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George Bush

George Bush

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On January 20, 1989, former Vice President George H. In his address, Bush reiterates his campaign promise for a "kinder, gentler" nation, and also emphasizes the need to deal with the federal budget deficit.

‘Must be another George Bush’

In 1985, when McBride found the FBI memo apparently relating to Bush’s past, the reporter did not immediately follow up this curious lead. Bush was now a recently reelected vice president (a famously powerless position), and McBride himself was busy with other things. By 1988, however, the true identity of “Mr. George Bush of the CIA” took on new meaning, as George H. W. Bush prepared to assume his role as Reagan’s heir to the presidency. Joe McBride decided to make the leap from entertainment reportage to politics. He picked up the phone and called the White House.

“May I speak with the vice president?” he asked

McBride had to settle for Stephen Hart, a vice presidential spokesman. Hart denied that his boss had been the man mentioned in the memo, quoting Bush directly. “I was in Houston, Texas, at the time and involved in the independent oil drilling business. And I was running for the Senate in late ’63. I don’t have any idea of what he’s talking about.” Hart concluded with this suggestion: “Must be another George Bush.”

McBride found the response troubling — rather detailed for a ritual non-denial. It almost felt like a cover story that Bush was a bit too eager to trot out. He returned to Hart with more questions for Bush:

  • Did you do any work with or for the CIA prior to the time you became its director?
  • If so, what was the nature of your relationship with the agency, and how long did it last?
  • Did you receive a briefing by a member of the FBI on anti-Castro Cuban activities in the aftermath [of] the assassination of President Kennedy?

Within half an hour, Hart called him back. The spokesman now declared that, though he had not spoken with Bush, he would nevertheless answer the questions himself. Hart said that the answer to the first question was no, and, therefore, the other two were moot.

Undeterred, McBride called the CIA. A spokesman for the agency, Bill Devine, responded: “This is the first time I’ve ever heard this . . . I’ll see what I can find out and call you back.”

The following day, the PR man was tersely formal and opaque: “I can neither confirm nor deny.” It was the standard response the agency gave when it dealt with its sources and methods. Could the agency reveal whether there had been another George Bush in the CIA? Devine replied: “Twenty-seven years ago? I doubt that very much. In any event, we have a standard policy of not confirming that anyone is involved in the CIA.”


William Owen Bush was the eldest son of George Bush (1790?-1863), of Irish and African American descent, and Isabella James Bush (1809?-1866), a German American. In 1844 he accompanied his parents and four younger brothers on an arduous wagon trek west with several families of white settlers. Their original goal was the Willamette Valley in Oregon Territory, but the provisional government there had recently passed a law banning black residency. Most of the party moved north, eventually settling around present-day Tumwater in Thurston County. The Bushes were an exceptional family, close-knit and known and respected for their thrift, industriousness, and above all, generosity. Owen (the name most commonly used for William Owen Bush in historical accounts) married a widow, Mandana Kimsey (1826-1899). They established a farm of their own at Grand Mound Prairie, about 12 miles south of the family homestead. When George Bush died in 1863, Owen, as the oldest son, took over the original farm, which he operated together with his brothers until his death in 1907. He became an accomplished agronomist, coaxing high yields of exceptional grains from his land and winning national recognition at several expositions. He also found time to serve from 1889 to 1891 in the first legislature convened in the new state of Washington, where he played a significant role in the establishment of an agricultural college in Eastern Washington, the precursor to Washington State University.

The productive lives of pioneers George and Isabella Bush have been reasonably well documented (including on HistoryLink.org), but much less has been written about their six children, the oldest and most noted of whom was William Owen Bush. To understand how he became the man he was it is useful to at least briefly recapitulate the story of his forebears, so far as it is known.

George Bush's father was Matthew Bush, an African who was either born in India or taken there at a young age. The importation of African slaves to India started as early as the 1300s, and other Africans came to the subcontinent as sailors and mercenaries. It is not known what Matthew's status was in India, but when he was taken into the household of a British merchant and sea captain named Stevenson, it appears from all accounts that he was regarded by the Stevenson family as a trusted personal servant rather than a slave. And he was, in the end, treated very much as a member of the family.

Like so much else about his early life, the origins of Matthew's Christian name are unknown he may have been given it by Stevenson or by some other Westerner with whom he had come into contact in India. What is known is that Matthew Bush came to America with the Stevensons, who settled in Pennsylvania while it was still one of the original 13 British colonies. There was also an Irish maid in the household, and she and Matthew soon married. They would have but one child, George Bush, who was born in Philadelphia. He, in turn, would father William Owen Bush and five other sons.

The Stevensons were wealthy Quakers and owned several merchant ships. They apparently had no children of their own, and it is said that when Mrs. Stevenson died some years after the death of her husband, her sizeable estate was left to Matthew Bush and his wife, the family's longtime servants. The dates of Matthew's and his wife's deaths are not recorded, but when the last of them died, the remaining estate was passed down to their only child, George, who became uncommonly wealthy for a free black in pre-Civil War America.

The Second Generation

George Bush's early life is not well documented either. Family lore held that he was born in 1779, but the 1850 federal census listed his age as 56, which would place his birth some 15 years later, in 1794. To further confuse matters, the 1860 census indicated that he was born in 1790. One of the latter dates seems most likely if Bush was born in 1779 he would have been 65 years old when he, his family, and 32 other settlers began their challenging trek to the Pacific Northwest.

It is generally accepted that George served under Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) during the War of 1812 and fought in the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. Less certain is the lore that in 1820 or 1821 he worked as a trapper in the Pacific Northwest and, later, for the Hudson's Bay Company. While sources seem consistent in stating that George inherited the remainder of the Stevenson estate from his parents, it is at least possible that he accumulated much of his wealth through his own efforts and thrift. At least one source states that while living in Illinois, Bush, then in his 20s, "entered the cattle business, an occupation that is believed to have financed his Oregon trip" (Millner). It also is family lore that George Bush fought with the Missouri Militia and was wounded in the 1832 Blackhawk war, but this is yet another claim that is unsupported by contemporaneous documentation.

Sometime in the 1820s, George Bush moved from Illinois to Clay County, Missouri, where, on July 4, 1831, he married Isabella James, a white woman and the daughter of a Baptist minister. They owned a prosperous farm there, and over the next 11 years produced five sons: William Owen in 1832, Joseph Talbott (1833-1904), Reilly Bailey (1836-1866), Henry Sanford (1839-1913), and January Jackson (1842-1888).

The picture becomes clearer after the Bush family decided to move west. In 1844, George and Isabella sold their Missouri farm and with their five sons and five families of white settlers began the slow march west, hoping to acquire land in the fertile Willamette Valley in Oregon Territory. Bush and Michael T. Simmons (1814-1867) soon emerged as the leaders of the party. They arrived at their destination in 1845, only to learn that the provisional government there had the previous year taken the salutary step of banning slavery, but at the same time also banned settlement in the territory by blacks. Some of the party, including the Bush and Simmons families, decided to move farther north, into Puget Sound country. It was, in 1845, still part of Oregon Territory and would be for eight more years, but enforcement of the ban on black settlement did not reach to the territory's northern regions.

The Simmons family founded a settlement in the future Thurston County that they called New Market, renamed Tumwater (Chinook Jargon for "waterfall") in 1863. Simmons and Bush together built the region's first grist mill and first sawmill, and New Market became the first permanent American settlement in what would many years later become Washington state. The Bush family staked out a homestead just south of Tumwater and established a farm that became the envy (and the savior) of their neighbors. The farm's locale soon was called Bush Prairie, and it was here that young Owen Bush developed his agricultural skills. A sixth son, Lewis Nisqually Bush (1847-1923), was born on the farm. Some sources say that he was the first non-Indian child born in Thurston County, but one of Michael Simmons's sons also claimed that distinction.

Prosperous and Generous

The Bush family prospered greatly and was held in high esteem by all who knew them. George Bush's generosity was legendary, and it was said that he personally saw to it that new settlers would be supported while establishing their own farms and businesses. During one year of brutal crop failures, Bush refused to sell his grain supply to speculators, telling them that he wanted to ensure that "my neighbors will have enough to live on and for seeding their fields in the spring. They have no money to pay your fancy prices, and I don’t intend to see them want for anything I can provide them" (The Museum Gazette).

Bush's wealth was said to be such that he was able to fund the purchase of the settlers' first oceangoing ship, the Orbit, which some sources claim, almost certainly in error, cost $35,000 (the equivalent of at least $1 million today). This claim, too, is short on documentation, but the purchase of such a ship would have enabled Bush and his fellow setters to transport their lumber and agricultural products to more populated areas in Oregon and California.

George Bush's generosity and kindness were repaid in part in 1854. In 1850, Congress had passed the Donation Land Claim Act for the Oregon Territory, which mandated that only white males, married white females, and "American half-breed Indians" could hold legal title to land in the territory ("The Donation Land Claim Act, 1850"). Washington Territory was carved off from Oregon Territory on March 2, 1853, but the strictures of the law were thought to still apply. By 1854, the Bush Prairie farm was perhaps the most prosperous in the territory, and the Bush family had earned the deep respect and appreciation of their neighbors. In the first session of the new legislature of the new Territory of Washington, a resolution was passed asking that Congress permit Bush to take legal title to his farm. In that resolution it was stated, "He has contributed much towards the settlement of this territory, the suffering and needy never having applied to him in vain for succor and assistance . " ("Memorial to Congress . ")

On January 30, 1855, the House of Representatives in the nation's capital passed House Resolution 707, which read in relevant part:

"That the claim of George Bush to 640 acres of land in Thurston County, Washington Territory, in virtue of his early settlement and continued residence and cultivation . is hereby confirmed -- the one half to the said George Bush and the other half to his wife . " (H.R. 707)

All doubt was now removed regarding the legal ownership of the Bush Prairie farm, and by 1860 it had grown to more than 800 acres. On April 5, 1863, George Bush died from a cerebral hemorrhage, mourned by all who knew him. Despite his meticulous attention to the family business, he died without having written a will. Isabella owned 320 acres, pursuant to the congressional resolution, but more than 50 years after George's death, family members found it necessary to file a "friendly" lawsuit to have a court determine the proper allocation of 180 acres of George's land that was purchased after the congressional resolution was passed. Everyone from the third generation save Lewis Nisqually Bush was by this time dead ("File Friendly Suit").

Isabella Bush lived another three years, passing away in 1866. Most of her sons never married. At least three of the brothers were living on their parents' farm at the time of Isabella's death, but it was Owen who eventually would take over and lead it to even greater success and prosperity.

The Third Generation

William Owen Bush was born in Missouri in 1832, the first child of George and Isabella Bush. A few sources give his birth date as July 4, a year to the day after his parents were wed this most likely is incorrect and the actual month and day have not been established with certainty. Owen was 12 years old when the Bush/Simmons party headed west. In those days, even the young children of settlers were expected to work for a family's survival and prosperity, and Owen's agricultural skills, which would later win him a measure of fame, were learned at his father's side on the Bush Prairie farm.

