President George H.W. Bush, who served from 1989 to 1993, passed away at the edge of 94. Here’s a look back at the long and interesting life of the Commander-in-Chief.
Near death experience
As a teenager, he contracted such a serious staph infection — which nearly killed him — that he missed so much school he had to repeat the year in order to graduate. (Nevertheless, he still managed to join the Allied war effort as a pilot, signing up on his 18th birthday.)
World War II experience
During World War II, a brigade of nine American airmen were shot down near the remote Japanese island of Chichi Jima. Of those men, eight were captured, tortured, and executed. The only one to escape (after crashing in a different spot than the others, and finding a life raft) was George Bush.
The future president attended Yale and was captain of the baseball team. The good: He played in two College World Series tournaments. The not-so-good: His batting average was a so-so .251.
VP to President
In 1988, Bush became only the fourth sitting vice president to win election to the presidency. The others? John Adams (1796), Thomas Jefferson (1800), and Martin Van Buren (1836).
Bush was an early favorite to win the 1980 Republican nomination for president, capturing one of the first tests, the Iowa caucus, over Ronald Reagan. Reagan soon pulled ahead, and although Bush campaigned against Reagan, calling the latter’s ideas “voodoo economics,” Reagan picked him as his running mate, and the ticket easily won in 1980 and again in 1984.
Other high-ranking political positions
Bush served in almost every high-ranking political position possible. He was president and vice president, of course, but also the director of the C.I.A., ambassador to the United Nations, an envoy to China, a congressman, and chairman of the Republican National Committee.
He struck up a friendship with, of all people, Dana Carvey, the actor and comedian who did a wildly exaggerated impression of him (“Not gonna do it! Wouldn’t be prudent!”) on Saturday Night Live. In December 1992, Bush’s last holiday season in the White House before his presidency concluded the following January, he invited Carvey to stay in the Lincoln Bedroom, and then roast him, in character, in front of the president’s staff.
Another potential nemesis turned unlikely friend for George Bush: Bill Clinton, the man who defeated him in his 1992 re-election bid. They became buddies and elder statesmen together — in 2004, then-president (and Bush’s son) George W. Bush asked the two ex-presidents to go on goodwill/relief missions of tsunami-ravaged southeastern Asia and the Hurricane Katrina-struck southern U.S. They also played in golf tournaments together, attended state funerals together, visited each other at their homes for long spells, and checked in on each other after health scares. You know, like how friends do.