The Many Associations of George H.W. Bush

The late president, who died last week at 94, had affiliations with a wide variety of associations, especially in the world of skydiving. (Really.)

George H.W. Bush, like many presidents, had deep influence on American culture, thanks in no small part due to his role at the center of the news cycle for four years—12, if you count the years he spent as vice president.

And with his passing over the weekend at the age of 94, many reflected on this influence, and associations were right there to speak up. Our 41st president had a lot of ties to the world of associations, in big ways and small.

Especially when it comes to skydiving. No, really.

See, in 1997, President Bush took a dive through the air, which was a major news story at the time it happened—though he had previously made such a jump while fighting during World War II. Industry groups, such as the United States Parachute Association (USPA) and the International Skydiving Museum & Hall of Fame, which made him an honorary chairman, never forgot the impact of that jump.

He knew why we jump; he was truly one of us.

“Sadly, with the passing of President Bush on November 30, 2018, the skydiving community bids farewell to one of its own,” the museum wrote in a news release. “And for the International Skydiving Museum & Hall of Fame, we say goodbye to our Honorary Chairman of the Board, a long time museum supporter and advocate.”

USPA shared the sentiment. “He knew why we jump; he was truly one of us,” they wrote.

Skydiving wasn’t the only offbeat affiliation he had. According to Forbes, he had a reputation as “the most sporting president in U.S. history,” and this can be seen through his association affiliations. As NPR noted, he was a member of the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association, and was such a fan of the sport that he had horseshoe courts installed at both the White House and Camp David.

Some other sports-affiliated groups highlighted Bush’s connections with their industries too. The U.S. Golf Association noted, for one, that while Bush wasn’t initially deeply invested in golf, his history with the sport was deep, in part because his grandfather, George Herbert Walker, was the president of USGA and launched the Walker Cup, a major amateur golf tournament. The former president gained an appreciation for golf later in life, especially after he became president.

“It was a game he couldn’t avoid. It was in his pedigree,” stated USGA in an article on its website.

What was he into earlier in life? Easy, baseball—something the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) highlighted in a piece that discussed his college baseball career at Yale, along with his status as the first president to throw out the first baseball to inaugurate the new baseball season from the pitcher’s mound, rather than the stands as most presidents had before that point. In 1990, Bush also received his own baseball card while he was president.

(How was he as a player? Herm Krabbenhoft, the researcher and longtime SABR member who wrote the article, noted that his coach, Ethan Allen, described Bush’s playing ability as “good-field-no-hit,” an assessment that Krabbenhoft agreed with.)

Outside of sports, Bush had a long history with many associations, both serious and not-so-serious. He pardoned turkeys at Thanskgiving, a phenomenon with a noted association tie. And following his death, organizations as diverse as the Senior Executives Association, the Operative Plasterers’ & Cement Masons’ International Association, and the Aerospace Industries Association remembered him fondly for the impact he had on their fields.

(AJ Guel/Flickr)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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