BREAKING NEWS Vigo County School Corporation announces plan to return all students to five-days of in-person learning Full Story

Barbara Bush's legacy

First Lady of the United States, mother to a US president and "The Enforcer" are just a few of the titles Barbara Bush can claim.

Posted: Apr 18, 2018 5:54 PM
Updated: Apr 18, 2018 5:59 PM

Barbara Bush, the matriarch of a Republican political dynasty and a first lady who elevated the cause of literacy, died Tuesday, according to a statement from her husband's office. She was 92.

Only the second woman in American history to have had a husband and a son elected President (Abigail Adams was the first), Bush was seen as a plainspoken public figure who was instantly recognizable with her signature white hair and pearl necklaces and earrings. She became a major political figure as her husband, George H.W. Bush, rose to become vice president and president. After they left the White House, she was a potent spokeswoman for two of her sons -- George W. and Jeb -- as they campaigned for office.

The mother of six children -- one of whom, a daughter, Robin, died as a child from leukemia -- Barbara Bush raised her fast-growing family in the 1950s and '60s amid the post-war boom of Texas and the whirl of politics that consumed her husband.

She was at his side during his nearly 30-year political career. He was a US representative for Texas, UN ambassador, Republican Party chairman, ambassador to China and CIA director. He then became Ronald Reagan's vice president for two terms and won election to the White House in 1988. He left office in 1993 after losing a re-election bid to Bill Clinton.

Quick-witted with a sharp tongue, the feisty Barbara Bush was a fierce defender of her husband and an astute adviser.

As first lady, her principal persona as a devoted wife and mother contrasted in many ways with her peer and predecessor, Nancy Reagan, and her younger successor, Hillary Clinton, both of whom were seen as more intimately involved in their husbands' presidencies.

Still, Barbara Bush promoted women's rights, and her strong personal views sometimes surfaced publicly and raised eyebrows -- especially when they clashed with Republican Party politics. For instance, she once said as her husband ran for president that abortion should not be politicized.

She also was not shy about the possibility of a female president, disarming a Wellesley College audience at a 1990 appearance protested by some on campus who questioned her credentials to address female graduates aiming for the workplace.

"Somewhere out in this audience may even be someone who will one day follow my footsteps and preside over the White House as the president's spouse.

"I wish him well," she said.

Childhood and family life

Barbara Pierce was born June 8, 1925, in New York and raised in the upscale town of Rye. She attended a prestigious boarding school in South Carolina, where she met her future husband at a school dance when she was only 16 and he was a year older. A year and a half and countless love letters later, the two were engaged just before George Bush enlisted in the Navy and went off to fight in World War II.

Bush, who was the youngest fighter pilot in the Navy at the time, would return home a war hero, after being shot down by the Japanese. He had flown 58 combat missions and received the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery. By that time, Barbara had dropped out of Smith College and the pair were married in January 1945.

They raised their family mainly in Texas, where George H.W. Bush, the son of a US senator, was in the oil business and later entered politics.

Barbara Bush's dedication to keeping order at home earned her the nickname "the enforcer."

"We were rambunctious a lot, pretty independent-minded kids, and, you know, she had her hands. Dad, of course, was available, but he was a busy guy. And he was on the road a lot in his businesses and obviously on the road a lot when he was campaigning. And so Mother was there to maintain order and discipline. She was the sergeant," George W. Bush told CNN in 2016.

With her husband as vice president in the 1980s, Bush adopted literacy as a cause, raising awareness and eventually launching the nonprofit Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. After George H.W. Bush's presidency, he and Barbara raised more than $1 billion for literacy and cancer charities.

"I chose literacy because I honestly believe that if more people could read, write, and comprehend, we would be that much closer to solving so many of the problems that plague our nation and our society," she said.

A writer, her books include an autobiography and one about post-White House life. Her children's book about their dog, Millie, and her puppies written during her White House years was, as were her other books, a bestseller.

On the campaign trail

In 2001, when George W. Bush took office, Barbara Bush became the only woman in American history to live to see her husband and son elected president.

She campaigned for son George W. and fiercely defended him from critics after he became president.

Asked in a 2013 interview about the prospect that her younger son, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, might mount a White House campaign in 2016, Bush quipped in her dry fashion, "We've had enough Bushes."

But when Jeb decided to run, she changed her mind and campaigned for him, appearing in a video for Jeb Bush's ultimately unsuccessful campaign, saying, "I think he'll be a great president."

She also was outspoken about Donald Trump. In one of her last interviews, the former first lady said in early 2016 she was "sick" of Trump, who belittled her son repeatedly during the 2016 GOP primary campaign, adding that she doesn't "understand why people are for him."

