White House in Washington in May 31, 1990,

Just before midnight, as the convention’s final day loomed, Baker picked up the phone in Bush’s hotel suite, then handed over the receiver. He had his reprieve.

a man wearing a suit and tie: President George H.W. Bush listens as Nelson Mandela, deputy president of the African National Congress, comments from the South Lawn of the White House Monday, June 25, 1990 in Washington. © Barry Thumma, ASSOCIATED PRESS President George H.W. Bush listens as Nelson Mandela, deputy president of the African National Congress, comments from the South Lawn of the White House Monday, June 25, 1990 in Washington.

“Out of a clear blue sky, the phone rang,” Bush later recalled for biographer Jon Meacham. “I thought we were done, out of it, just gone.”

a group of people standing in front of a building: Leaders in the Economic Summit line up for the class photo at Rice following the day's meetings 07/09/1990. From left, EC President Jacques Delors, Itallian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, French President Francois Mitterand, US President George HW Bush, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, and Japanese Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu. © Nuri Vallbona, Houston Chronicle Leaders in the Economic Summit line up for the class photo at Rice following the day's meetings 07/09/1990. From left, EC President Jacques Delors, Itallian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, French President Francois Mitterand, US President George HW Bush, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, and Japanese Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu.

Over the next eight years, the relationship between Reagan and Bush grew increasingly warm and cordial. Bush would prove a loyal second to Reagan, never pursuing his own agenda or separating himself from White House policy. He was relied on to carry out key assignments. One involved secretly selling arms to Iran, which was contrary to American policy.

a man in a military uniform standing in front of a crowd: President Bush participates in the Sumter Community welcome to returning US troops. The President singles out two pilots for recognition, Capt. Dale Cormier and Lt. "Neck" Dodson, Sumter, SC, March 17, 1991 © George Bush Presidential Library President Bush participates in the Sumter Community welcome to returning US troops. The President singles out two pilots for recognition, Capt. Dale Cormier and Lt. "Neck" Dodson, Sumter, SC, March 17, 1991

Unknown to most in the administration, the proceeds from the sale were being diverted to the contra “freedom fighters” who were attacking the leftist government in Nicaragua, in violation of American law. When the so-called Iran-Contra scandal became public, Bush claimed that he had been “out of the loop” with respect to the details.

a couple of people that are standing in the grass: (FILES) - A picture dated June 20, 1991 shows US President George Bush (L) walking with former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (R) as they leave the Oval Office at the White House. Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, the "Iron Lady" who shaped a generation of British politics, died following a stroke on April 8, 2013 at the age of 87, her spokesman said. AFP PHOTO/FILES/LUKE FRAZZALUKE FRAZZA/AFP/Getty Images © LUKE FRAZZA, AFP/Getty Images (FILES) - A picture dated June 20, 1991 shows US President George Bush (L) walking with former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (R) as they leave the Oval Office at the White House. Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, the "Iron Lady" who shaped a generation of British politics, died following a stroke on April 8, 2013 at the age of 87, her spokesman said. AFP PHOTO/FILES/LUKE FRAZZALUKE FRAZZA/AFP/Getty Images

Investigations failed to establish any clear wrongdoing on Bush’s part, though suspicions would linger for years. Both Reagan and Bush were adamant they had no knowledge that a key U.S. operative, Col. Oliver North, had used the money to pay the contras, or of any role the CIA may have played. Ultimately, Reagan accepted responsibility for the entire operation.

a group of people standing next to a man in a suit and tie: Four former U.S. presidents and President George Bush pose together at the dedication ceremonies for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif in this Nov. 5, 1991 file photo. From left to right: President George Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon. © MARCY NIGHSWANDER, AP Four former U.S. presidents and President George Bush pose together at the dedication ceremonies for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif in this Nov. 5, 1991 file photo. From left to right: President George Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon.

