President George H.W. and Barbara Bush began their life together on the Georgia coast.
Their 73-year marriage began in 1945 with a honeymoon trip to the Cloister at Sea Island, and they returned in 1995 for their 50th anniversary.
President Bush has died at 94, the family announced.
Through the years, Georgia was special to them. Barbara Bush’s literacy foundation has partnered with programs across the state, and she was instrumental in helping Morehouse School of Medicine raise money in its early days. When George Bush needed Georgia to ascend from the vice presidency to the Oval Office, she came to Atlanta to make a personal appeal.
Eric Tanenblatt, who served in the first Bush administration, later became Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue’s chief of staff and now chairs the U.S. Public Policy practice at the global law firm Dentons, was manning an Atlanta phone bank in 1987 on behalf of George H.W. Bush’s presidential bid when Barbara Bush walked in — and got to work.
“She actually got on the phone,” he recalled. “She started calling people in Georgia to thank them for their support. She was actively involved in the campaigns.”
Dr. Louis W. Sullivan of Atlanta, who served as secretary of Health and Human Services from 1989 to 1993, enjoyed a long friendship with the former first couple, later presidential parents. He became president of Atlanta’s Morehouse School of Medicine in 1981 and retired in 2002, stepping away from the role during his time in the Bush administration.
He was part of then Vice President Bush’s 1982 trip through sub-Saharan Africa. While Bush met with heads of state, his wife met with leaders of various groups, including leaders of adult literacy programs.
“This was the first visit to sub-Saharan Africa by a senior member of the Reagan administration,” Sullivan recalled. “At the end of this two-week trip, I convinced Barbara that she and I were in the same business, just different branches. Morehouse School of Medicine was a young institution then. She accepted our invitation and joined our board in January 1983. In six years, she missed only one meeting.”
Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr is among the many taking to social media with messages of tribute and condolence.
“A sad day for the Bush family and for America,” he posted with a photo of himself with the 41st president and U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson. “President Bush was a great man who selflessly served his nation, not only as president of the United States but in so many different capacities under several administrations. He made his community, country and world a better place. I was fortunate to meet him once when I worked for then-Congressman Isakson, and it was a highlight of my young political career. Joan and I offer our condolences to the Bush family and all of President Bush’s many friends and supporters.”
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