Miller Center

George W. Bush: Family Life

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George W. Bush is part of a large family (he is the oldest of five siblings) with a long tradition of public service. His grandfather, Prescott Bush, was a U.S. Senator from Connecticut. His father, George H.W. Bush, was vice president (1981-1989) and U.S. President (1989-1993). His brother, Jeb Bush, was governor of Florida (1999-2007) and ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. George W. and Jeb were the first brothers to serve as governors at the same time since Winthrop and Nelson Rockefeller served in the late 1960s.

George W. Bush married Laura Welch in 1977, and by all accounts she was the perfect balance to him. Her reserved, thoughtful personality complimented Bush’s more outgoing approach to life. They had twin girls in 1981, named Jenna and Barbara after their grandmothers. During Bush’s time in the White House, his daughters were attending college, with Jenna at the University of Texas at Austin and Barbara at Yale University. Attending college while their father was President often brought the girls unwanted attention from the media but both worked on his 2004 reelection campaign. They started off answering telephones at the campaign headquarters but eventually became comfortable enough to begin independently giving surrogate speeches for their father.

Long before he began his own political career, Bush and his family spent time around political campaigns and in the White House as an adviser to his father. The Bush clan often gathered in Kennebunkport, Maine, where the family has a vacation house. George W. is more of a Texas man, however, and he bought a ranch in Crawford, Texas, in 1999 just before he ran for president. Known as the Western White House during his presidency, Bush often retreated to the ranch to bike, clear brush, and escape from the press. His daughter, Jenna, was married at the ranch in 2008. She and her husband, Henry Hager, gave George and Laura their first grandchild, a girl named Mila, in 2013, and a second, named Poppy for Bush 41, in 2015.

As President, Bush often made time for exercise, being a frequent runner and sometimes mountain biker. He was not often spotted out and about in Washington, D.C., but preferred to escape to Camp David or his Texas ranch. Security concerns for the President after 9/11 made forays into public spaces logistically complicated and costly. Bush was known for his emphasis on loyalty and spent free time with his family and close friends.

Citation Information

Consulting Editor

Gary L. Gregg II 

Professor Gregg is the director of the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville. He also holds the Mitch McConnell Chair in leadership. His writings include: 

Considering the Bush Presidency. (with Mark J. Rozell, Oxford University Press, 2004)

Thinking about the Presidency: Documents and Essays from the Founding to the Present. (Rowman & Littlefield, 2005)

Securing Democracy: Why We Have an Electoral College (2nd ed.). (ISI Books, 2008)

America's Forgotten Founders (2nd ed.). (with Mark D. Hall, ISI Books, 2012)

The consulting editor wishes to thank Connor Tracy and Travis Wilson for serving as research assistants on this project.