There was little doubt after Reagan’s reelection in 1984 that Bush would follow on with another campaign of his own. Planning and preparations began early. Bush’s biggest challenger turned out to be Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, whose campaign fizzled early.

a group of people that are standing in the grass: Picutre taken June 16, 1992 shows Russian President Boris Yeltsin (L), in Washington DC, throwing a horseshoe while playing the game outside the White House Oval Office with US President George Bush. © J. DAVID AKE, AFP/Getty Images Picutre taken June 16, 1992 shows Russian President Boris Yeltsin (L), in Washington DC, throwing a horseshoe while playing the game outside the White House Oval Office with US President George Bush.

As the GOP moved toward a defiant brand of ultra-conservatism, Bush and his Ivy League background, as well as his strong roots in the establishment, moderate middle of the party, had become a tougher sell. Most of the new movement conservatives who had backed Reagan never trusted or believed in him. Then again, they had no strong candidate of their own. And he was by any measure preferable to the candidate who emerged from the Democratic primaries: Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis.

a group of people around each other: Pres. George H.W. Bush joins his wife, Barbara, and their grandchildren on the podium during the third night of the 1992 Republican National Convention in the Houston Astrodome 08/19/1992 . © Ira Strickstein, © Houston Chronicle Pres. George H.W. Bush joins his wife, Barbara, and their grandchildren on the podium during the third night of the 1992 Republican National Convention in the Houston Astrodome 08/19/1992 .

Even if most of Bush’s political experience came via appointed positions, the battle of the resumes clearly gave him the nod. All he had to do was sell it.

a group of people posing for the camera: 10/08/1992 - President George Bush waves to crowd at a Republican Victory '92 fund-raiser at the J.W. Marriott Hotel. With him on the podium were Rob Mosbacher, left, and actor Robert Mitchum, who acted as master of ceremonies. John Makely / Houston Post © John Makely, Houston Chronicle 10/08/1992 - President George Bush waves to crowd at a Republican Victory '92 fund-raiser at the J.W. Marriott Hotel. With him on the podium were Rob Mosbacher, left, and actor Robert Mitchum, who acted as master of ceremonies. John Makely / Houston Post

Trying to convince middle Americans that he was on their side, he agreed to utter the words that would come back to dog his every day years down the road, words at odds with the sort of political leader he was — words he should have been smart enough to avoid.

Bill Clinton et al. standing next to a person in a suit and tie: President Bush, left, talks with independent candidate Ross Perot as Democratic candidate Bill Clinton stands aside at the end of their presidential debate in Richmond, Va., Oct. 15, 1992. © MARCY NIGHSWANDER, AP President Bush, left, talks with independent candidate Ross Perot as Democratic candidate Bill Clinton stands aside at the end of their presidential debate in Richmond, Va., Oct. 15, 1992.

“Read my lips: No new taxes.”

Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush sitting on a bench: Democratic presidential nominee Gov. Bill Clinton, left, answers a question during Monday night's presidential debate as U.S. President George Bush tries to make a point at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich., Oct. 19, 1992. © RON EDMONDS, ASSOCIATED PRESS Democratic presidential nominee Gov. Bill Clinton, left, answers a question during Monday night's presidential debate as U.S. President George Bush tries to make a point at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich., Oct. 19, 1992.

The election was a decisive victory. Bush carried 40 states and claimed more than 53 percent of the vote. And so a day that he had long imagined, and which had seemed less likely with each passing defeat, had dawned.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd posing for the camera: 11/2/1992 - President George Bush greets supporters at his final campaign rally Monday night at the Astroarena in Houston. Gaylon Wampler / Houston Post © Gaylon Wampler, Houston Chronicle 11/2/1992 - President George Bush greets supporters at his final campaign rally Monday night at the Astroarena in Houston. Gaylon Wampler / Houston Post

Bush was neither awed by the position nor inspired by great acts he hoped to push into law. How others would measure him someday never was a concern. He continually batted away any questions about legacy, even years after he had left office. Such matters were the stuff of vanity.