The Bush family was on good terms with the Nisqually Indians who lived in the area around Bush Prairie. Owen Bush learned the local language, and he served on occasion as an interpreter for Washington's first territorial governor, Isaac Stevens (1818-1862). After the Indian Wars of 1855 and 1856, Bush spoke up in defense of the Nisqually chief Leschi (1808-1858) and the local people who had become the family's friends and had helped them survive the harsh early days of settlement:

"[Leschi] was as good a friend as we ever had. He was dignified in his intercourse and proud of his country, and, I may say, proud of himself . . Stevens wanted me to go into war, but I wouldn't do it. I knew that it was his bad management that brought on the war, and I wouldn't raise a gun against those people who had always been so kind to us when we were so weak and needy. The Indians could have killed us all any time during the eight years we were here before Governor Stevens came, but instead of molesting us in any way they helped us all they could" (South by Northwest).

In 1859, Bush married a widow six years his elder, Mandana Smith Kimsey (1826-1899). A white woman, she had come west from Missouri in 1847 with her parents and her first husband, Duff Kimsey. (Some sources use the spelling "Kinsey," but "Kimsey" appears in several places in Mandana's obituary.) Her father, Dr. J. Smith, did not survive the trip, but Mandana and her husband settled in Marion County (of which Salem is today the county seat) in what would become Oregon Territory the following year. The Kimseys farmed there for approximately 10 years, until Duff's death, and the marriage produced one child, a daughter.

Owen and Mandana Bush soon established their own farm at Grand Mound Prairie, not far south of his parents' homestead. Their first child, John Shotwell Bush, was born in 1862. A daughter, also named Mandana but called "Belle," was born in 1865. The family prospered at Grand Mound, but a major change was on the horizon.

It appears from the available records that Bush, after his father's death, stayed on his own farm for a few years while his mother and several of his younger brothers ran the Bush Prairie farm. Then, in January 1866, his brother Reilly Bush (George and Isabella's third-born son) committed suicide by shotgun. Nine months later, in September, Isabella died. The farm then passed into the control of three of the five remaining sons -- Owen, Joseph, and Henry -- and Owen, as the eldest, became the farm's manager. It is somewhat unclear what year he moved back to Bush Prairie from Grand Mound, but 1870 is most commonly mentioned.

A Great Grower of Grains

Under Owen Bush's management the Bush Prairie farm prospered as never before. In addition to the cultivation of cash crops, Bush and several of his brothers logged portions of the land, milling much of the lumber themselves. At least three of the Bush brothers -- Joseph, Henry, and Reilly -- never married and lived and worked on the family homestead their entire lives (as noted, Reilly committed suicide before Owen took over the farm's management).

Bush's greatest talent proved to be in the cultivation of grain crops, and he became one of the territory's, and later the state's, most celebrated farmers. He was deeply involved in the affairs of the farming community, and in 1872 he, his wife, and his brothers were founding members of the Western Washington Industrial Association, which organized fairs for the display and promotion of agricultural products. Bush also served as president of the organization. The first fair was held in Olympia in 1872, and the second was in Seattle the following year, on the grounds of the University of Washington.

Grains grown at Bush Prairie won numerous awards at these regional events, and this encouraged the legislature to finance a trip by Bush to represent Washington Territory's agriculture at the nation's 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Wheat from the Bush Prairie farm took a "first premium" prize and was recognized as some of the best in the world. Bush then went on to display his grains to great acclaim at other national and international expositions, including Chicago (1893) and Buffalo (1901). As one historian wrote:

"With the flight of years the Bush homestead developed into a model farm under the skillful management of W. O. Bush, who took great pride in raising and preparing for exhibition samples of the grain and produce grown on his place. Exhibits were made at the World's fairs of Philadelphia, Chicago and Buffalo, which attracted general attention and won for Bush medals and diplomas from all three fairs. These exhibits were of inestimable value in advertising the resources of the Territory of Washington and besides the medals and diplomas awarded Mr. Bush personally, the County of Thurston and the Territory and State of Washington were also awarded medals for the best exhibit of grains made by any section of the entire United States. In the planting, selection and arranging of the specimens, Mr. Bush was assisted by his young daughter, Belle, who took as great an interest and pride in the exhibit as did her father" (Early History of Thurston County, Washington, 324).

Although the foregoing source does not mention it, Bush also exhibited, just three years before his death, at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition at St. Louis, where his grain again was honored.

The First Washington State Legislature

After a failed attempt at statehood in 1878, a constitutional convention was held in Washington Territory in 1889 to again write a proposed state constitution and seek admission to the Union. This was ratified by the voters on October 1, 1889, and President Benjamin Harrison (1833-1901) issued a proclamation admitting Washington as a state on November 11 of that year. Voters also elected the state's first executive officers and legislators, and one of those chosen for the state House of Representatives was William Owen Bush.

In the legislature, Bush pushed for the passage of laws touching on two basic aspects of his life -- agriculture and race. His efforts on both were successful, and the laws were approved on consecutive days of the first legislative session.

Race came up first, with Bush and other legislators pushing for "An Act to Protect All Citizens in Their Civil and Legal Rights," which was approved on March 27, 1890. It mandated:

"That all persons within the jurisdiction of the State of Washington shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the public accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of inns, public conveyances on land or water, theatres and other places of public amusement and restaurants, subject only to the conditions and limitations established by law and applicable alike to all citizens of whatever race, color or nationality" (Session Laws, 524).

This was the first civil rights act passed in Washington, and it came seven years before similar legislation was approved in California.

The other topic close to Bush's heart was agriculture, and the following day, on March 28, 1890, the House of Representatives passed a law entitled "An Act to create a Commission of Technical Instruction, and to establish a State Agricultural College and School of Science, and to declare an emergency." The statute was enacted pursuant to the educational land grant provisions of federal law, and the State set aside 90,000 acres to be used for "the use and support of agricultural colleges in the state . " (Session Laws).

Under the act, a "college of science" was to be established within which there would be a "department of agriculture" and an "agricultural experimental station." Bush, among others in the legislature, understood the importance of ever-increasing scientific knowledge to successful farming and ranching, and the statute mandated a specific curriculum in agricultural education:

"First, physics, with special application of its principles to agriculture second, chemistry, with special application of its principles to agriculture third, morphology and physiology of plants, with special reference to the commonly grown crops and their fungus enemies fourth, morphology and physiology of the lower forms of animal life, with special reference to insect pests fifth, morphology and physiology of the higher forms of animal life, and in particular of the horse, cow, sheep and swine: sixth, agriculture, with special reference to the breeding and feeding of livestock, and the best mode of cultivation of farm produce seventh, mining and metallurgy. And it shall appoint demonstrators in each of these subjects, to superintend the equipment of a laboratory and to give practical instruction in the same" (Session Laws, 263).

In April 1891 a site for the college was selected at Pullman in the Palouse wheat-ranching country near the border between Washington and Idaho. The "Agricultural College, Experiment Station and School of Science of the State of Washington" opened there on January 13, 1892. It had an initial enrollment of 59 students. In 1895, instruction began in what would become the College of Veterinary Medicine. In 1905 the school's name was changed to State College of Washington and in 1959 it became Washington State University.

End of a Long Era

Despite its hard-won prosperity and success, the Bush family was not without its share of troubles. The suicide of Reilly Bush in 1866 may have been due to depression, and in 1891 Joseph Tolbert, second-born son of George and Isabella Bush, was admitted twice to the "insane asylum" at Steilacoom. According to a newspaper of the day, Joseph "was at first possessed of a religious mania, and recently has manifested homicidal and incendiary tendencies" ("Sent to Steilacoom"). He was judged to have regained his sanity the following year and was released to return to the family farm. He died in 1904 at the Soldiers' Home in Orting.

Owen Bush's wife Mandana died on March 30, 1899, at the Bush Prairie farm. They had been married for 40 eventful years, and she left behind her husband, their two children, and the daughter from her first marriage.

William Owen Bush lived on into the twentieth century, finally passing away on February 13, 1907, at St. Peter's Hospital in Olympia. He avoided the confusion that accompanied the distribution of his father's estate by dividing the Bush Prairie farm into three equal portions, with one-third each going to his son John and his daughter Belle. The final third was left jointly to Nellie Kimsey, his stepdaughter, and one "J. Hanner," who is otherwise unidentified. These four were given only life estates in the property, and the will stated that any who attempted to mortgage their portion of the land would be disinherited and their share divided among the remaining legatees. Upon the death of the last of the four, the entire estate was to be distributed in equal shares to their surviving children.

Three years before his death the Olympia Chamber of Commerce passed a resolution praising Bush's contribution to agriculture. It noted his "enthusiastic and efficient work . in putting before the world a faithful exhibit of the agricultural products of this county at Philadelphia, in '76 at Chicago, in '93 at Buffalo, in 1901 and at St. Louis, in 1904" ("W. O. Bush Honored . ")

In acknowledgment of his advancing age, the resolution ended: "

We desire to extend to Mr. W. O. Bush our hearty congratulations on the successful issue of his efforts. We trust that his closing days may be as golden as the beautiful grain he has gathered and that he may come to his final reward 'like a shock of corn fully ripe to the harvest'" ("W. O. Bush Honored . ")

His final reward was not too long in coming. In announcing his death, the Morning Olympian newspaper said of Bush, "Probably no resident of the state or territory throughout its history has done more to advertise the state than W. O. Bush" ("Pioneer W. O. Bush . )

Bush's brother Henry died in 1913 and Lewis Nisqually Bush, the youngest of George and Isabella's children and the only one born at Bush Prairie, passed away in 1923. Thus came to an end the pioneering generations of this remarkable family.

But the Bush family and its contributions were not easily forgotten. In 1969, 106 years after the death of George Bush and 62 years after the death of William Owen Bush, the Washington State Senate passed Resolution 1969-29. It said, in part:

"WHEREAS, Notwithstanding the fact that George Washington Bush, as with all Negroes in those days, had no citizenship rights, no vote, no clear title to his lands, was nonetheless well known for his many acts of kindness and unselfish devotion to the early settlers, and leadership and advancement of agriculture in the State of Washington .
"WHEREAS, Continuing in his father's footsteps, son William Owen Bush made further contributions to the early settlement of the territory and State of Washington, being chosen in 1889 to represent Thurston County in the first Legislature convened in the State of Washington
"NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, That we, the Senate, do hereby acknowledge and recognize the contributions made to the history of his people and to the history and development of Thurston County and to the State of Washington by this sincere and worthy Negro and his family" (Senate Resolution 1969-29).

The Bush homestead no longer survives intact. In 1928, much of the land was taken over for the Olympia Airport. In 1947, after John Shotwell Bush, Owen's son, died, the property sat vacant for 12 years, falling prey to neglect and the elements. Ironically, in the same year the Senate resolution praising the family was adopted, the legislature refused to allocate money to restore the house, and in 1970, deemed too far gone, it was demolished. But all was not lost a portion of what the Bush family so ably built survives in 2013 as a Community Supported Agriculture farm, still providing quality fresh fruits and vegetables to its neighbors.

William Owen Bush (1832-1907), ca. 1889

Courtesy Washington State Historical Society (C1964.1.35)

George Bush (Los Angeles Times sketch by Sam Patrick, 1969)

Courtesy Henderson House Museum

Michael Simmons (1814-1867), ca. 1860

Courtesy Washington State Historical Society (2005.0.132)

First schoolhouse, Bush Prairie, Thurston County, n.d.

