George H.W. Bush, who in one term as president reasserted the U.S. as the world's lone superpower, rallying an international coalition against Iraq's Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War and presiding over the fall of the Berlin Wall and subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union, died on Friday. He was 94.
The announcement of his passing was made in a statement by his son, former President George W. Bush.
"Jeb, Neil, Marvin, Doro and I are saddened to announced that after 94 remarkable years, our dear Dad has died," his son said in a statement released Friday night.
"George H.W. Bush was a man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for. The entire Bush family is deeply grateful for 41's life and love, for the compassion of those who have cared and prayed for Dad, and for the condolences of our friends and fellow citizens," the statement read.
Grandson George P. Bush said on Twitter Friday night, "He was more than a great man; he was a good man. His courage was matched by his compassion; and his dedication to country was equaled only by his devotion to his family."
One of the most experienced public servants in U.S. history, Bush served two terms as vice president under Ronald Reagan before becoming president in 1989, capping off a career that included stints as director of the CIA and U.S. ambassador to China and the U.N. in the 1970s.
President George H.W. Bush smiles after he was introduced at the New York State Republican dinner at the Waldorf-Austria Hotel on June 22, 1989 in New York.Rick Bowmer / AP file
A longtime pillar of the moderate wing of the Republican Party — he was national chairman after the Watergate scandal left the GOP in disarray — Bush lent establishment credentials to Reagan's conservative insurgency, becoming his running mate in 1980 after losing the presidential nomination to him.
But for all of the foreign policy successes of Bush's lone term in the White House, it was a basic domestic issue that effectively undercut his shot at a second: his decision to raise taxes to address a deficit that had exploded under Reagan. Conservatives cried heresy, and repercussions still ripple through the GOP today.
Serving as president from 1989 to 1993, Bush and his wife, Barbara, who died in April, remained prominent public figures long afterward. They stood apart as a genial reminders of a political era that many Americans preferred to recall as more bipartisan and cooperative than perhaps it really was.
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump said Bush led the nation with sound judgement, common sense and unflappable leadership.
"Through his essential authenticity, disarming wit, and unwavering commitment to faith, family, and country, President Bush inspired generations of his fellow Americans to public service—to be, in his words, “a thousand points of light” illuminating the greatness, hope, and opportunity of America to the world," they said in a statement.
With the election of George W. Bush as the 43rd president in 2000, the Bushes became the second father-son set to serve as commander in chief — John Adams and John Quincy Adams being the first.
The Bush political dynasty began decades before, with the elder Bush's father, Prescott Bush, a Wall Street banker, representing Connecticut in the U.S. Senate from 1952 to 1963.
An accomplished athlete throughout his life — Bush played first base for Yale University teams that twice made the College World Series — Bush celebrated his 90th birthday by taking a tandem skydive, even though by then he was using a wheelchair because of a disease similar to Parkinson's.
He had been in and out of hospitals several times in recent years, including a stay in the intensive care unit for shortness of breath and pneumonia in January 2017, when President Donald Trump was inaugurated.
At his wife's funeral on April 21, the gregarious and polite former president shook the hands of hundreds of mourners. He went into the hospital days later with what doctors said was an infection.
Although born into privilege, George Herbert Walker Bush looked for opportunities to serve early in life. At 18, he defied his parents and joined the military after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. He was among the youngest pilots in the Navy and was shot down over the Pacific and was rescued by a passing submarine.
He returned home to marry his sweetheart, Barbara Pierce, and the couple settled in Texas, where he worked in the oil business. They had six children.
Bush made his first bid for office in 1964, running for the U.S. Senate in Texas as a Republican, like his father. He didn't win, but went on to secure a House seat two years later and ran again for Senate in 1970 at the urging of President Richard M. Nixon. Again, he was unsuccessful — but Nixon rewarded Bush by appointing him ambassador to the United Nations.
It would be the first in a series of positions at the pinnacle of American power. He was appointed in 1973 as chairman of the Republican National Committee, tasked with cleaning up the party's mess from the Watergate scandal, and President Gerald Ford rewarded Bush by appointing him U.S. envoy to China and then director of the Central Intelligence Agency.