a person standing in front of a building: President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush wave to supporters as they head back to Washington from Ellington Field in Houston on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 1992 after losing Tuesday's election to Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds) © Ron Edmonds, ASSOCIATED PRESS President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush wave to supporters as they head back to Washington from Ellington Field in Houston on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 1992 after losing Tuesday's election to Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)

“He was never a man interested in the past,” Untermeyer said. “He never was haunted by or stirred by things that had happened to him years earlier. He was focused on the present and the future.”

a group of people standing in front of a car: 01/20/1993 - Former President George Bush raises his arms in gratitude Wednesday as he is welcomed home by neighbors and fans in front of his temporary house in Tanglewood, a neighborhood in southwest Houston. The Bushes' journey home capped an emotional day of farewells in the nation's capital, and began shortly after the former president watched his successor, Bill Clinton, take the oath of office. Kerwin Plevka / Houston Chronicle © Kerwin Plevka, Houston Chronicle 01/20/1993 - Former President George Bush raises his arms in gratitude Wednesday as he is welcomed home by neighbors and fans in front of his temporary house in Tanglewood, a neighborhood in southwest Houston. The Bushes' journey home capped an emotional day of farewells in the nation's capital, and began shortly after the former president watched his successor, Bill Clinton, take the oath of office. Kerwin Plevka / Houston Chronicle

Bush had not been in the White House long when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, a principal signal that the Soviet bloc was in its final days and that his administration would soon see its first big test. Displaying considerable judgment and self-control, Bush rejected suggestions of numerous American politicians and pundits and refused to dance on the rubble of the communist empire, lest he complicate the task of Kremlin leaders in managing their crumbling universe or the West German government in moving to reunify the nation at the heart of Europe.

a group of people sitting and looking at the camera: Former First Lady Barbara Bush and former President George Bush laugh at former President Jimmy Carter's speech during the dedication of the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas, Thursday, Nov. 6, 1997. © DAVID J. PHILLIP, ASSOCIATED PRESS Former First Lady Barbara Bush and former President George Bush laugh at former President Jimmy Carter's speech during the dedication of the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas, Thursday, Nov. 6, 1997.

Central to his desire to bolster a new relationship with the Soviet Union was his personal contact with its reformist leader, Mikhail Gorbachev. The two met formally in 1989 at the Malta Summit, where they announced a formal end to the Cold War.

Bill Clinton et al. sitting on a bench: President George W. Bush, left, receives a comforting pat on the arm from his father, former President George H.W. Bush, after speaking at a prayer service remembering the victims of Tuesday's terrorist attacks on Friday, September 14, 2001. © CHUCK KENNEDY, KRT President George W. Bush, left, receives a comforting pat on the arm from his father, former President George H.W. Bush, after speaking at a prayer service remembering the victims of Tuesday's terrorist attacks on Friday, September 14, 2001.

Bush’s cautious posture as the Soviet Union was beginning to unravel was a highlight of his presidency. He made a point of measuring every response and statement. The last thing he wanted to see were tanks rolling out to meet protesters. Or worse.

George W. Bush in a suit and tie sitting at a table: President George W. Bush talks to his father, former President Bush as he sits at his desk in the Oval Office in this file photo for the first time on Inaugural Day, Jan. 20, 2001. In many ways, large and small, George W. Bush's presidency has become a mirror image of his fathers. © ERIC DRAPER, AP President George W. Bush talks to his father, former President Bush as he sits at his desk in the Oval Office in this file photo for the first time on Inaugural Day, Jan. 20, 2001. In many ways, large and small, George W. Bush's presidency has become a mirror image of his fathers.

“The way he avoided giving the hard-liners in the Kremlin any pretext to for a launch a coup was crucial,” said Gates, who also served as Secretary of Defense for presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. “They finally did, but if they had launched it in 1989 instead of 1991, they might have been successful. Gorbachev’s reforms would not have had time to weaken their hold on power.”

George H. W. Bush wearing a suit and tie: Former President George Bush and Chinese President Jiang Zemin share a laugh during a dinner in Houston, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2002. © DAVID J PHILLIP, AP Former President George Bush and Chinese President Jiang Zemin share a laugh during a dinner in Houston, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2002.