Courtesy City of Tumwater, Henderson House Museum (168)

Mandana Smith Kimsey (1826-1899) with mother, Nancy Scott Smith (left), ca. 1850

Courtesy Washington State Historical Society (C1960.298X.1)

William Owen Bush (1832-1907), ca. 1890

Courtesy Washington State Historical Society (2015.0.75)

Mandana Kimsey Bush (1826-1899), wife of William Owen Bush (1832-1907), Bush Prairie, Thurston County, 1890

Courtesy Washington State Historical Society (2010.70.12)

Three generations of Bush family, Bush Prairie Farm, n.d.

Courtesy City of Tumwater, Henderson House Museum (729)

REO automobile on Bush Prairie Farm, Thurston County, June 1909

Courtesy Washington State Historical Society (1943.42.15061)

Bronze medal awarded to William Owen Bush (1832-1907), World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893.

Courtesy Washington State Historical Society (C1941.7.20.1)

Bronze medal, reverse side, awarded to William Owen Bush (1832-1907), World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893

Courtesy Washington State Historical Society (C1941.7.20.1)

Certificate awarded to William Owen Bush, World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893

Courtesy Washington State Historical Society (C1941.7.18)

William Owen Bush (1832-1907), granddaughter Anne Isabelle Gaston with her father, George Gaston (right), Bush Prairie Farm, ca. 1905

Courtesy Washington State Historical Society

Henry Sanford Bush (1839-1913), fourth son of pioneers George and Isabella Bush, Bush Prairie, Thurston County, August 3, 1911

Courtesy Washington State Historical Society (C1949.1301.33.26)

John Shotwell Bush (1862-1947), son of William Owen Bush (1832-1907), grandson of George Washington Bush (1790?-1863), Thurston County, ca. 1947

Courtesy Washington State Digital Archives (Image No. AR-07809001-ph004171)

The Meeting with Billy Graham

While the Bushes and Grahams had had a relationship for decades, it was in 1985 that George W. Bush asked a number of profound questions that changed the way he (former President Bush) viewed his faith in God. George W. Bush liked the Bible because he believed

“by reading the Bible [it] could make me a better person,”

but Graham explained that while that’s a noble consequence, it’s not really the point. The point of the Bible was Christ, not the self.

Not only did this start to shake and unravel the “shallow” faith George W. Bush had had, but he realized something else profound from this meeting.

“When Billy started answering questions… I was on my third glass of wine, after a couple of beers before dinner. Billy’s message had overpowered the booze.”

This realization helped George W. Bush on multiple levels. First, he recognized that he’d been reading the Bible for self-betterment which, in a way, was selfish. Second, although already a religious man, this challenged and changed the president’s view on faith and what it meant to be a Christian. The fact that a message about God overpowered his drunken stupor had an extremely sobering effect, so much so that he began to take Bible classes and really study the text he’d been following for 39 years.

The Definitive History Of 'George Bush Doesn't Care About Black People'

In the moments before he took the stage at NBCUniversal's "A Concert for Hurricane Relief" on Sept. 2, 2005, Kanye West looked calm.

Up to that point, the charity telethon for Hurricane Katrina's victims had gone as well as could have been expected, considering that it had been slapped together in a matter of days. That it happened at all was a credit to executive producer Rick Kaplan's team. Kaplan and his crew had worked hard to make sure things would go smoothly on the set, and celebrities, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Harry Connick Jr. and Lindsay Lohan, had agreed to say whatever needed to be said and play whatever needed to be played.

"All the stars we contacted -- Aaron Neville, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill -- I mean, everyone came in and was willing to do whatever they could do," Kaplan remembers now. "Everyone was totally cooperative."

West was cooperating, too. The hip-hop sensation's second studio album, " Late Registration ," had come out that week. West, who was scheduled to appear on stage alongside comedian Mike Myers, went over his lines with the show's senior producer and music director, Frank Radice. Like the other celebrities on the telecast, West was slated to provide the audience with facts -- the amount of damage brought by Katrina, the amount of relief aid needed, and so on.

But by that point, the man whom Time magazine had just named " the smartest man in pop music" knew the words Radice expected him to say would never make the airwaves.

"Yo, I'm going to ad-lib a little bit ," West later recalled telling Myers just before they took the stage at 30 Rockefeller Center in midtown Manhattan. The duo stepped in front of the camera. Then Myers, hands behind his back, launched into the lines streaming down the teleprompter.

"With the breach of three levees protecting New Orleans, the landscape of the city has changed dramatically, tragically and perhaps irreversibly," Myers said. "There is now over 25 feet of water where there was once city streets and thriving neighborhoods."

Myers' opening lines completed, West took a moment and a breath. Hands in his pockets, he cleared his throat, licked his bottom lip, blinked his eyes and opened his mouth.

"I hate the way they portray us in the media," he said. "If you see a black family, it says, 'They're looting.' You see a white family, it says, 'They're looking for food.' And you know that it's been five days because most of the people are black. And even for me to complain about it, I would be a hypocrite -- because I've tried to turn away from the TV because it's too hard to watch. I've even been shopping before, even giving a donation. So now I'm calling my business manager right now to see what's, what is the biggest amount I can give, and, and just to imagine if I was down there, and those are my people down there. So anybody out there that wants to do anything that we can help with the set-up, the way America is set up to help the, the poor, the black people, the less well-off, as slow as possible. I mean, this is -- Red Cross is doing everything they can. We already realize a lot of people that could help are at war right now, fighting another way -- and they've given them permission to go down and shoot us."

At that moment, Radice noticed something odd. Until then, he had heard celebrities chattering in the background throughout the show. But now all the famous people had gone quiet. All eyes were fixed on West.

Mark Traub, a senior stage manager for the show, remembers exchanging an "Oh my God" glance with show host Matt Lauer.

Myers looked petrified. The comedian had glanced away from the camera no less than eight times during the minute-plus it took West to deliver his preliminary thoughts. Shaken but still on the air, Myers lifted his right index finger to his face, rubbed below his eye and started through his final lines, this time at a quickened pace.

"And subtle, but in many ways even more profoundly devastating, is the lasting damage to the survivors' will to rebuild and remain in the area," he said. "The destruction of the spirit of the people of southern Louisiana and Mississippi may end up being the most tragic loss of all."

There was barely a moment between Myers' final words and the moment the man in the White House would later call the low point of his presidency. It was a moment that would lead to songs and skits , academic debates and calls to change the way Americans think and talk about race.

"George Bush doesn't care about black people," West said. The camera had not cut away in time. Millions of Americans heard his words. A somewhat shaken West walked off stage, leaving actor Chris Tucker to try to follow that and Myers to come to terms with what had just happened.

"He just seemed not appalled but almost flabbergasted," Radice recalls of Myers. "I've always thought Mike might have felt that he got sandbagged," Radice added.

"Myers looked like he had been shot in the head," Kaplan said.

Several members of the production team remember Myers turning to whoever would listen off-stage and shouting, "Well, that went well!" (Myers declined to comment for this story.)

The producers were trying to figure out what to think, too. "Everybody kind of went, 'OK . ' like somebody had just dropped a stinking turd on the stage, and we all kind of backed off and let it sit there for a while and moved on to other things and hoped that nobody really noticed," Traub remembers now.

One producer, who requested anonymity, told HuffPost he had warned his colleagues before the telecast that West was known for "making everything about himself."

Afterward, some producers worried West had done just that. "P eople were not happy," Traub said. "We had worked our asses off on this," said Frank Fernandez, an associate producer for the show. "We didn't even talk about titles. In the credits, that's when we found out what the titles were."

"I can't speak for everyone, so I'm going to speak for myself: I wasn't going to let him take my moment of trying to help and do a great job," Fernandez added.

The Red Cross, a major recipient of the concert's donations, was particularly furious about West's comments and worried that donors would pull their money as a result, according to Kaplan. (The telecast eventually raised more than $50 million .)

"I was feeling kind of crestfallen when I walked out," Kaplan admits now. "We had worked so hard. The last 72 hours was like no sleep and all work."

Not everyone was feeling down, though. Before West could leave 30 Rock, Sean "Diddy" Combs, who was present at the telethon but did not appear on air, told West that he would have done the same thing, according to a producer with firsthand knowledge of the interaction. (Diddy declined to comment.)

Harry Connick Jr. went further. The singer and actor, a New Orleans native, had been instrumental in the show's success, gathering musicians together to figure out last-minute arrangements. After West's comments, Connick, along with country singers and couple Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, walked up to Kaplan and told him something the producer would never forget: that West's comments wouldn't ruin the show's legacy but would ensure it had one -- that West's comments were important and correct.

"The three of them took me aside privately and said, '[We] know you're probably upset by what Kanye said, but we've all been down there and we promise you that when the dust settles and what Kanye said is thought about and what people learn is learned about, [we] promise you're going to be proud that Kanye ended up saying that on the show,'" Kaplan remembers. "They said, 'We were down there, and [we're] telling you it's not good what the government's doing there. They're not being good. They're not acting properly.'"

"It floored me," he said. "In the end, Faith and Harry and Tim made my night."

NBC's head honchos did not share Kaplan's sense of relief. Without alerting the show's top producers, the network decided to cut West's remarks from a tape of the telethon set to air three hours later on the West Coast. In a tersely worded statement, the network distanced itself from West, stating that " his opinions in no way represent the views of the networks ."

But the news was out. Cable networks dissected and debated West's comments for days. Conservative talk show host Bill O'Reilly, predictably, called West's remarks " simply nutty ." Rapper 50 Cent disagreed with the comments as well. And as noted, then-President George W. Bush later deemed West's accusation of racism an " all-time low" of his presidency.

YouTube, which had launched earlier that year, allowed users, many of them young people, to upload, watch, share and discuss the video -- and draw their own conclusions. In a recent essay for The Nation, writer Mychal Denzel Smith described West's comments as the " first relatable expression of black rage on a national stage" for a generation of black men and women.

"'George Bush doesn't care about black people' was my first political memory," Julia Craven, now a 22-year-old staff reporter for The Huffington Post, wrote in an email. "I didn't really understand the nuances behind what Kanye meant by that, but I knew that historically white people didn't care about black people (mostly because I'm from the south). So it made sense. It was funny more than anything else, though. It never crossed my mind that that was the beginning of Kanye's politicizing or that we'd look back on Katrina and really understand how spot on that critique was. But I was 12."

C.J. Lawrence was a law student at the Thurgood Marshall School of Law in Houston when Katrina hit. He remembers not being able to contact his family back in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, for days after the storm. "We were deeply concerned," he said.

At the time, Lawrence lived up the street from the Astrodome, where thousands of New Orleans evacuees would come to find shelter.

"I remember driving home one night and seeing a line of, I kid you not, about 10,000 people that were just getting off the buses from Katrina. . You could smell all they had gone through for miles in the air. You could smell it," he said. "[Katrina victims] didn't have the dollars to wield to influence a Bush or to influence even their local politicians to move in the way that a Kanye West could get them to move."

