By now, nearly all American citizens know of the passing of George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st President of the United States. Mr. Bush passed away in his Houston residence last Friday, Nov. 30, 2018, at the age of 94.
The late president will be remembered today (Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018) in a state funeral to be held in Washington, D.C. President Donald J. Trump declared the day an official National Day of Mourning.
Bush will be laid to rest at his presidential library in College Station, Texas, after additional funeral services on Thursday.
The public images of George H.W. Bush are many and varied, from his baseball-playing days at Yale, to his heroism as a decorated World War II naval combat pilot, to his days as a Congressman from West Texas, as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, as chief envoy to China, as director of the CIA, and as the nation’s vice president under President Ronald Reagan.
He’ll also be remembered as the president who guided the nation through the Persian Gulf War in the early 1990s after Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces had invaded Kuwait months earlier.
He was a war-time leader, but many will recall the stark contrast of a president who also talked about a kinder and gentler nation, one who championed the serving of others as one of 1,000 points of light, and the man who famously joked he was through eating broccoli since he was the Commander in Chief.
Still others will remember Bush as the husband of his beloved Barbara for 73 years, until her death earlier in 2018, and for being the father of George W. Bush, the 43rd President of the United States.
American outdoorsmen will have a fond memory of Bush’s love for the outdoors.
He was a father and grandfather who loved to fish, even for double-digit tarpon, and quail hunt in Texas carrying a classic side-by-side double shotgun.
Bush was also the nation’s chief executive bass angler, something evidenced by his induction into the sport’s Bass Fishing Hall of Fame in 2016.
In addition to being friends with Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris and catching numerous lunker bass over the years, Bush was accorded honorary Bassmaster Classic weighmaster status in 1984 while standing on stage next to Bass Angler Sportsman Society founder and longtime angling friend Ray Scott.
Bush — who wore a blue shirt and red B.A.S.S. cap while on that stage — was vice president at the time and stood by as Rick Clunn claimed his third of four Classic titles.
After watching bass-fishing greats Denny Brauer and Hank Parker come across the platform, Bush found himself on stage at the tournament’s conclusion as Clunn celebrated next to then-Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton — the same man Bush would lose to in his presidential re-election bid in 1992 as Clinton ascended to the Oval Office.
In short, while plenty disagreed with some of Bush’s decisions and policies relating to the outdoors, many hunters and anglers across the nation will remember a man who was a friend to the sportsman.
It seemed clear Bush enjoyed the outdoors, instead of seeing it as merely a photo op, sound bite, or campaign stop.
From an outdoors perspective, the 41st President’s legacy might be best summarized by Ross Purnell, the editor of the Outdoor Sportsman Group’s well-respected Fly Fisherman magazine.
Hours after Bush passed away, Purnell offered this tribute on social media.
“Today we are remembering our great fly-fishing President George Herbert Walker Bush who died yesterday Nov. 30, 2018,” wrote Purnell. “His entire life was one of public service.
“He was a Navy pilot shot down in WWII, a two-term congressman from Texas, ambassador to the United Nations, chairman of the Republican National Committee, United States envoy to China, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and vice president under Ronald Reagan.
“He was a life-long fisherman, often fishing for striped bass and blues off of his compound in Kennebunkport, Maine. He caught a 135-pound tarpon in the Florida Keys with guide George Wood, and he wrote the foreword to Andy Mill's book "A Passion for Tarpon.”
“He established 56 wildlife refuges during his presidency and received the Bass Pro Shops Lifetime Conservation Achievement Award and the Keep America Fishing award for his conservation efforts including his key role in passing amendments to the Sportfish Restoration Act.”
Along with that statement, Purnell displayed the Sam Talarico cover photo of the May 1999 issue of Fly Fisherman, an issue that showed the 41st President with fly fishing guide Sam Sellars with a sizable false albacore caught off the coast of North Carolina.
In that photo, Bush wasn’t a former chief executive who once knew all about the pressures of leading this great nation. Instead, he was an ordinary fisherman out on the saltwater looking for a day of angling relaxation and fun.
Just like many of us have in our pursuits of game and fish.
While other U.S. presidents have certainly hunted and fished during their times in office and beyond, the smile of Bush on that day off the Carolina coast was real, broad, and genuine.
Because despite his lifelong public service and meteoric rise to the heights of worldwide political power, Bush was clearly one of us, an American outdoorsman who loved being afield and on the water.
Rest in peace, President Bush. You will be sorely missed.