The end of the Cold War did not mean an end to international trouble. When the Chinese government violently put down a dissident student movement, most notably in a 1989 confrontation at Tiananmen Square, Bush used his personal relationship with the premier to allay fears of American intrusion into Chinese matters. One of the few American figures trusted by Beijing, he was then able to dispatch a personal envoy to China to quietly discuss the issue.

a man standing in front of a crowd: Former President Bush, left, presents the winner's trophy to Andy Roddick, right, after Roddick defeated Pete Sampras, rear center, in the finals of the U.S. Clay Court Championships in Houston, Sunday, April 28, 2002. © DAVID J. PHILLIP, AP Former President Bush, left, presents the winner's trophy to Andy Roddick, right, after Roddick defeated Pete Sampras, rear center, in the finals of the U.S. Clay Court Championships in Houston, Sunday, April 28, 2002.

In the summer of 1990, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein decided to end a simmering dispute over ownership of a large oil field by invading Kuwait and hovering menacingly on the northern border of Saudi Arabia, which at the time was a major source of America’s crude oil.

Jeb Bush et al. sitting at a table: Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and his father, former President George Bush watch the election results Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2002 in a hotel room in Miami as his mother, Barbara, sits nearby and his wife Columba looks on. © JOE BURBANK, AP Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and his father, former President George Bush watch the election results Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2002 in a hotel room in Miami as his mother, Barbara, sits nearby and his wife Columba looks on.

Bush quickly declared that the occupation would “not stand.” With the grudging consent of Saudi leaders, he sent U.S. troops to the desert kingdom in what would become, to that point, the largest deployment of American military personnel since the Vietnam War. Bush also enlisted the support of more than two dozen nations, including eight Arab countries, and waited for an international consensus before moving forward.

Barbara Bush and a dog sitting on top of a car: Former U.S. president George H. W. Bush and wife, Barbara Bush, cruise in the back of a golf cart with their dog Millie at their home at Walker's Point August 25, 2004 in Kennebunkport, Maine. © David Hume Kennerly, Getty Images Former U.S. president George H. W. Bush and wife, Barbara Bush, cruise in the back of a golf cart with their dog Millie at their home at Walker's Point August 25, 2004 in Kennebunkport, Maine.

The ability of Bush to craft the Gulf coalition, with Baker’s help, and prod the United Nations to fulfill one of its central purposes was a significant achievement. He skillfully managed to gain the support of China and Russia at the U.N. debate — Iraq had been a Soviet ally — and then coordinated a large joint military operation with longtime allies England and France. More than 40 nations contributed financially or in some way to the cause.

Barbara Bush et al. posing for the camera: President George H.W. and Barbara Bush along with Houston Mayor Bill White (behind Barbara Bush) and event co-chair Charles Foster (foreground left, back to camera) were at the unveiling of a statue and plaza honoring the former president, 12/02/2004 in Sesquicentennial Park. © Steve Ueckert, © Houston Chronicle President George H.W. and Barbara Bush along with Houston Mayor Bill White (behind Barbara Bush) and event co-chair Charles Foster (foreground left, back to camera) were at the unveiling of a statue and plaza honoring the former president, 12/02/2004 in Sesquicentennial Park.

A five-week air assault that began Jan. 17, 1991, was followed by a 100-hour ground offensive. Facing the full onslaught of Desert Storm, Iraqi troops who were not killed quickly scattered or retreated northward. In one of the most controversial moves of his administration, Bush and his senior advisers decided not to send U.S. ground forces to pursue the fleeing units into Iraq, arguing that doing so would go beyond their U.N. mandate, fracture the coalition and dangerously destabilize Iraq. That set up a decade-long international stalemate and a decision by his son to mount a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 — a war based on the false premise of Iraq’s pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

a person standing in front of a television: Looking more like a retiree and avid fisherman than a former president of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush shows off the former tool shack on his Walker Point Estate in Kennebunkport, Maine that he "appropriated" for his fishing tackle and fly tying gear. © Karl Stolleis, Houston Chronicle Looking more like a retiree and avid fisherman than a former president of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush shows off the former tool shack on his Walker Point Estate in Kennebunkport, Maine that he "appropriated" for his fishing tackle and fly tying gear.