"Hearing Kanye West say what he said in 2005 -- a lot of us as young people felt empowered," Lawrence said. "West in many ways became a champion for us by speaking out nationally in that way."

Just days after the telethon, a Houston-based hip-hop duo called The Legendary KO released a song titled "George Bush Doesn't Care About Black People," which quickly racked up more than a half-million downloads. (Watch it below.) Damien Randle, one half of the duo, was 31 at the time. "I stood on my couch that evening because I knew that the world would finally hear how others had felt, and it was too late to censor it," he recalls.

Gloria Browne-Marshall, an associate professor of constitutional law at John Jay College in New York City who teaches a class on race and the law, remembers her shock at hearing about the conditions in which New Orleans' black community lived even before Katrina.

"The [conditions] that black people were living in, especially in the Ninth Ward -- it was deplorable that this was taking place within this country, that they were living so poorly in the first place. And then [once Katrina hit], to see them stranded and being abandoned, treated [as] and called refugees in our own country …," she trailed off. " I'm not saying Kanye was a hero because he said it. But because he was a celebrity and he had the floor and he said it in a moment where the nation was not really voicing that opinion, I thought it was very significant."

Some New Orleanians found truth in West's comments, too.

"Let me tell you something, the man told the truth," said Glen David Andrews, a prominent trombonist and a fixture in the New Orleans music scene. "We thought he said the right thing. I just wish he slapped the president, too. It's fucking true. It's fucking true, isn't it?"

When people think back to West's telethon moment, the first thing that comes to mind is his seven-word indictment of the sitting president, a stark memory of one of the world's most famous artists accusing its most powerful man of racism. Less remembered are the 200-or-so words that came before that -- words targeted not at Bush, but at the media: "I hate the way they portray us in the media. If you see a black family, it says, 'They're looting.' You see a white family, it says, 'They're looking for food.'"

In the days following Hurricane Katrina, an image widely circulated on the Internet contrasted two photos and their captions . In one, a white man and a white woman walked through the high waters left by Katrina. The accompanying AFP/Getty caption explained, "Two residents wade through chest-deep water after finding bread and soda from a local grocery store . "

In the other photo distributed by The Associated Press, a black youth could be seen in a similar situation. The caption, however, read, " A young man walks through chest deep flood water after looting a grocery store . "

Different agencies wrote the captions. But to many Americans, the contrast between the two represented a larger truth: that the predominantly white media, try as they might to remain evenhanded, were subject to their own racial biases. (An AP spokesman said at the time that the boy fit the description of "looter" since the photographer saw him enter a store to obtain goods.)

Ask Americans now, and it's hard for them to recall West's media criticism they tend to focus on his comments about Bush. In a HuffPost/YouGov poll conducted in August, just one-third of those with memory of the incident could recall West criticizing the media's Katrina coverage. Two-thirds of them only remembered West accusing Bush of not caring about black people.

"It wasn't just a tirade against George Bush," said Scott Heath, an English professor at Georgia State University who teaches a course on Kanye West. "He was discussing the way that our larger media outlets represent black people in these moments of crisis."

Ten years on and nearly two terms removed from Bush's presidency, it's the criticism of the media that hits home for black Americans. Half of black men and women in the August poll agreed that Bush didn't care about black people, but two-thirds agreed that the media portray black and white moments of crisis differently.

"It was important for Kanye West and others to highlight that the media has the ability to tell the same story in two very different ways," said Lawrence, the onetime law student. "Being underwater for a week, I'm sure you get hungry, so hungry that you will go into a place where you know there is food and get it -- because, one, what's somebody else going to do with the food, with this food at a flooded Walgreens? And two, it's either go in there and get the food that you need to get, or die."

Nearly 60 percent of white Americans believe that the media are racially unbiased or biased in favor of minorities, according to the HuffPost/YouGov poll. But evidence to the contrary isn't limited to anger-inducing anecdotes like the AP's "looting" photo. A study published in the aftermath of Katrina and based on multiple experiments found evidence that "crime news coverage contributes to racial stereotyping," lead researcher Travis Dixon said at the time.

Research conducted by Media Matters for America and published in March by the lobbying group ColorOfChange.org showed that local New York City TV stations were disproportionately depicting African-Americans as criminals as recently as this past December. The authors of a separate study published in the International Journal of Communication this year found that they could predict an American's level of bias against black people by the amount of local TV news he or she watched. Additional research has provided further evidence that TV can influence how viewers generally perceive African-Americans.

"The underlying sentiment that Kanye West expressed 10 years ago demonstrates the current reality of the way that the media covers people of color," said Charlton McIlwain, an associate professor of media, culture and communication at New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. "There are years and mountains of evidence to suggest that over a long period of time -- extending to the present moment -- media tend to put a black face on crime, particularly violent crime."

West's comments, McIlwain said, were "by and large . accurate and on point."

Today, it's not clear whether West himself would repeat what he said 10 years ago. After all, he is more careful now and even apologized to Bush in a 2010 interview on NBC's "Today" show, saying that he "didn't have the grounds to call him a racist."

"He has become more media savvy, very media conscious and deliberate in his appearances and in the things he chooses to express at certain points," Heath, the professor who teaches the course on West, said. "Ten years later, I wonder if even Kanye West would do the same thing, say the same thing. But I think he might."

Many of the people involved in the benefit concert now recall West's comments positively. Myers told GQ last year that he was "very proud to have been next to him." Radice called West's comments "a phenomenal moment in culture, in history." Traub, while still perturbed by West's decision to point the finger so strongly at Bush, agreed that "there was definitely a tremendous problem with the way that African-Americans were treated in that area."

Kaplan, who was so crestfallen moments after West's remarks, now looks back on his decision to stray from the script especially fondly.

"When you look at it in hindsight, boy am I glad he did that," Kaplan said. "['A Concert for Hurricane Relief'] became politically correct [as a result of West's comments]. And I don't mean political correctness. It just became accurate. It became an accurate program, not just a fundraiser."

It hasn't gotten much easier for pop stars to air controversial political views through the mainstream media, though. On Aug. 14 of this year, Janelle Monae took the stage on "Today" to sing an extended version of her hit single "Tightrope." Near the end of her song, Monae took a knee, closed her eyes and opened her mouth. (Watch above.)

"Yes, Lord, God bless America!" Monae said. "God bless all the lost lives to police brutality. We want white America to know that we stand tall today. We want black America to know we stand tall today. We will not be silenced."

At that moment, NBC cut away from Monae, in what the network says was a scheduled commercial break unrelated to Monae's comments.

But with the rise of Twitter and movements like Black Lives Matter, whether it really takes a famous voice like Monae or West to launch a national debate is now an open question.

"One of the things [we've learned] through the Black Lives Matter movement and the actions that take place under that banner is it doesn't really take celebrity," said McIlwain, the NYU professor. "Many of the loudest voices in that movement are people that we had never heard, people who were a year ago in school, in college or working as college administrators."

Lawrence, the former law student, is a partner now at Lumumba & Associates, a law firm in Jackson, Mississippi, near where he grew up. He works on criminal defense and human rights cases. Currently, he's looking into the matter of Jonathan Sanders, a 39-year-old black man who was allegedly choked to death by a white police officer this July.

Last August, in the wake of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, Lawrence noticed something that perturbed him. Media outlets were using a photo of Brown in a sleeveless red jersey making a pointed hand gesture -- rather than a more sympathetic image of the soon-to-be college student, like him posing in graduation garb.

Frustrated, Lawrence spliced together two vastly different photos of himself and tweeted them out with the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown. "I was thinking to myself, 'If I was shot down, how would my story be told?'" he said. "If they gunned me down, how would the media portray me?"

Like West's comments had in 2005, Lawrence's tweet struck a chord. The hashtag he created went viral. At one point, people used #IfTheyGunnedMeDown 100,000 times in 24 hours, according to the BBC.

In the first photo in Lawrence's tweet, taken on the day of his graduation from Tougaloo College, he's delivering a commencement speech as former President Bill Clinton laughs in the background. In the second picture -- the one he thinks the media would use if he were killed -- Lawrence is sporting sunglasses and a microphone, and holding a bottle of liquor. It was Halloween, and he'd gone as Kanye West.

George H. W. Bush: Life Before the Presidency

George Herbert Walker Bush was born in Milton, Massachusetts, on June 12, 1924. His parents, Prescott Sheldon Bush and Dorothy Walker Bush, moved the family to Greenwich, Connecticut, when George was a young boy. His family was wealthy but his parents raised their children to be modest, stressing the importance of public service and giving back to society. An investment banker, Prescott Bush later became a Republican senator from Connecticut, serving from 1952 until 1963.

Bush left home as a teenager to attend Phillips Academy Andover, an exclusive boarding school in Massachusetts. At Andover, Bush was captain of the baseball and soccer teams, and the senior class president. He graduated on his eighteenth birthday in 1942. That same day, he enlisted in the United States Navy.

He served in the Navy during World War II from 1942 until September 1945. When he became a pilot in July 1943, he was the youngest pilot in the Navy. He flew torpedo bombers in the Pacific theater and went on fifty-eight combat missions during the war. On September 2, 1944, while flying a mission to bomb an enemy radio site, his plane was shot down by Japanese fire Bush bailed out over the ocean. He was rescued by a submarine a short time later and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism under fire.

While still in the Navy, Bush married Barbara Pierce on January 6, 1945, in Rye, New York. He met her in 1941 during the Christmas holidays at a country club dance in Greenwich. They went on to have six children: George Walker (1946- ) Robin, who was born in 1949 and died in 1953 of leukemia John Ellis "Jeb" (1953- ) Neil (1955- ) Marvin (1956- ) and Dorothy "Doro" (1959- ). Bush was discharged from the Navy in September 1945 and enrolled at Yale University. He was part of a surge of World War II veterans who flooded colleges and universities after the war. He completed an undergraduate degree in economics on an accelerated program that allowed him to graduate by 1948. At Yale, he was active and involved on campus, playing baseball and eventually becoming captain of the team. He was also a member of the Skull and Bones society, an exclusive secret society on campus.

After graduation, Bush chose to go out on his own. Rather than stay in the Northeast, the Bushes moved to Odessa, Texas, in 1948, and Bush worked as an equipment clerk for an oil company. The family moved briefly to California, then returned in 1950 to Midland, Texas, where Bush began working in the oil industry as a salesperson for Dresser Industries, which was owned by an old family friend. In 1950, Bush and a friend formed an oil development company in Midland. Three years later, they merged with another company to create Zapata Petroleum. In 1954, Bush became president of a subsidiary, Zapata Off-Shore Company, which developed offshore drilling equipment. He soon relocated the company and his family to Houston, Texas.

Early Political Career

Bush began his political career when he became the Republican Party chairman in Harris County, Texas. He developed grassroots connections as chairman and worked hard to strengthen his image as a conservative. Bush had always been good with people, and as chairman he was able to cultivate relationships in the Republican Party that helped him throughout his political career. In 1964, Bush ran for a U.S. Senate seat against incumbent Democratic Senator Ralph Yarborough. Bush ran a hard campaign but struggled against charges of being a carpetbagger from the North. He also faced an uphill battle running as a Republican in Texas because of the strength of the local Democratic Party. In November, Democrat Lyndon Johnson of Texas was overwhelmingly elected President, and Yarborough defeated Bush by a margin of 1,463,958 to 1,134,337.