"I'm a woman," she added. "I'm not crazy about what he says about women."

Most recently, Bush published a note in the spring edition of Smith College's alumnae magazine, where she declared: "I am still old and still in love with the man I married 72 years ago."

The college awarded Bush an honorary degree in 1989.

Bush battled health problems for much of her later life. She was diagnosed in 1988 with Graves' disease, an autoimmune disease that commonly affects the thyroid. She had open-heart surgery in 2009 and in 2008 underwent surgery for a perforated ulcer.

In her final years, she was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, better known as COPD, as well as congestive heart failure. But, along with her husband, she kept an active public schedule, raising money for charity.

Bush is survived by her husband, George H.W.; sons George W., Neil, Marvin and Jeb; daughter, Dorothy Bush Koch; and 17 grandchildren.

Terre Haute
Broken Clouds
69° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 69°
Robinson
Clear
74° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 74°
Indianapolis
Broken Clouds
69° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 69°
Rockville
Broken Clouds
60° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 60°
Casey
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 70°
Brazil
Broken Clouds
69° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 69°
Marshall
Broken Clouds
69° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 69°
Sunny and windy!
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 293448

Reported Deaths: 8881
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook1446975221
DuPage17690562
Lake16992487
Will14133379
Kane13182326
St. Clair6729190
Winnebago6069151
Madison5802141
Champaign478920
McHenry4625118
Peoria352651
McLean330523
Rock Island303777
Kankakee276477
Unassigned2542244
Sangamon245045
Kendall203425
Tazewell179525
LaSalle174257
DeKalb160438
Macon159844
Coles148831
Williamson141647
Jackson126724
Clinton120321
Adams118310
Boone113623
Randolph94511
Effingham8792
Vermilion8174
Whiteside76521
Ogle7326
Monroe68616
Knox6803
Grundy6775
Morgan67223
Henry6695
Bureau65911
Jefferson62438
Marion5692
Christian56011
Macoupin5567
Franklin5483
Stephenson5356
Union52024
McDonough49115
Logan4661
Crawford4594
Woodford4286
Fayette4243
Livingston4066
Shelby4024
Cass39811
Jersey39515
Lee3911
Montgomery38213
Iroquois36719
Perry35415
Saline3504
Bond3346
Warren3332
Douglas3167
Wayne2935
Jo Daviess2692
Lawrence2592
Carroll2335
Greene23011
Hancock2233
Moultrie2194
Cumberland2185
Richland2176
Washington2171
Jasper21210
Fulton1880
Pulaski1811
Clark1763
White1690
Johnson1620
Wabash1603
Clay1570
Mason1541
Mercer1415
Piatt1410
Pike1391
De Witt1272
Menard1271
Massac1132
Edgar1128
Marshall1090
Ford1075
Alexander841
Scott790
Gallatin742
Hamilton732
Henderson700
Brown670
Edwards660
Calhoun610
Putnam590
Stark552
Schuyler500
Hardin390
Pope291
Out of IL20

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 119066

Reported Deaths: 3612
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion21563768
Lake10745324
Elkhart6734112
St. Joseph6679115
Allen6364205
Hamilton4965109
Vanderburgh384231
Hendricks2779124
Monroe267137
Tippecanoe259013
Johnson2362125
Clark226757
Porter222447
Delaware201162
Cass19589
Vigo187928
Madison171475
LaPorte151941
Warrick140743
Floyd140464
Howard133964
Kosciusko127117
Bartholomew119357
Marshall102124
Dubois100919
Boone99746
Grant96636
Hancock94843
Noble92932
Henry82226
Jackson77610
Wayne77314
Morgan73940
Shelby68329
Daviess68129
Dearborn67928
LaGrange64711
Clinton63414
Harrison59824
Putnam59011
Gibson5455
Knox5379
Lawrence51829
Montgomery51321
DeKalb49111
White48814
Decatur46139
Miami4394
Greene42936
Fayette42314
Jasper4032
Steuben3977
Scott39311
Posey3541
Sullivan33812
Jennings31712
Franklin31525
Clay3105
Ripley3108
Orange28724
Whitley2876
Carroll28013
Adams2773
Wabash2758
Starke2737
Washington2702
Wells2694
Spencer2683
Jefferson2523
Huntington2503
Fulton2462
Tipton22922
Randolph2238
Perry22213
Jay1920
Newton17411
Owen1711
Martin1690
Pike1691
Rush1584
Vermillion1320
Fountain1302
Blackford1223
Pulaski1141
Crawford1100
Parke1072
Brown1033
Benton860
Ohio797
Union790
Switzerland690
Warren411
Unassigned0227