In his own hemisphere, Bush’s presidential term saw negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (eventually to be ratified in November 1993) and the U.S.-led coup to overthrow Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, who had been indicted in the United States on drug trafficking charges.

George H. W. Bush et al. looking at each other: Former U.S. presidents Bill Clinton, left, and George H.W. Bush meet the media while inspecting rebuilding efforts for displaced residents from the December tsunami in Weligama, Sri Lanka Monday, Feb. 21, 2005. © GERALD HERBERT, AP Former U.S. presidents Bill Clinton, left, and George H.W. Bush meet the media while inspecting rebuilding efforts for displaced residents from the December tsunami in Weligama, Sri Lanka Monday, Feb. 21, 2005.

All that Bush accomplished internationally, however, was slowly overshadowed by a lingering economic malaise. The need for a dreaded tax increase loomed. He might have been able to finesse a few fee increases or small, and less obvious, tax hikes. This was more than that, and it hit him head on.

Barbara Bush sitting in front of a store: Former First Lady Barbara Bush, left, and former President George H.W. Bush are all smiles as they ride in the grand parade during the opening performance of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo March 1, 2005, at Reliant Stadium in Houston. © BRETT COOMER, HOUSTON CHRONICLE Former First Lady Barbara Bush, left, and former President George H.W. Bush are all smiles as they ride in the grand parade during the opening performance of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo March 1, 2005, at Reliant Stadium in Houston.

“It did destroy me,” Bush later told biographer Meacham. “It was a mistake (to make the pledge), but I meant it at the time, and I meant it all through my presidency. But when you’re faced with the reality, the practical reality of shutting down government or dealing with a hostile Congress, you get something done.”

a man and a woman looking at the camera: Actress Eva Longoria shares a laugh with former President George H. W. Bush before the NBA All-Star basketball game in Houston, Sunday, Feb. 19, 2006. © L.M. OTERO, AP Actress Eva Longoria shares a laugh with former President George H. W. Bush before the NBA All-Star basketball game in Houston, Sunday, Feb. 19, 2006.

Bush thought much had been gained through entitlement cuts and deficit reduction, even if he had to give way on taxes. However, he did little to sell the benefits of the bargain to the American people. Management was his responsibility, he felt: Do the best you can and move on. The thing will speak for itself.

a man in a suit sitting at a table: Former President George H.W. Bush, left, becomes emotional as he talks about how proud he was of the way his son, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, right, handled his defeat in the 1994 race for governor, during a speech Dec. 4, 2006, at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fl. © COLIN HACKLEY, AP Former President George H.W. Bush, left, becomes emotional as he talks about how proud he was of the way his son, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, right, handled his defeat in the 1994 race for governor, during a speech Dec. 4, 2006, at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fl.

As his reelection campaign came closer, it seemed apparent that the polls showing trouble were accurate. Even worse, it was obvious that his candidacy lacked a theme or focus. He rejected suggestions that he announce something like a “Domestic Storm” (piggybacking on the military operation) as too hokey. But he had no real alternative.

George H. W. Bush wearing a suit and tie: Former president George H.W. Bush checks his bell as he prepares to ring it for the Salvation Army Monday, Dec. 18, 2006, in Houston. © David J. Phillip, AP Former president George H.W. Bush checks his bell as he prepares to ring it for the Salvation Army Monday, Dec. 18, 2006, in Houston.

Late in the campaign, Bush asked a downcast assembly of aides: “Am I the only SOB in the room who thinks I’m going to win?’’ That was just about the case.

a group of people standing together in uniform: Texas head coach Mack Brown shares a laugh with former President George H.W. Bush before playing Texas A&M Nov. 23, 2007, at Kyle Field in College Station. © Kevin Fujii, Houston Chronicle Texas head coach Mack Brown shares a laugh with former President George H.W. Bush before playing Texas A&M Nov. 23, 2007, at Kyle Field in College Station.

