Early life and career
George Walker Bush was born on July 6, 1946, at Yale–New Haven Hospital in New Haven, Connecticut, while his father was a student at Yale. He was the first child of George Herbert Walker Bush (1924-2018) and his wife, Barbara Pierce (1925-2018). He was raised in Midland and Houston, Texas, with four siblings, Jeb, Neil, Marvin and Dorothy. Another younger sister, Robin, died from leukemia at the age of three in 1953. His grandfather, Prescott Bush, was a U.S. Senator from Connecticut. His father was Ronald Reagan's vice president from 1981 to 1989 and the 41st U.S. president from 1989 to 1993. Bush has English and some German ancestry, along with more distant Dutch, Welsh, Irish, French, and Scottish roots.
Bush attended public schools in Midland, Texas, until the family moved to Houston after he had completed seventh grade. He then spent two years at The Kinkaid School, a prep school in Piney Point Village in the Houston area.
Bush attended high school at Phillips Academy, a boarding school in Andover, Massachusetts, where he played baseball and was the head cheerleader during his senior year. He attended Yale University from 1964 to 1968, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history. During this time, he was a cheerleader and a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon, serving as the president of the fraternity during his senior year. Bush became a member of the Skull and Bones society as a senior. Bush was a rugby union player and was on Yale's 1st XV. He characterized himself as an average student. His GPA during his first three years at Yale was 77, and he had a similar average under a nonnumeric rating system in his final year.
In the fall of 1973, Bush entered Harvard Business School. He graduated in 1975 with an MBA degree. He is the only U.S. president to have earned an MBA.
Family and personal life
Bush was initially engaged to Cathryn Lee Wolfman in 1967, but the engagement eventually fizzled out. Bush and Wolfman remained on good terms after the end of the relationship. While Bush was at a backyard barbecue in 1977, friends introduced him to Laura Welch, a schoolteacher and librarian. After a three-month courtship, she accepted his marriage proposal and they wed on November 5 of that year. The couple settled in Midland, Texas. Bush left his family's Episcopal Church to join his wife's United Methodist Church. On November 25, 1981, Laura Bush gave birth to fraternal twin daughters, Barbara and Jenna.
Prior to getting married, Bush struggled with multiple episodes of alcohol abuse. In one instance on September 4, 1976, he was pulled over near his family's summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine for driving under the influence of alcohol. He was cited for DUI, fined $150 (equivalent to $660 in 2018), and got his Maine driver's license briefly suspended.
Bush said his wife has had a stabilizing effect on his life, and he attributes her influence to his 1986 decision to give up alcohol. While Governor of Texas, Bush said of his wife, "I saw an elegant, beautiful woman who turned out not only to be elegant and beautiful, but very smart and willing to put up with my rough edges, and I must confess has smoothed them off over time."
Bush has been an avid reader throughout his adult life, preferring biographies and histories. During his time as president, Bush read the Bible daily. He also read 14 Lincoln biographies, and during the last three years of his presidency, he reportedly read 186 books. Walt Harrington, a journalist, recalled seeing "books by John Fowles, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, and Gore Vidal lying about, as well as biographies of Willa Cather and Queen Victoria" in his home when Bush was a Texas oilman. Other activities include cigar smoking and golf. Since leaving the White House, Bush has also taken up oil painting.
In May 1968, Bush was commissioned into the Texas Air National Guard. After two years of training in active-duty service, he was assigned to Houston, flying Convair F-102s with the 147th Reconnaissance Wing out of the Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base. Critics, including former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, have alleged that Bush was favorably treated due to his father's political standing as a member of the House of Representatives, citing his selection as a pilot despite his low pilot aptitude test scores and his irregular attendance. In June 2005, the United States Department of Defense released all the records of Bush's Texas Air National Guard service, which remain in its official archives.
In late 1972 and early 1973, he drilled with the 187th Fighter Wing of the Alabama Air National Guard. He had moved to Montgomery, Alabama, to work on the unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Winton M. Blount. In 1972, Bush was suspended from flying for failure to take a scheduled physical exam. He was honorably discharged from the Air Force Reserve on November 21, 1974.
In 1977, Bush established Arbusto Energy, a small oil exploration company, although it did not begin operations until the following year. He later changed the name to Bush Exploration. In 1984, his company merged with the larger Spectrum 7, and Bush became chairman. The company was hurt by decreased oil prices, and it folded into HKN, Inc., with Bush becoming a member of HKN's board of directors. Questions of possible insider trading involving HKN arose, but a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation concluded that the information Bush had at the time of his stock sale was not sufficient to constitute insider trading.
In April 1989, Bush arranged for a group of investors to purchase a controlling interest in the Texas Rangers baseball franchise for $89 million and invested $500,000 himself to start. He then served as managing general partner for five years. He actively led the team's projects and regularly attended its games, often choosing to sit in the open stands with fans. Bush's sale of his shares in the Rangers in 1998 brought him over $15 million from his initial $800,000 investment.
Early political involvement
George W. Bush with his father outside the White House, April 29, 1992
In 1978, Bush ran for the House of Representatives from Texas's 19th congressional district. The retiring member, George H. Mahon, had held the district for the Democratic Party since 1935. Bush's opponent, Kent Hance, portrayed him as out of touch with rural Texans, and Bush lost the election with 46.8 percent of the vote to Hance's 53.2 percent.
Bush and his family moved to Washington, D.C., in 1988 to work on his father's campaign for the U.S. presidency. He served as a campaign advisor and liaison to the media, and assisted his father by campaigning across the country. In December 1991, Bush was one of seven people named by his father to run his father's 1992 presidential re-election campaign, as a "campaign advisor". The previous month, his father had asked him to tell White House chief of staff John H. Sununu that he should resign.