In 1966, Bush ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives from Houston's Seventh district. Running as a moderate Republican, he won the election with more than fifty percent of the vote. He was reelected in 1968. In Congress, Bush gained a seat on the coveted Ways and Means Committee, which was rare for a freshman congressman. He supported the Vietnam War and voted for parts of President Johnson's Great Society program, including the Civil Rights Bill of 1968 to outlaw discrimination in housing, a courageous vote for a congressman from Texas.

After serving two terms in the House, Bush eyed another run for the Senate in 1970. Ralph Yarborough, who had defeated Bush in 1964, was a liberal Democrat from Texas at a time when the state was becoming increasingly conservative. Bush believed that he could defeat Yarborough in the 1970 election. But Yarborough did not win the Democratic primary. Instead, Bush ran against Lloyd Bentsen, a conservative Democrat. Since the Democratic Party was still very strong in Texas and Bush and Bentsen did not differ greatly on the issues, Bush again lost the election. In December 1970, President Richard Nixon nominated Bush as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Critics opposed the nomination because Bush lacked foreign policy experience but the Senate confirmed him. Bush was not part of the Nixon administration's inner circle, which undercut his effectiveness at the United Nations. Nonetheless, he used his tenure to continue to make influential friends within the U.S. government and throughout the foreign policy establishment. The ambassador relished his person-to-person contacts with foreign envoys and began assembling his legendary rolodex that would serve him well in the years to come.

President Nixon removed Bush from the United Nations in 1973 and asked him to serve instead as chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC). The administration turned to Bush to head the RNC because of his reputation for respectability and integrity. During the Watergate scandal, Bush was a tireless supporter of President Nixon until the release of the White House tapes. Bush then informed the President that he had lost the support of the Republican Party. After listening to key Republican congressional leaders who told him that he would be impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate, Nixon resigned the presidency in August 1974.

Bush stepped down as head of the RNC after Gerald Ford became President. The new President appointed Bush as the U.S. envoy to the People's Republic of China. Because the United States did not yet have full diplomatic relations with China, Bush served as chief of the U.S. Liaison's Office instead of as ambassador. China offered the Bushes a respite from Washington, but they stayed only two years. They returned to the United States in 1975 when President Ford asked Bush to serve as the new director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The CIA was emerging from a controversial period in its history and needed a strong, effective leader to improve morale and reform the agency. By most accounts, Bush was a popular director and able administrator. After Ford lost the 1976 presidential election to Jimmy Carter, Bush offered to stay on as director of the CIA but Carter declined his offer. The Bushes left Washington, D.C., and returned to Houston.

Campaign of 1980

Bush rejoined the corporate world back in Houston and started planning for the 1980 presidential campaign soon after he returned. He began with reestablishing his Texas contacts and fundraising. On May 1, 1979, Bush announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for President.

During the Republican primaries in the 1980 campaign, the conservative wing of the party was drawn to Ronald Reagan, the former actor and governor of California. Bush was considered more moderate and less dogmatic than Reagan, who was anointed as the frontrunner early on. The other Republican candidates included Senator Bob Dole of Kansas, Representative John Anderson of Illinois, Senator Howard Baker of Tennessee, Representative Philip Crane of Illinois, and John Connally, former governor of Texas.

Bush surprised most observers when he won the Iowa caucus. He campaigned throughout the state with great determination and energy, and raised concerns about Reagan's economic plan to lower taxes and increase military spending while balancing the federal budget. Bush derisively labeled Reagan's plan "voodoo economics".

Once the campaign turned to New Hampshire, Bush became embroiled in an incident that has become part of the lore of American political history. The Telegraph newspaper in Nashua proposed a debate between just Reagan and Bush. When Senator Dole complained about his exclusion, Reagan's campaign agreed to fund the debate and invited the other candidates, unbeknownst to Bush. Bush was caught by surprise when he arrived at the debate and saw the other candidates on the stage with Reagan. As the candidates argued about the debate's format, the moderator of the debate ordered Reagan's microphone turned off, and Reagan responded, "I paid for this microphone!" The incident seemed to highlight Reagan's strength and stature and reflected badly on Bush, who seemed bewildered.

After Bush lost to Reagan in New Hampshire, he was no match for the Reagan juggernaut. Reagan clinched the nomination and moved to consolidate the Republican Party behind a popular ticket. Reagan initially considered selecting former President Gerald Ford as his running mate in a "co-presidency" arrangement, but that unusual proposal went nowhere. Ultimately, Bush emerged as the consensus choice for the second spot, in part due to his appeal to the more moderate wing of the party. After accepting Reagan's offer, Bush was criticized by some for changing his previous positions on issues such as abortion and the economy to become more consistent with Reagan's conservative views.

Bush worked hard during the campaign of 1980, traveling throughout the country promoting the Reagan-Bush ticket and attacking their Democratic opponents, incumbent President Jimmy Carter and Vice President Walter Mondale. On election day, Reagan and Bush won the election with 51 percent of the vote, and Reagan won 489 Electoral College votes to Carter's 49. As an added bonus, the Republican Party took control of the United States Senate for the first time since 1954. The Reagan-Bush ticket swept into the White House with a mandate for changing the direction of the country. Many conservative Republicans touted the "Reagan Revolution" as an opportunity to limit government intrusion into the lives of Americans, reduce taxes, and turn the country toward more traditional social values, such as supporting prayer in school and opposing abortion.

Vice President of the United States

As vice president, Bush worked hard to win the trust of Reagan's advisers in the administration by proving his loyalty and devotion to the President. Reagan loyalists were suspicious of Bush's New England upbringing and his upper-class background, which stood in stark contrast with Reagan's humble beginnings and his ability to connect with the average American. They also suspected that Bush was too moderate and not a true devotee of Reagan's conservatism. However, Reagan and Bush seemed to grow genuinely fond of each other during their two terms in office. They met for lunch on a weekly basis and enjoyed each other's company, although according to some reports the Bushes resented the fact that they were never invited as guests to the President's private quarters.

Bush chaired a number of task forces for the administration, including one on regulatory reform and one on drugs and drug smuggling. He traveled widely as vice president and frequently represented the administration in international affairs, making many contacts that would become useful when he became President. The vice president was often involved in the administration's foreign policy discussions and occasionally influenced its decisions.

George Bush - HISTORY

The liberal rehabilitation of George W. Bush is now virtually complete, with his successor Barack Obama declaring this week that the 43rd president was committed to the rule of law, despite all evidence to the contrary. In an online fundraiser for presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden Tuesday night, Obama stated that Bush “had a basic regard for the rule of law and the importance of our institutions of democracy.”

Obama, who ran for president in 2008 with promises to restore habeas corpus and uphold the rule of law, went on to claim that when Bush was president, “we cared about human rights” and were committed to “core principles around the rule of law and the universal dignity of people.”

Obama’s comments surely came as a shock to anyone who still has a functioning memory of the Bush years and hasn’t succumbed entirely to the effects of Trump Derangement Syndrome. Rather than being a champion of democratic principles, when Bush left office, he left behind a shameful legacy of upended human rights norms including due process and the legal prohibition against torture.

If 2008 Obama could speak today with 2020 Obama, he might remind himself that Bush had started a “dumb war” in Iraq in violation of the UN Charter, launched a warrantless surveillance program of Americans and that he had established a penal colony in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

As Obama himself said in said in 2013, during the Bush years, “we compromised our basic values – by using torture to interrogate our enemies, and detaining individuals in a way that ran counter to the rule of law.”

Bush’s ‘Rule of Law’

He dismissed provisions of the Geneva Conventions as “quaint” and offered legal rationales that justify torture in cases of “military necessity.”At the heart of Bush’s approach to the “rule of law” was the rejection of any independent court evaluation of its detentions. Without judicial review, the U.S. government didn’t need to present any evidence to show that a person actually had ties to Al Qaeda or was otherwise guilty of a crime. The Bush position also held that once designated as Al Qaeda members, individuals have no legal protections against torture.

U.S. sergeant interrogates a detainee at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq who is chained to his cell wall in a distressing position. (U.S. Government)

Bush’s approach to the “war on terror” was in fact a steady descent into the “dark side,” as Vice President Dick Cheney had called it. A subsequent Senate investigation found that the torture program instituted by the Bush administration following 9/11 employed gruesome techniques such as near drowning, forcing detainees to stand on broken legs, threatening to kill or rape detainees’ family members, forced “rectal feeding” and “rectal hydration.” It also offered disturbing details on a medieval “black site” prison in Afghanistan known as the Salt Pit, where at least one detainee froze to death.

The brutal interrogation sessions lasted in many cases non-stop for days or weeks at a time, leading to effects such as “hallucinations, paranoia, insomnia, and attempts at self-harm and self-mutilation,” and produced little to no useful information. CIA agents had illegally detained 26 of the 119 individuals in CIA custody, and the interrogation techniques used on detainees went beyond the methods that had been approved by the Bush Justice Department or CIA’s headquarters (guidelines that were likely overly permissive in the first place).

Calls for Accountability

When the Senate torture report was released in late 2014, it was met with calls for accountability from around the world. The United Nations, the European Union, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, as well as numerous governments, all demanded that those responsible for the illegal torture program face justice. The U.S. was reminded that as a matter of international law, it was legally obligated to prosecute the perpetrators of the torture program.

Some of the strongest words came from the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counterterrorism Ben Emmerson, who stated unequivocally that senior officials from the Bush administration who sanctioned crimes, as well as the CIA and U.S. government officials who carried them out, must be brought to justice. “It is now time to take action,” the UN rapporteur said.

Needless to say, no one was ever prosecuted by the Obama administration’s Justice Department. And now, Obama not only excuses these abuses, but he actually claims that Bush was committed to “the rule of law and the universal dignity of people.” A charitable explanation for Obama’s comments is that he was trying to draw a distinction between the Trump administration and every other president, and to draw this distinction, he made a clumsy attempt to draw an exaggerated contrast.

Obama’s Damaging Comments

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama walk with former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush after the unveiling of the Bushes’ official portraits at the White House, May 31, 2012. (White House, Chuck Kennedy)

But considering that 6-in-10 Americans now have a favorable view of Bush, almost twice as much as the 33 percent who gave him a favorable mark when he left office in 2009, it should be appreciated how impressionable Americans are and how damaging comments such as Obama’s can be. Much of Bush’s ascent to popularity has come from Democrats, 54 percent of whom now approve of the Bush presidency. Democrats’ change of heart appears to be primarily motivated by Bush’s opposition to Trump, which apparently has absolved him of his many failings while president.

This historic shift in attitudes was abetted by many liberals who have helped refurbish Bush’s image, including daytime talk show host Ellen DeGeneres and former First Lady Michelle Obama.

To hear Barack Obama now making the claim that Bush was committed to the rule of law and human rights is just the latest betrayal of a Democratic Party that has systematically prevented a reckoning for the crimes of the 43rd president, a party that is clearly uninterested in truth or accountability, and is more than willing to rewrite history to advance its political goals.