His last campaign could have been an opportunity to reconnect with voters, to assure them the presidency was in the hands of an able captain, not a rookie with character issues. Yet it felt much more like an odious burden, lifeless and out of synch. “All in all,” he recorded in his diary one evening, “it’s a pain in the ass.”

a man flying through the air on a snow board: COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS -- Former President George H.W. Bush and U.S. Army Golden Knights Sergeant 1st Class Mike Elliot freefall while parachuting during the George Bush Presidential Library & Museum grand reopening ceremony on November 10, 2007. "Just because you are 83 years-old does not mean you have to sit around," said the 41st President following his sixth parachute landing. "The U.S. Army Golden Knights made me feel like I was 23 again.". (PRNewsFoto/U.S. Army) © Ho COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS -- Former President George H.W. Bush and U.S. Army Golden Knights Sergeant 1st Class Mike Elliot freefall while parachuting during the George Bush Presidential Library & Museum grand reopening ceremony on November 10, 2007. "Just because you are 83 years-old does not mean you have to sit around," said the 41st President following his sixth parachute landing. "The U.S. Army Golden Knights made me feel like I was 23 again.". (PRNewsFoto/U.S. Army)

Fitzwater said Bush never warmed to the need for a strong sales pitch.

a man that is standing in the dirt: Former U.S. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton walk through debris at Bermuda Beach on Galveston Island as they tour areas affected by Hurricane Ike Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2008, in Galveston, Texas. © Smiley N. Pool, Houston Chronicle Former U.S. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton walk through debris at Bermuda Beach on Galveston Island as they tour areas affected by Hurricane Ike Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2008, in Galveston, Texas.

“It just wasn’t there,” he said in an interview. “He had been taught so long by his parents and family about the artificiality of public relations and that sort of thing.”

George H. W. Bush wearing a suit and tie: President George H.W. Bush smiles before presenting SSgt. Rene Fernandez and his family the keys to a new home in the Lakeshore subdivision that was donated by Perry Homes through Helping a Hero program Thursday, Dec. 11, 2008, in Houston. Fernandez was awarded the purple heart after surviving a blast from an Improvised Explosive Device while traveling in a HUMVEE in Iraq. Fernandez suffered traumatic brain injury and is still recovering. The Help a Hero program works to improve the quality of life for soldiers who have been severely wounded. ( Johnny Hanson / Chronicle ) © Johnny Hanson, Houston Chronicle President George H.W. Bush smiles before presenting SSgt. Rene Fernandez and his family the keys to a new home in the Lakeshore subdivision that was donated by Perry Homes through Helping a Hero program Thursday, Dec. 11, 2008, in Houston. Fernandez was awarded the purple heart after surviving a blast from an Improvised Explosive Device while traveling in a HUMVEE in Iraq. Fernandez suffered traumatic brain injury and is still recovering. The Help a Hero program works to improve the quality of life for soldiers who have been severely wounded. ( Johnny Hanson / Chronicle )

Control of the White House has typically moved back and forth between the two parties, and the GOP had held it for 12 years. The Cold War was over, and Saddam Hussein had been turned back. As historians have argued, there was no overt reason for voters to embrace Bush and the status quo.

George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush are posing for a picture: Former Presidents George H.W. Bush, the 41st, left, and George W. Bush, the 43rd, pose for a father-son portrait during the 2008 Easter holiday at Camp David in Thurmont, Md. © Eric Draper Former Presidents George H.W. Bush, the 41st, left, and George W. Bush, the 43rd, pose for a father-son portrait during the 2008 Easter holiday at Camp David in Thurmont, Md.

With the election loss came intense pain, physical and emotional, that he fully acknowledged. Some of it arose from the frustration he felt that the public did not understand him, and perhaps never had. Voters had heard the steady drumbeat of criticism, but they did not see the empathetic person who lay underneath a sometimes awkward exterior, a man not given to public displays of emotion but who would cry easily in private, who always was eager to help the fellow who had less.

