WV officials mourn passing of George HW Bush

HUNTINGTON — Sadness over the passing of former President George H.W. Bush echoes throughout the mountains of West Virginia as the state's representatives and people recall his legacy and mourn the country's loss.

Bush, a World War II hero who served as the nation's 41st president, died late Friday night at his Houston home at the age of 94. He will be honored with a state funeral in the nation's capital Wednesday, Dec. 5. Following an arrival ceremony Monday, Dec. 3, his body will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda for a public viewing until Wednesday morning. 

At the State Capitol in Charleston, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice issued a proclamation, in accordance with U.S. Code and a declaration from the president Saturday morning, ordering that all United States and West Virginia state flags on all state-owned facilities be displayed at half-staff through sunset Dec. 30. 

"President George H.W. Bush was a great man, a great public servant, and a brave soldier and veteran; he will be missed by all," Justice wrote. "Cathy and I send our prayers and condolences to the Bush family and ask all West Virginians to join with us." 

"I am so saddened to hear of President Bush's passing," said U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., in a release. "He was an incredible public servant, statesman and American. He loved this country and spent his entire life working to protect and promote the principles and ideals we value most. I feel very honored to have known him, and I feel even more appreciative of everything he did for our country. My thoughts are with the Bush family, and I pray that they find peace in the incredible legacy of family and country that he leaves behind. What a life well lived." 

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said Bush was a friend who put the country and its citizens before party and politics. 

"Gayle and I were so heartbroken to hear of the passing of President George H.W. Bush," Manchin wrote. "The president dedicated his life to our country through his patriotism, his public service and humanitarian efforts. He was a man who put country and citizens before party and politics, and will be remembered as one of the greatest presidents in our history. It was truly an honor to know him and call him and Barbara friends. While our nation will mourn his loss and pray for the entire Bush family, I will find joy in the knowledge that he is now in heaven with Barbara, the woman he loved more than anything else in this world. West Virginia will be praying for the entire Bush family and thanking them for the legacy President Bush leaves on this world." 

Huntington attorney David Tyson, who was chairman of the Republican Party for 5 1/2 years and has been on the party's state committee in West Virginia for 25 years, was not only a delegate at both party conventions at which President Bush was nominated by the party as its candidate for the president, but also spent time with Bush in the White House. 

Tyson's friendship with the family extended to George W. Bush, who as president appointed Tyson to the Kennedy Center's Committee for the Arts. 

"I am deeply saddened over the passing of a great man and world leader," Tyson said Saturday morning. "President Bush served our country well and was a supporter of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and inclusion of Latinos within our society and party. I am proud to have been a delegate at both conventions that nominated him to be president. My fondest memory was when I had lunch at the White House with the president and he asked me to run for Congress. That obviously never happened, but it was an event I will never forget. My young conservative friends tell me I am an establishment Republican much like Bush. It is not to be a compliment, but I take it as such. He was a good man with a big heart who loved our country. May he find comfort in that better place as this world has lost a very good man. I salute you, Mr. President. We will miss you." 

Tyson said George H.W. Bush had many supporters and friends in the Tri-State area including the late, famous golfer and attorney William Campbell, who was a lifelong friend of Bush's dating back to their collegiate days at Yale. 

Although his son would visit Huntington while running for president, George H.W. Bush did not make a campaign stop here. 

However, as vice president, H.W. Bush came to Ashland in August 1983 to support the Kentucky governor campaign of former Major League Baseball player Jim Bunning. 

Not surprisingly, when Bush was visiting the Tri-State then, he spoke about the need to balance economic considerations and environmental concerns. 

"We have to protect nature, but we have to protect jobs, too," Bush said in 1983. "I'm convinced the future of coal is tremendous ... we need to find a balance between economic considerations and environmental concerns. We also need to have access to more foreign markets for coal." 

When H.W.'s son George W. Bush made a run for The White House, Tyson, who was then Republican Party chairman in West Virginia, said he thought it would be prudent for him to stop in West Virginia. He had lunch with W in Austin and had asked him to come to West Virginia and specifically to Huntington, which W made good on that promise. 

George W. Bush made a campaign stop in Huntington during the 2000 election. He stayed overnight at the Radisson Hotel Huntington (now the Pullman Plaza Hotel) and had a rally at Harris Riverfront Park. 

"I was seated at lunch with long time friend Karl Rove and they looked at the numbers and targeted our state," Tyson said. "Bush 2 came numerous times to West Virginia I would like to think that friendship connection had something to do with him coming to Huntington."

By:  Dave Lavender
Source: Huntington Herald-Dispatch