Only time will tell how America is affected in the long term by this rewriting of history.

George Bush - HISTORY

George Bush brought to the White House a dedication to traditional American values and a determination to direct them toward making the United States "a kinder and gentler nation." In his Inaugural Address he pledged in "a moment rich with promise" to use American strength as "a force for good."

Coming from a family with a tradition of public service, George Herbert Walker Bush felt the responsibility to make his contribution both in time of war and in peace. Born in Milton, Massachusetts, on June 12, 1924, he became a student leader at Phillips Academy in Andover. On his 18th birthday he enlisted in the armed forces. The youngest pilot in the Navy when he received his wings, he flew 58 combat missions during World War II. On one mission over the Pacific as a torpedo bomber pilot he was shot down by Japanese antiaircraft fire and was rescued from the water by a U. S. submarine. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery in action.

Bush next turned his energies toward completing his education and raising a family. In January 1945 he married Barbara Pierce. They had six children-- George, Robin (who died as a child), John (known as Jeb), Neil, Marvin, and Dorothy.

At Yale University he excelled both in sports and in his studies he was captain of the baseball team and a member of Phi Beta Kappa. After graduation Bush embarked on a career in the oil industry of West Texas.

Like his father, Prescott Bush, who was elected a Senator from Connecticut in 1952, George became interested in public service and politics. He served two terms as a Representative to Congress from Texas. Twice he ran unsuccessfully for the Senate. Then he was appointed to a series of high-level positions: Ambassador to the United Nations, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Chief of the U. S. Liaison Office in the People's Republic of China, and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

In 1980 Bush campaigned for the Republican nomination for President. He lost, but was chosen as a running mate by Ronald Reagan. As Vice President, Bush had responsibility in several domestic areas, including Federal deregulation and anti-drug programs, and visited scores of foreign countries. In 1988 Bush won the Republican nomination for President and, with Senator Dan Quayle of Indiana as his running mate, he defeated Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis in the general election.

Bush faced a dramatically changing world, as the Cold War ended after 40 bitter years, the Communist empire broke up, and the Berlin Wall fell. The Soviet Union ceased to exist and reformist President Mikhail Gorbachev, whom Bush had supported, resigned. While Bush hailed the march of democracy, he insisted on restraint in U. S. policy toward the group of new nations.

In other areas of foreign policy, President Bush sent American troops into Panama to overthrow the corrupt regime of General Manuel Noriega, who was threatening the security of the canal and the Americans living there. Noriega was brought to the United States for trial as a drug trafficker.

Bush's greatest test came when Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, then threatened to move into Saudi Arabia. Vowing to free Kuwait, Bush rallied the United Nations, the U. S. people, and Congress and sent 425,000 American troops. They were joined by 118,000 troops from allied nations. After weeks of air and missile bombardment, the 100-hour land battle dubbed Desert Storm routed Iraq's million-man army.

Despite unprecedented popularity from this military and diplomatic triumph, Bush was unable to withstand discontent at home from a faltering economy, rising violence in inner cities, and continued high deficit spending. In 1992 he lost his bid for reelection to Democrat William Clinton.


George H. W. Bush became one of the U.S. Navy's youngest pilots when he received his Naval Aviator wings and naval commission on 9 June 1943, three days before turning 19. [9] He flew torpedo bombers off USS San Jacinto on active duty from August 1943 to September 1945 during World War II. On 2 September 1944, during a mission over the Pacific, Japanese anti-aircraft fire hit his plane. The Navy submarine USS Finback rescued him. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and three Air Medals for courageous service in the Pacific Theater.

USS George H.W. Bush is the second United States aircraft carrier to be named after a naval aviator (Forrestal was the first) and the second, following Ronald Reagan, to be named after a then living former president (Ronald Reagan was christened in 2001 while Reagan was still alive).

Each element of the seal is significant for its relevance to the ship's namesake, naval aviation, naval service, and the nation. There are six prominent features of the seal, beginning with the 41 white stars, symbolizing the ship's namesake (the 41st president). The rays of light that appear on the seal's horizon represent Bush's concept of a "thousand points of light", wherein he urged Americans to find meaning and reward by serving a purpose higher than themselves. The graphic depiction of the aircraft carrier reflects the carrier, as both a symbol and instrument of American strength as a force for freedom. Above the carrier are the overhead profiles of a TBM Avenger torpedo bomber (representing Bush's days as a Navy pilot), an F/A-18 Hornet strike fighter, and an F-35C Lightning II, superimposed one upon the other in reverse chronological order of the individual aircraft's service entry date, and in diminishing scale so each outline is contained within that of the newer aircraft. [10]

Fouled anchors and shields, centered on naval aviators wings, honor the ship's namesake's aviation history. Finally, the motto "Freedom at Work" is adapted from Bush's inaugural speech, during which he said, "We know what works: Freedom works. We know what’s right: Freedom is right." [10]

George H.W. Bush measures 1,092 feet (333 m) and displaces over 100,000 tons, making her one of the world's largest warships (though she is slightly shorter than USS Enterprise). Her top speed exceeds 30 knots powered with two nuclear reactors, she can operate for more than 20 years without refueling.

Several features differentiate CVN-77 from other ships in the Nimitz class. [11]

Hull Edit

New features include a bulbous bow design that provides more buoyancy to the forward end of the ship and improves hull efficiency, curved flight deck edges to reduce radar signature, a new underwater hull coating system, deck modernized coverings to reduce ship weight by 100 tons, low solar absorptive and anti-stain paint, a less cluttered hangar bay, and a new propeller design. [12]

Island Edit

George H.W. Bush is the second carrier to have a modernized island, which includes a new radar tower (enclosed to reduce radar signature), navigation system upgrades, communication systems enhancements, and armored windows. The island is smaller and has been repositioned further aft to improve flight deck access and reduce signature and electronic self-interference. [13]

Air operations Edit

New air operations design features include an updated aviation fuel storage and distribution system, semi-automated refueling and servicing with new deck locations to provide faster, more efficient aircraft pit stops, requiring fewer people, modernized aircraft launch, and recovery equipment, and redesigned jet blast deflectors. [14]

Environmental Edit

Environmental upgrades have also been designed into the ship, including a vacuum collection/marine sanitation device (VC/MSD), a new marine sewage system that uses sea water in lieu of fresh water for lower maintenance costs. Many older ships in the U.S. Navy utilize a gravity-driven collection holding and transfer (CHT) system to handle sewage waste. Newer U.S. Navy ships, including now CVN-77, collect sewage waste by vacuum, allowing for greater flexibility in piping installation, smaller pipe sizes overall and reducing water consumption. The collection tanks of George H.W. Bush were modified to accommodate both the VCHT (Vacuum CHT) equipment and the elements of a marine sanitization device to treat the waste prior to discharge. George H.W. Bush is the only aircraft carrier in the U.S. Navy to combine the two technologies.

This new VC/MSD driven waste management system has, however, not been without problems. Reports began surfacing immediately after delivery in May 2009 of issues with the ship's toilet system. As of November 2011, the entire system has gone down at least twice, rendering all 423 commodes in the ship's 130 heads inoperable, with many more incidents that have rendered either half of the ship, or sections of the ship, without operating sanitary facilities. In one ship-wide incident, a repair crew spent 35 non-stop hours attempting to return the system to working order. The system is said to suffer breakdowns when inappropriate materials such as feminine hygiene products are flushed down the toilets. [15] During a four-month maintenance period in the dock in 2012, anti-clog measures were installed in the ship's toilet disposal systems. [16]

Electronics and communications Edit

New electronics and communications technology, [ vague ] space rearrangement, operational procedure changes, advanced sensor technologies and maintenance systems have been incorporated to reduce manning costs. A new zonal electrical distribution system will keep problems from affecting other parts of the ship. Automated material movement devices, semi-autonomous, gravity compensated weapons handling devices, damage control automation systems and components have also been installed. Medical and dental equipment have been upgraded, integrated display screens in Damage Control Central have been modernized to improve data integration and display, and equipment in general shops has been modernized to improve productivity. [13]

The contract to build CVN-77 was awarded to Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding Newport News on 26 January 2001. A naming ceremony was held on 9 December 2002 at Northrop Grumman Newport News, with former president George H.W. Bush attending. [7] [17] Secretary of the Navy Gordon R. England, presided at the ceremony.

Construction Edit

The keel laying ceremony was held on 6 September 2003, [7] with former president George H. W. Bush serving as the keynote speaker. Former First Lady Barbara Bush also attended with their daughter, Dorothy Bush Koch, the ship's sponsor. The former president authenticated the keel by chalking his initials onto a metal plate. His initials were then welded onto the plate, which was permanently affixed to the ship.

The ship was modularly constructed, where large sections are assembled and then lifted into place using a large crane. Major milestones in the construction include the bow placement in March 2005, followed by the island placement on 8 July 2006. [7] The 700-short-ton (640 t 620-long-ton) island was lifted onto the flight deck in a ceremony called "stepping the mast" which dates from antiquity and consists of placing coins or other items of significance under the step or bottom of a ship's mast during construction. Since at least the construction of USS Constitution in the 1790s, this tradition has been passed on as a symbol of good luck for U.S. Navy ships. George H. W. Bush participated in the event, placing his naval aviator wings underneath the island during the ceremony. [18]

George H.W. Bush was christened on 7 October 2006. [1] Former president George H. W. Bush attended the ceremony and became the first president in history to participate in the christening of his namesake ship. President George W. Bush also attended and honored his father during the ceremony as a special guest speaker. Other officials participating in the ceremony included Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter Virginia Senators John Warner and George Allen, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, and Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Mullen. [19]

Other construction milestones included catapult system testing on the ship's flight deck on 25 January 2008. Former president George H. W. Bush signaled the launch of two "dead loads" off the deck of the carrier. Dead loads are large, wheeled, steel vessels weighing up to 80,000 pounds (36,000 kg) simulating the weight of actual aircraft. [20]

On 11 August 2008, the Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) crew moved aboard the ship, the first meals were served in the galley, the U.S. flag was raised on the fantail for the first time, and the first watches were set. [21] George H.W. Bush left Northrop Grumman Ship Building for the first time on 23 December 2008, proceeding a few miles down river to Norfolk Naval Station.

Commissioning Edit

George H.W. Bush was commissioned 10 January 2009 at Norfolk Naval Station [22] prior to her official delivery to the Navy, in a ceremony attended by approximately 15,000 people. Veterans of USS San Jacinto, the ship George H. W. Bush served on during World War II, were also present. President George W. Bush delivered the principal address, George H. W. Bush set the first watch, and ship's sponsor Dorothy "Doro" Bush Koch gave the order to "man our ship and bring her to life!" A GM-built Grumman TBM Avenger like the one then-Lieutenant junior grade George Bush flew in World War II performed a fly-over.

Northrop Grumman Corporation Builder's sea trials were completed on 16 February 2009, providing an opportunity to test systems, components and compartments at sea for the first time. The trials included high-speed runs and a demonstration of the carrier's other capabilities. [23] Following builder's trials, the ship underwent acceptance trials on 10 April 2009, [24] conducted by representatives of the U.S. Navy Board of Inspection and Survey, to test and evaluate the ship's systems and performance.

