How George H.W. Bush's Extraordinary Political Career Shaped His Relationship With His Children

After the late president's passing, his children mourn the loss of the beloved family man.

On the evening of Friday, November 30, former president George H. W. Bush died at the age of 94. The sad news was shared with the public by Bush's eldest son, former president George W. Bush.

"Jeb, Neil, Marvin, Doro, and I are saddened to announce that after 94 remarkable years, our dear Dad has died," reads the message. "George H. W. Bush was a man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for. The entire Bush family is deeply grateful for 41's life and love, for the compassion of those who have cared and prayed for Dad, and for the condolences of our family and fellow citizens."

Indeed, while Bush will be remembered for numerous achievements, including his service as a combat pilot in World War II and his many years of dedicated public service, perhaps his most lasting legacy will remain that of a family man. Through his extraordinary 73-year marriage to Barbara Bush, who passed away earlier this year, and the six children they raised together, Bush served as the patriarch to one of America's great political dynasties.


The 41st and 43rd presidents in Kennebunkport, Maine during George W. Bush's first presidential campaign.

The eldest and most famous of the Bush children, George W. followed in his father's footsteps in many respects. Born in New Haven, Connecticut but raised in Texas, George W. attended Yale as his father had, served briefly in the Air Force Reserve as a pilot, and worked in the oil business before finding his way into politics. From 1995 to 2000, he served as the governor of Texas, which in turn led to a successful Presidential campaign. George W. took over the office of President of the United States on January 20, 2001, becoming the nation's 43rd president.

As president, the younger Bush's relationship with his father was heavily dissected, though George W. made it clear in his 2014 book 41: a Portrait of My Father, detailing both his father's life in the White House and how their shared position influenced his own time as Commander in Chief, that George H.W. Bush was first and foremast a father to him. “I knew he would support whatever choice I made," he wrote, later adding, “There was no point in competing with our father—no point in rebelling against him—because he would love us no matter what.”


George H. W. Bush with his wife, Barbara, and their children Pauline and George W. in Midlands, Texas.

The Bush's second child, Pauline "Robin" Bush, was born on December 20, 1949. A playful and energetic little girl, the Bush family became concerned when, in early 1953, the three-year-old began complaining of tiredness. Shortly thereafter, she was diagnosed with leukemia.

“[The doctor's] advice was to tell no one, go home, forget that Robin was sick, make her as comfortable as we could, love her—and let her gently slip away,” Barbara Bush wrote in her 1994 memoir. “She said this would happen very quickly.”

Instead, the Bushes flew their daughter to New York where she received treatments at Sloan Kettering for seven months before succumbing to the illness in October of that year.

President Bush's granddaughter, Jenna Bush Hagar, posted movingly today on Instagram about her grandfather's desire to be reunited in the afterlife with his wife Barbara and the young daughter they lost so many years ago.


George W. Bush, Jeb Bush, George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush in September, 1999.

George W. wasn't the only one of the Bush children to make a career in politics. The Bush's second son, John Ellis, better known as Jeb, joined in the tradition as the governor of Florida, serving from 1999 to 2007, and in the process becoming the state's first two-term Republican senator.

On December 1, following the announcement of his father's death, Jeb shared a tweet calling George H.W. "the greatest human being that I will ever know."

It wasn't the first time the second Bush son lavished his father with such praise—he shared a similar sentiment on George H.W.'s birthday in 2015, saying, "To the greatest man I've ever known. Happy Birthday, Dad" and even opened an online campaign store that year selling a t-shirt that read "My dad is the greatest man I’ve ever known, and if you don’t think so, we can step outside."


George H.W. Bush and his four sons, left to right, Neil, Jeb, George W., and Marvin.

Opting out of the Bush family's legacy in politics, George H.W. and Barbara's fourth child instead chose to follow his father's example in the business world. After struggling in school, it was discovered that Neil was dyslexic, a realization that helped inspire his mother's work with childhood literacy programs. Neil currently chairs the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation and the Points of Light board, dedicated to encouraging and facilitating volunteerism.

Neil Bush and his father in Houston in 2017.


Brothers George W. and Marvin Bush take in a basketball game at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

The youngest boy in the Bush family, Marvin was named after his maternal grandfather, Marvin Pierce and earned himself the family nickname "Marvelous." Rather than go into politics, Marvin chose to enter the business world, working in insurance.


Known to her family as Doro, Dorothy Bush Koch is the youngest of the Bush siblings. Named after her paternal grandmother, Dorothy Walker Bush, Doro made waves in 1992 when she married wine-industry policy advocate Robert Koch in a small ceremony at Camp David. In 2006, she published My Father, My President: A Personal Account of the Life of George H. W. Bush as both a memoir and a biography of her father, including interviews with his political contemporaries and insights into the man behind the public face.

This story originally appeared on
* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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