Bush, Louisiana had strong connections
President George Herbert Walker Bush, who died Friday at age 94, had close ties to Louisiana, and came to the state’s rescue after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005. Bush also had many of Louisiana’s prominent businessmen and public officials as friends.
The Advocate in a story by Tyler Bridges said, “Bush’s relationship to Louisiana was unique among modern presidents.” Bridges contacted a number of Louisianians who were close to Bush for his report.
Bush was nominated for president at the Republican National Convention in the Superdome. He was elected president on Nov. 8, 1988, carrying 40 states, including Louisiana.
Although he grew up in Connecticut, Bush moved to Texas after serving as a pilot during World War II. Bridges said Bush traveled throughout south Louisiana in the 1950s, seeking to acquire drilling rights for his Texas-based oil company and making friends. He developed close relationships with the state’s congressional delegation while serving in Congress and as vice president and president.
Bush played paddleball in the U.S. House gym while he was vice president, and invited former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer, who was then a congressman, to join the matches.
Henson Moore, another Louisiana House member from Baton Rouge, was deputy secretary of energy in Bush’s Cabinet. In 1992, he became the president’s deputy chief of staff and got to see Bush up close.
“What the public saw is what he was in private,” Moore told Bridges. “He was never two-faced. He was a very noble, well-meaning individual who had a high regard for everyone.”
Bush connected with Louisiana’s Democratic U.S Sens. John Breaux and J. Bennett Johnston when he was vice president. They played doubles tennis together. The games continued after Bush became president. Breaux said friendship was more important to Bush than partisanship.
A year after Hurricane Rita, Bush went to Cameron Parish with a $2 million check for a hospital destroyed by the hurricane and came back when it reopened. He and former President Bill Clinton had teamed up to raise disaster funds.
Cameron Parish District Attorney Jennifer Jones helped organize those two Bush trips. She called Bush “an extraordinary man” who “made me a fan for life.”
Americans have come to realize that is exactly who Bush has become for them, an extraordinary man who put his country and his people above everything else. We have all been blessed to have known him.