Delivery and shakedown Edit

George H.W. Bush was officially delivered to the Navy on 11 May 2009. [25]

The first fixed-wing flights were conducted on 19 May 2009 when F/A-18 Super Hornets from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland began flight deck certification, which tests a carrier's ability to conduct air operations. [26] [27]

On 26 May 2009, former president George H.W. Bush and his daughter, Dorothy Bush Koch, flew aboard the carrier to observe flight operations during the ship's underway period in the Atlantic Ocean. USS George H.W. Bush successfully completed her first flight deck certification on that day. [28]

George H.W. Bush returned to Northrop Grumman Newport News shipyard on 18 June 2009 for post-delivery maintenance work, also known as the ship's post shakedown availability (PSA). A PSA is a typical availability in the early life of a carrier that allows the Navy and builder to resolve any items that came up during trials and delivery and make any last-minute changes and upgrades. Work includes the installation of a Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) handling system and a new fresh water purification system. Other changes include compartment reconfigurations, combat system and radar equipment upgrades, and minor repairs. The work was scheduled to last through early 2010. [29]

Maiden 2011 deployment Edit

The ship was assigned to Carrier Strike Group Two for her first deployment. Under the command of Rear Admiral Nora Tyson, George H.W. Bush, Carrier Air Wing Eight and the four ships of her group departed on her first deployment on 11 May 2011. [30] They sailed across the Atlantic to Britain to participate in Exercise Saxon Warrior, held in the Western Approaches and culminating in a so-called 'Thursday War'. [31] She then moved towards Portsmouth, United Kingdom, on 27 May, anchoring adjacent to Stokes Bay through 31 May, because she was too large to enter the harbor, and the naval base did not have sufficient nuclear berths for the carrier to moor alongside. [31] [32] The carrier arrived at Naples, Italy on 10 June 2011. [33]

The carrier returned to Norfolk on 10 December 2011, following a seven-month deployment supporting operations with the U.S. Navy's 5th and 6th fleets. [34]

2012 Edit

On 25 July 2012, George H.W. Bush began her four-month overhaul at Norfolk Naval Shipyard at Portsmouth, Virginia, included scheduled short-term technical upgrades. [35] On 1 December 2012, George H.W. Bush completed her PIA maintenance cycle and began sea trials on 3 December 2012. After completing sea trials on 4 December 2012, the carrier started her training and qualification cycle in preparation for the group's 2013 deployment. [36] [37]

2013 Edit

During a two-week underway period beginning 14 January 2013, George H.W. Bush tested the MV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft from squadron VMX-22 as a potential carrier onboard delivery aircraft as well as operating mine-sweeping MH-53E helicopters from squadron HM-14. [37] [38]

During another underway period, George H.W. Bush conducted at-sea tests for X-47B unmanned drone in the Atlantic Ocean, including the first time that an unmanned drone has been catapulted off an aircraft carrier on the morning of 14 May 2013 (pictured). [39] On 17 May 2013, another first was achieved when the X-47B performed touch-and-go landings and take-offs on the flight deck of Bush while underway in the Atlantic Ocean. [40] Also during this two-week underway period, the aircraft carrier tested a new torpedo self-defense system, as well as completed more than 115 launches and landings in assessing a new precision landing system, before returning to Norfolk on 24 May 2013. [41]

On 10 July 2013, an unmanned X-47B drone completed an arrested landing on the flight deck of George H.W. Bush. The landing marks the first time any unmanned aircraft had completed an arrested landing on board an aircraft carrier operating at sea. [42] The drone completed a second successful arrested landing on George H.W. Bush, but it was diverted to the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia after an issue was detected, requiring that a planned third landing to be aborted. [43] One of the drone's three navigational sub-systems failed, which was identified by the other two sub-systems. The anomaly was indicated to the mission operator, who followed test plan procedures to abort the landing. The Navy stated that the aircraft's detection of a problem demonstrated its reliability and ability to operate autonomously. [44] On 15 July 2013, in a fourth attempt, an X-47B drone failed to make a successful flight deck landing on board the vessel due to "technical issues." [45]

2014 deployment Edit

In late February 2014, George H.W. Bush transited the Strait of Gibraltar on the way to a scheduled port stop in Piraeus, Greece, for a scheduled port visit. [46]

On 5 March 2014, George H.W. Bush arrived off southern Turkey, which is under 500 miles away from Crimea, amid developing tensions over Ukraine with Russia. [47] On 9 March 2014, the carrier entered port in Antalya, in southern Turkey. [48] Some news sources had speculated that the ship's stay in the Mediterranean Sea would be extended as a result of the annexation of Crimea, but this proved to not be the case with Carrier Strike Group 2 proceeding through the Suez Canal. [49]

The carrier was transiting the Suez Canal on 18 March 2014. On 23 March USS Harry S. Truman officially turned over the watch to George H.W. Bush in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations and supporting theater security cooperation efforts.

On 14 June 2014, George H.W. Bush was ordered to the Persian Gulf to protect US interests in Iraq in light of the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant's (ISIL) offensive and takeover of several major cities in that country.

On 8 August 2014, two F/A-18F Super Hornets launched from the ship and dropped 500-pound (230 kg) laser-guided bombs on an ISIL mobile artillery cannon shelling Kurdish forces outside their capital city, Erbil. [50] The mission was launched in accordance with President Obama's announcement on the evening of 7 August that the US would begin airstrikes to protect US personnel and the Yazidis in the region from ISIL attacks.

On 23 September 2014 F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets from Carrier Air Wing Eight launched from George H.W. Bush in the Persian Gulf to strike at specific targets in Syria such as command-and-control centers, training camps, and weapons depots. [51]

On 15 November 2014, George H.W. Bush returned to her homeport in Norfolk, Virginia after a nine-month deployment.

2017 deployment Edit

Following a 14-month shipyard availability at Norfolk Naval Shipyard and a compressed training cycle, George H.W. Bush and Carrier Air Wing Eight departed Norfolk on 21 January for her third deployment. She transited the Strait of Gibraltar on 2 February and after a port visit to Souda Bay, Crete, she again participated in strikes against ISIL in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. [52]

In July 2017, George H.W. Bush arrived in the UK to take part in Exercise Saxon Warrior, a joint exercise involving Carrier Strike Group 2 plus elements of the Royal Navy, German Navy, Royal Norwegian Navy and Swedish Navy. This included the staff of the Royal Navy's Carrier Strike Group embarking aboard Bush as part of their preparation for the entry into service of HMS Queen Elizabeth, the first of Britain's new aircraft carriers. [53]

2018 Edit

In May 2018, George H.W. Bush took part in the Franco-American exercise Chesapeake Mission, with twelve Dassault Aviation Rafale M and a Grumman E-2C Hawkeye from the French Navy embarked on board. [54]

2019 Edit

In February 2019, George H.W. Bush arrived at Norfolk Naval Shipyard for a planned 28-month docking planned incremental availability (DPIA). This was the ship's first DPIA. [55]

The United States Navy announced on 24 September that there had been three suicides aboard George H.W. Bush in one week. Two previous ship suicides had taken place in November 2017 and July 2019. [56]

2020 Edit

On 30 July 2020 , Navy Times reported that a spokesperson for Naval Air Force Atlantic confirmed that a "small number" of sailors assigned to George H.W. Bush had tested positive for COVID-19 during the summer. [57] The spokesperson declined to provide an exact number of sailors or a more precise date regarding when the virus was detected, citing US Defense Department policy, but added that the carrier was not deployed at the time, and that those infected "remain[ed] in isolation at their private residences in Virginia and receive[d] daily medical supportive care". [57] [58]

In August 2020, George H. W. Bush left dry dock at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, after 18 months of the planned two-year overhaul. It was the vessel's most extensive maintenance period and marked its first time out of water since she was built. The overhaul was the most complex undertaken at the shipyard to date, according to the Navy. [59]


George Bush (c. 1790?-1863) was a key leader of the first group of American citizens to settle north of the Columbia River in what is now Washington. Bush was a successful farmer in Missouri, but as a free African American in a slave state, he faced increasing discrimination and decided to move west. In 1844, Bush and his good friend Michael T. Simmons (1814-1867), a white Irish American, led their families and three others over the Oregon Trail. When they found that racial exclusion laws had preceded them and barred Bush from settling south of the Columbia River, they settled on Puget Sound, becoming the first Americans to do so. Bush established a successful farm near present day Olympia on land that became known as Bush Prairie. He and his family were noted for their generosity to new arrivals and for their friendship with the Nisqually Indians who lived nearby. Bush continued modernizing and improving his farm until his death in 1863. Said by some sources to be named George Washington Bush in honor of the first president, he has no known family connection to the two later presidents who share with him the name George Bush.

George Bush was born in Pennsylvania in the late 1700s. Information about his birth and early years is sparse and conflicting. His birth date was probably around 1790, although some accounts place it more than 10 years earlier, which would have made Bush more than 60 when he and his family followed the Oregon Trail west. His exact name is also uncertain. The few census records listing him and news articles published during his lifetime refer to him as "George Bush." However, early Washington historian Edmond S. Meany (1862-1935), who knew people who had known Bush, gives his name as "George W. Bush" in publications dating at least from 1899, and other accounts published through the twentieth century do so as well. Since the early 1960s, most publications mentioning Bush, including eventually many state and other official websites, give his name as "George Washington Bush," with some stating he was so named in honor of the president in office when he was born.

Bush's father, Matthew Bush, of African descent, was said to be a sailor from the British West Indies. His mother was an Irish American servant. Both apparently worked for a wealthy Quaker family named Stevenson, and young George Bush was educated in the Quaker tradition. As a young man, Bush served in the U.S. Army and may have participated in the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. He later worked as a voyageur and fur trapper, first for the St. Louis based Robideaux Company and then for the famed Hudson’s Bay Company, which dominated the fur trade throughout western Canada and in the Oregon Territory. During this time he traveled extensively in the Western plains and mountains, and may have reached the Puget Sound region.

Bush eventually settled in Clay County, Missouri, where he met Isabella (or Isabell) James (c. 1809-1866), a young German American woman. They were married on July 4, 1831. William Owen Bush (1832-1907), the first of their six sons, was born exactly one year later. Four more sons -- Joseph Talbot (1834-1904), Rial Bailey (1837-?), Henry Sanford (1841-1913), and Jackson January (1843-1888) -- were born before the family headed west in 1844.

West With Family and Friends

Bush farmed and raised cattle, and the family was relatively well off. However, the state of Missouri had laws that purported to forbid free African Americans from entering the state, and the climate of bigotry and discrimination was increasing in the years leading up to the Civil War. At the same time, in the late 1830s and early 1840s, reports from the first U.S. residents to cross the continent and settle in the fertile Oregon Territory were beginning to inspire others to follow the Oregon Trail west. Bush saw westward migration as a way to escape the increasing prejudice he and his sons faced in Missouri.