John McCain, George H. W. Bush are posing for a picture: Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and former President George H.W. Bush after a news conference at the Bush family home in Kennebunkport, Maine, Monday, July 21, 2008. © Carolyn Kaster, AP Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and former President George H.W. Bush after a news conference at the Bush family home in Kennebunkport, Maine, Monday, July 21, 2008.

In his final personal thoughts about his time in the Oval Office, Bush wrote that he had tried to serve with honor, to do nothing that “would tarnish and hurt the presidency.” He mused that no one seemed to care about that, especially the press, which was enamored with beautiful rhetoric and great public displays of passion but uninterested in competent day-to-day performance as a worthy end in itself.

a man that is standing in the water: President George H.W. Bush waves to the crowd following commissioning ceremonies for the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier at the at Naval Station Norfolk, Jan. 10, 2009, in Norfolk. © Smiley N. Pool, Houston Chronicle President George H.W. Bush waves to the crowd following commissioning ceremonies for the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier at the at Naval Station Norfolk, Jan. 10, 2009, in Norfolk.

Coming back to Houston, Bush felt a pervasive sadness. There was much more to do that would not get done, he said. Convincing voters had been his responsibility, and he had failed. He did stand for something, he was engaged — this he insisted was true. Yet people did not want to believe him. That hurt more than anyone could know, he said.

George H. W. Bush, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter standing next to a person in a suit and tie: President-elect Barack Obama is welcomed by President George W. Bush for a meeting at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009, with former presidents, from left, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter. © J. Scott Applewhite, AP President-elect Barack Obama is welcomed by President George W. Bush for a meeting at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009, with former presidents, from left, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter.

LOCAL FAVORITES: How Barbara and George H.W. Bush became royalty here

a group of people standing next to a man talking on a cell phone: Former President George H.W. Bush signs an autograph for Houston Astros pitcher Doug Brocail as Bush tours the Astros clubhouse with team owner Drayton McLane prior to a spring training game against the Florida Marlins at Osceola County Stadium March 23, 2009, in Kissimmee. © Smiley N. Pool, Houston Chronicle Former President George H.W. Bush signs an autograph for Houston Astros pitcher Doug Brocail as Bush tours the Astros clubhouse with team owner Drayton McLane prior to a spring training game against the Florida Marlins at Osceola County Stadium March 23, 2009, in Kissimmee.

His spirits were buoyed in 2000 when son George was elected president. It was only the second time in American history that a father and son had served in the White House. The fatherly pride of Bush 41, as he came to be known, was tempered by his son’s second term, by the end of which he was pilloried for a long and costly war premised on bad information and for the coming of the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression.

a man holding a snow board: In this photo provided by Army Golden Knights, former President George H. W. Bush, bottom, rides tandem with Sgt. Michael Elliott of the Army Golden Knights parachute team as he celebrates his 85th birthday with a parachute jump, Friday, June 12, 2009, in Kennebunkport, Maine. © SSG Joe Abeln, AP In this photo provided by Army Golden Knights, former President George H. W. Bush, bottom, rides tandem with Sgt. Michael Elliott of the Army Golden Knights parachute team as he celebrates his 85th birthday with a parachute jump, Friday, June 12, 2009, in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Bush lived long enough to see the rise of China, whose potential he had seen as an envoy there, and the dangerous resurgence of Russia, which under Vladimir Putin began military efforts to reclaim territory lost with the Soviet Union’s collapse. He also looked on with sadness as the polarization that was beginning to cleave his party while he was president led to a Congress all but incapable of compromising on significant issues. The upshot of that failure was the election of Donald Trump, a more flamboyant and politically successful version of Perot. Son Jeb, a former governor of Florida, was one of the GOP candidates Trump knocked out of the race.

