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Former President George H.W. Bush dead at 94

Former President George H.W. Bush dead at 94
Posted at 10:01 PM, Nov 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-01 00:01:35-05

George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st president of the United States, has died at age 94.

His death was announced by his family Friday night on Twitter. The president's health had been in decline in recent months.

Bush was admitted to Houston Methodist Hospital with a blood infection on April 22 -- two days after the funeral for his wife of 73 years, former first lady Barbara Bush.

He is survived by his five children, including former President George W. Bush and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Bush was with there his wife when she died at the age of 92 on April 17.

"He of course is broken-hearted to lose his beloved Barbara, his wife of 73 years. He held her hand all day and was at her side when [she] left this good earth," a statement from his office said after her death. "But it will not surprise all of you who know and love him, that he also is being stoic and strong, and is being lifted up by his large and supportive family."

Bush was a key part of his family’s political dynasty. His father was a senator; and his son George W. Bush was president from 2001 to 2009.

He served two terms as President Ronald Reagan's second in command and became the first incumbent vice president to be elected president since Martin Van Buren in 1836.

But Bush's tenure in the White House was limited to four years. He was defeated for re-election by Democrat Bill Clinton in 1992. A weakened economy, a limited domestic agenda and a broken promise against raising taxes contributed to Bush's defeat.

Bush was a one-time oil executive who spent years in government service, including terms as CIA director, ambassador to the United Nations and liaison to the People's Republic of China. He was also elected to the House of Representatives as a congressman from Texas. Following his time in the White House, he and his wife moved to Houston, where they led a relatively quiet life.

Bush began experiencing health problems during his presidency. In 1991, he was treated at a hospital for an irregular heartbeat. Doctors diagnosed him as having Graves disease, a thyroid condition that, by coincidence, his wife also had.

Bush experienced a recurrence of the irregular heartbeat in February 2000, when he was attending a reception in Naples, Florida. He spent a night in the hospital, but smiled and joked with reporters the next day.

In November 2012, he was admitted to a Houston hospital for bronchitis and a chronic cough. He was expected to return home well before Christmas but remained hospitalized after the holiday. Officials said he had a high fever and had been placed on a liquids-only diet.

In 2017, the former president was admitted to the intensive care unit at Houston Methodist Hospital to "address an acute respiratory problem stemming from pneumonia," according to his office.

His family has said publicly that the former president was no longer able to walk unassisted, a frustration for a man who enjoyed an active lifestyle of golf, fishing, jogging and power walks on the beach near his summer home in Maine.

Bush said he did not want age to slow him down. He made a parachute jump from an airplane on his 90th birthday, and celebrated his 75th, 80th and 85th birthdays the same way.

In one of his last interviews, Bush reflected on his life, relishing the love of family and friends.

"I've been very blessed, when you look around, compared to ... others," Bush told ABC News' "World News Tonight" anchor Diane Sawyer in June 2012. "But you must feel responsibility to others. You must believe in serving others. I think that's a fundamental tenet of my life."

George Herbert Walker Bush was born on June 12, 1924, in Milton, Massachusetts. He was the second oldest child in a family of four boys and one girl. His parents were Prescott Sheldon Bush, an investment banker who later would serve for 10 years in the U.S. Senate, and Dorothy Walker Bush.

Growing up in Greenwich, Connecticut, George H.W. Bush had a privileged childhood. He attended the exclusive Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts.

World War II broke out while he was at Phillips. Rather than go on and attend Yale University immediately after prep school, Bush joined the Navy.

Having graduated from Phillips Academy six months after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Bush soon became the youngest combat aviation officer in the war.

Bush flew 58 combat missions in the Pacific as a torpedo bomber pilot and once was shot down by the Japanese in 1944. For his effort at bringing the plane down and saving most of its crew, Bush was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

After the war, Bush entered Yale and graduated in less than three years with a degree in economics. Nicknamed Poppy, the tall and lanky Bush earned a Phi Beta Kappa key for high academic achievements and played baseball and soccer for Yale.

Shortly after leaving the Navy, Bush married Barbara Pierce, who he met at a country club dance when he was 17 and she was 16. They would eventually have six children, one of whom died of leukemia before her fourth birthday.

Two of their sons entered politics: George W. Bush became governor of Texas before winning the 2000 election for president, while his younger brother Jeb Bush became governor of Florida. Jeb Bush later ran for president in 2016 and dropped out during the Republican primary.

Bush moved his growing family to Texas after college, where he formed an independent oil exploration company.

But politics eventually came to be the focus of Bush's life. He made his first foray as a candidate in 1964 with an ambitious but unsuccessful run for the Senate.

Two years later, Bush was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he cast a vote in favor of President Lyndon Johnson's program for open, nondiscriminatory federal housing.

The lure of a Senate seat prompted Bush to try again in 1970. This time, Bush lost to Democrat Lloyd M. Bentsen Jr.

The two men would square off again 18 years later when Bentsen was the running mate of Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. In the second matchup, Bush was victorious.

Following his 1970 defeat, Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford appointed Bush to a variety of high-profile positions: U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, chairman of the Republican National Committee, liaison to the People's Republic of China and director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Ford also considered naming Bush his vice president but opted instead to give the job to Nelson A. Rockefeller. As a consolation, Ford offered Bush his choice of ambassadorial assignments and Bush chose China. Bush left the government in January 1977 when Jimmy Carter became president.