Four white families -- those of Michael and Elizabeth Simmons, James and Charlotte McAllister, David and Talitha Kindred, and Gabriel and Keziah Jones -- joined the Bushes on the journey that would make them the first U.S. citizens to settle on Puget Sound. The five families were all friends and neighbors in Missouri. Kentucky-born Michael Simmons was a longtime friend of George Bush who went on to play a prominent leadership role in the early history of Washington Territory. Simmons’s sister Charlotte was married to James McAllister and Simmons’s wife Elizabeth was David Kindred’s sister.

Simmons and Bush were the recognized leaders of what became known as the Simmons party. Bush was among the wealthier pioneers to follow the Oregon Trail. He was said to have supplied the Conestoga wagons and supplies that allowed some of the other families to make the trip. According to some accounts, a false floor in the Bush family wagon concealed a layer of silver dollars. The Simmons party joined a larger wagon train, which departed Missouri in May 1844. Bush’s frontier experience made him a valuable addition to the train, which he helped lead across the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains.

Change of Destination

When the Simmons party reached the Columbia River in the fall of 1844, they found that discriminatory laws had preceded them. The provisional government set up in Oregon Territory by settlers from the U.S. had enacted legislation, like that of Missouri, barring settlement by African Americans. Not wishing to separate from the Bush family, Simmons and the other members of the party gave up their plans to settle in Oregon’s Rogue River Valley.

The five families spent the winter of 1844-45 on the north bank of the Columbia River, not far from the Hudson's Bay Company’s Fort Vancouver in present-day Clark County. The men of the party found work that winter at the fort. By spring, they had decided to settle north of the Columbia in the Puget Sound region, which was then beyond the practical reach of the settlers’ new legislation. The 1818 Treaty of Joint Occupation placed the Oregon country under joint British and U.S. control. In practice, the provisional government’s authority extended only to the south side of the Columbia River, while the British Hudson’s Bay Company still dominated the territory north of the river.

The Hudson’s Bay Company officially attempted to dissuade Americans from settling north of the Columbia. However, Dr. John McLoughlin (1784-1857), who as the chief factor in charge of Fort Vancouver was the most powerful figure in the Pacific Northwest’s small non-Indian community, helped them just as he helped those settling south of the Columbia. Under McLoughlin’s direction, Fort Vancouver not only employed the men in cutting timber and making shingles but also provided the Simmons party with supplies at good prices and on credit.

Move to Puget Sound

In the summer of 1845, Simmons led an exploring party around Puget Sound, while Bush and the others remained on the Columbia, where Bush had charge of the families’ livestock. Simmons found a site for a settlement at the falls where the Deschutes River enters Budd Inlet in what is now Thurston County. In October 1845, the Bush, Simmons, McAllister, Kindred, and Jones families, accompanied by two single men, Samuel Crockett and Jesse Ferguson, set off from Fort Vancouver for Puget Sound.

They traveled down the Columbia to the Cowlitz, and up that river to Cowlitz Landing. From there they spent 15 days making a road through the forest to Budd Inlet, which they reached in early November. Simmons and his family settled there at the falls of the Deschutes, and Simmons laid out the community he called New Market, which later became Tumwater. The Bushes and others settled farther up the Deschutes River, a few miles south of New Market on a fertile open prairie that soon became known as Bush Prairie.

Help From Hudson’s Bay and the Nisquallies

Having arrived so late in the year, the new settlers hurried to construct crude log cabins before the winter set in. For food that first year they depended largely on the generosity of their neighbors -- the Hudson’s Bay Company outpost at Fort Nisqually farther north on Puget Sound in what is now Pierce County, and the Nisqually Indians whose lands extended widely on both sides of the Nisqually River (now the border between Thurston and Pierce counties).

McLoughlin had provided the party a generous letter of reference to Dr. William F. Tolmie, his counterpart at Fort Nisqually:

With this letter, the families were able to purchase wheat, peas, potatoes, and beef cattle at Fort Nisqually on credit. Interestingly, of the five family names, only Bush does not appear on the Fort’s credit list, apparently corroborating that they brought sufficient cash to pay for their supplies.

The Hudson’s Bay Company had good relations with the Puget Sound Indians, whom they treated as trading partners and allies. With Tolmie’s encouragement, the Simmons party followed that example. They were welcomed by the Nisqually Indians led by Chief Leschi, who brought them horse-loads of supplies. Local Indians taught the newcomers from the Midwest to take advantage of the unfamiliar seafood with which the region abounded. They soon learned to find oysters, dig for clams, and harvest salmon returning up the rivers, as well as to use many native plants.

All the members of the Bush family learned the Nisqually language. They became close to Leschi and other Nisquallies who frequently visited their farm. George and Isabella Bush’s youngest son, who was born at Bush Prairie in December 1847 (and died in 1923), was named Lewis Nesqually Bush. The Bushes helped to treat their Indian neighbors when epidemics carried by the newcomers swept the region.

Aiding New Arrivals

The weather was unusually harsh the first few years following the settlement, and the first harvests were small. But Bush was a skilled farmer and the farm began to thrive. By the winter of 1846-47 Bush and Simmons set up a grist mill on Simmons’s claim at the Deschutes falls. For the first time the settlers could grind their own flour instead of depending on Fort Nisqually. Simmons and others also set up a sawmill, and the growing community was able to gain some cash income by selling lumber.

Bush does not appear to have been heavily involved in the sawmill, concentrating instead on improving and expanding his farm. In addition to his grain and vegetable crops, he established acres of fruit trees, grown from seeds he had carried over the Oregon Trail. As more settlers began to pour into the Puget Sound region -- more than 1,000 by 1850 and another 12,000 in the next decade -- Bush became famous for bestowing on them the same generosity that he and his party had encountered on their arrival.

The Bush farm was located just off the "highway" running south from Tumwater to Cowlitz Landing and Vancouver, so most new emigrants, some half-starved from the journey, passed it on their way to Puget Sound. The newcomers were dependent on established settlers for food and seeds to start their own farms, and the Bush family was foremost in offering assistance. That help was especially important in 1852, when the large number of emigrants exhausted most of the region’s grain harvest, and the Bush farm was one of the few with supplies available. Ezra Meeker (1830-1928), who was among the 1852 arrivals and went on to become a prominent pioneer leader and author of numerous reminiscences, recalled that Bush gave out nearly all his crop that year:

Discrimination and Exception

Ironically, the discriminatory laws the Bushes were trying to avoid had followed them and jeopardized the family’s claim to the land they had painstakingly cultivated and from which they fed the waves of newly arriving white emigrants. The 1845 American settlement north of the Columbia may have been one of the catalysts for the 1846 Treaty of Oregon, which resolved the U.S.-British boundary dispute by giving the territory south of the 49th parallel to the U.S., bringing what is now Washington under the Oregon Territory laws that denied rights to African Americans. As a result, although the long expected Donation Land Claim Act of 1850 authorized married settlers to claim 640 acres per couple, it was argued that Bush could not claim the land his family had settled.

When Washington Territory was separated from Oregon in 1853, many of the new legislators were friends and neighbors of the Bush family and beneficiaries of their generosity. While this experience did not necessarily make them less prejudiced, it did inspire them to make an exception for George Bush and his sons. The first territorial legislature in 1854 voted unanimously for a resolution urging Congress to pass a special act confirming George and Isabella Bush’s title to the land they had claimed and farmed. Congress did so in 1855, and the Bush Prairie farm remained in the hands of the Bush family.

Despite the support for Bush’s claim, many early leaders of Washington Territory including Isaac Stevens (1818-1862), the first governor, were anti-abolitionist Democrats who sought to ban nonwhites from the territory. Michael Simmons, otherwise one of Stevens’s strongest early supporters, led the opposition and Washington did not adopt racial exclusionary laws.

Indian Wars and Final Years

The increasing influx of settlers, followed by Governor Stevens’s efforts in 1854 and 1855 to force Indians in the Territory to sign treaties ceding most of their lands and confining them to reservations, generated increasing hostility between settlers and Indians, culminating in the "Indian Wars" of 1855 and 1856. According to later statements by George Bush’s sons, the Bushes and most of the early settlers at Tumwater and Bush Prairie sympathized with Leschi and the Nisquallies, not Stevens and his troops. Sanford and Lewis Bush explained that Leschi went to war after being deceived about the boundaries provided for the Nisqually Reservation in the Treaty of Medicine Creek. Owen Bush told Ezra Meeker "Leschi was as good a friend as we ever had" (Thomas, 61). Owen said Stevens’s bad management caused the war and that he refused to participate in it. Before the fighting started, Leschi contacted the Bushes and assured them that settlers who remained west of the Deschutes River would not be harmed.

In the final years of his life Bush continued to expand his farm and led the way in modernizing Puget Sound agriculture. At first, farming had been conducted almost entirely by hand using the few simple tools carried overland in the wagons. As more ships began regular visits to the Sound in the 1850s, larger farm machinery became available. In 1856, Bush introduced the first mower and reaper on the Sound. The next year he brought in a thresher and separator. By the end of the decade Bush and his sons were operating a model farm of 880 acres that was one of the leading operations in the Territory.

Death and Succession

George Bush died of a cerebral hemorrhage on April 5, 1863. Isabella Bush died on September 12, 1866. Following George’s death, their eldest son William Owen Bush returned from Grand Mound, where he had a farm, to take over the Bush Prairie homestead, which he operated until his death in 1907. His brothers (of whom only Jackson married) also lived and worked the rest of their lives on the family land. Several of the brothers played active roles in Thurston county civic and political affairs. Owen Bush was an influential member of the first state legislature in 1889-90. Like his father an expert farmer, he became interested in competing in world's fairs and expositions, winning first-place awards at several for produce from the Bush Prairie farm.

Owen Bush’s descendants owned at least some of the original homestead as late as the 1960s. Various implements and artifacts from the Bush farm are now held in the collection of the Washington State Capitol Museum in Olympia. Also in that collection is the five-painting series George Washington Bush, created in 1973 by acclaimed artist Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000), a Washington state resident since 1971. Of necessity his likenesses of Bush are speculative -- no known image of Bush made in his lifetime exists. The widely circulated portrait sketch that accompanies this article is also a speculative rendering, created just four years before Lawrence's paintings by Los Angeles Times illustrator Sam Patrick. Nonetheless, Lawrence's paintings, based like much of his work on extensive research in African American history, vividly depict George Bush's journey by wagon train across the continent from Missouri to Bush Prairie.

Note: This article is part of Cultivating Washington, The History of Our State’s Food, Land, and People, which includes more agriculture-related content, vidoes, and curriculum.

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George Washington Bush series, No. 3 (painting by Jacob Lawrence, 1973)

Courtesy Washington State History Museum

George Bush (Los Angeles Times sketch by Sam Patrick, 1969)

Courtesy Henderson House Museum

Michael T. Simmons (1814-1867), Thurston County pioneer, n.d.

Courtesy Washington State Library, Rural Heritage Collections

Three generations of Bush family, Bush Prairie Farm, n.d.

Courtesy City of Tumwater, Henderson House Museum (729)

William Owen Bush (1832-1907), ca. 1889

Courtesy Washington State Historical Society (C1964.1.35)

Henry Sanford Bush (1839-1913), fourth son of pioneers George and Isabella Bush, Bush Prairie, Thurston County, August 3, 1911