George H. W. Bush et al. standing together smiling for the camera: Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush stands with former Houston Oilers coach Bum Phillips on the sidelines before the Houston Texans faced the New York Giants on Sunday, October 10, 2010, at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas. © George Bridges, MCT Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush stands with former Houston Oilers coach Bum Phillips on the sidelines before the Houston Texans faced the New York Giants on Sunday, October 10, 2010, at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas.

Unlike Clinton, whose wife entered politics as he left it, Bush was far from a ubiquitous figure in retirement. He did emerge for a different sort of campaign in 2004, joining his old rival to spearhead fundraising efforts for victims of a tsunami that hit 14 Asian countries. The odd couple hit it off and reprised the charity work for those displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Mike Vrabel, George H. W. Bush standing in front of a crowd: Former President George H.W. Bush flips the coin before an NFL football game between the Houston Texans and the Kansas City Chiefs at Reliant Stadium Sunday, Oct. 17, 2010, in Houston. The Texans beat the Chiefs 35-31. © Brett Coomer, Houston Chronicle Former President George H.W. Bush flips the coin before an NFL football game between the Houston Texans and the Kansas City Chiefs at Reliant Stadium Sunday, Oct. 17, 2010, in Houston. The Texans beat the Chiefs 35-31.

Bush was occasionally seen at ball games around Houston, at numerous charity events, and at funerals of old friends. He rarely gave interviews, though eventually he was convinced to cooperate on his biography. He made a final parachute jump after turning 90, but age and disease began to take a toll. When he lost the ability to walk, there were few public appearances.

Former President George H.W. Bush and James A. Baker talk before the start of the 1st inning of an Astros game in 2011. © Michael Paulsen, Staff Former President George H.W. Bush and James A. Baker talk before the start of the 1st inning of an Astros game in 2011.

In 2010, Obama awarded Bush the Presidential Medal of Freedom, an honor that Bush himself had bestowed on Reagan. In the East Room of the White House, Obama spoke words that would have meant everything to Bush’s parents and grandparents, who insisted that the advantages he enjoyed were not to be squandered.

George H. W. Bush holding a gun: FILE - NOVEMBER 29: Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush has been hospitalized with bronchitis in Houston, Texas for six days, his spokesman said on November 29, 2012. WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 15: U.S. President Barack Obama (L) presents former U.S. President George H.W. Bush with the 2010 Medal of Freedom in the East Room of the White House February 15, 2011 in Washington, DC. Obama presented the medal to twelve pioneers in sports, labor, politics and arts. © Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images FILE - NOVEMBER 29: Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush has been hospitalized with bronchitis in Houston, Texas for six days, his spokesman said on November 29, 2012. WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 15: U.S. President Barack Obama (L) presents former U.S. President George H.W. Bush with the 2010 Medal of Freedom in the East Room of the White House February 15, 2011 in Washington, DC. Obama presented the medal to twelve pioneers in sports, labor, politics and arts.

“His life is a testament that public service is a noble calling,” Obama said. “His humility and decency reflects the very best of the American spirit.”

a group of people riding on the back of a bicycle: Former President George H. W. Bush shakes hands with runners in front of St. Martin's Episcopal Church near the 19th mile marker during the Chevron Houston Marathon in 2012. © Mayra Beltran, Staff Former President George H. W. Bush shakes hands with runners in front of St. Martin's Episcopal Church near the 19th mile marker during the Chevron Houston Marathon in 2012.

Mike Tolson is a senior Chronicle reporter who specializes in long-term projects. He can be reached by e-mail at Mike.Tolson@chron.com.

George W. Bush et al. sitting in chairs in front of a crowd: Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) greets former Presidents George W. Bush, center, and George H.W. Bush before the Texans game against the Oakland Raiders at Reliant Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013, in Houston. (AP Photo/ Houston Chronicle, Brett Coomer)

Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) greets former Presidents George W. Bush, center, and George H.W. Bush before the Texans game against the Oakland Raiders at Reliant Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013, in Houston. (AP Photo/ Houston Chronicle, Brett Coomer)
© Brett Coomer, Associated Press
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