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Prescott Sheldon Bush

In office
November 5, 1952 – January 2, 1963
Preceded by William A. Purtell
Succeeded by Abraham A. Ribicoff

Born May 15, 1895(1895-05-15)
Columbus, Ohio
Died October 8, 1972 (aged 77)
New York City, New York
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Dorothy Walker Bush
Children Prescott Bush, Jr.
George H.W. Bush
Nancy Walker Bush Ellis
Jonathan Bush
William H.T. Bush
Alma mater Yale University
Military service
Service/branch United States Army
Unit American Expeditionary Forces
Battles/wars World War I

Prescott Sheldon Bush (May 15, 1895 – October 8, 1972) was a Wall Street executive banker, and a United States Senator representing Connecticut from 1952 until January 1963. He was the father of the 41st President of the United States George H. W. Bush and the grandfather of 43rd President George W. Bush.


Early life

Bush was born in Columbus, Ohio, to Samuel Prescott Bush and Flora Sheldon Bush. Samuel Bush was a railroad executive, then a steel company president, and, during World War I, also a federal government official in charge of coordination and assistance to major weapons contractors.

Bush attended St. George's School in Newport, Rhode Island, from 1908 to 1913. In 1913, he enrolled at Yale University, where his grandfather James Smith Bush, class of 1844 and his uncle Robert E. Sheldon Jr., class of 1904, had matriculated. Three subsequent generations of the Bush family have been Yale alumni. Prescott Bush was admitted to the Zeta Psi fraternity and Skull and Bones secret society. George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush are also members of that society. A disputed urban legend holds that Bush stole the bones of Geronimo for the society while he was stationed at Fort Sill.[1][2][3] In 2009, Ramsey Clark filed a lawsuit on behalf of people claiming to be Geronimo's descendants against Skull and Bones, Barack Obama, and Robert Gates in connection with the alleged theft, seeking to have Geronimo's remains moved from Oklahoma to New Mexico. The Oklahoma descendants of Geronimo filed suit to prevent such a move.[4][5]

Prescott Bush played varsity golf, football, and baseball, and was president of the Yale Glee Club.

Military service

After graduation, Bush served as a field artillery captain with the American Expeditionary Forces (1917–1919) during World War I. He received intelligence training at Verdun, France, and was briefly assigned to a staff of French officers. Alternating between intelligence and artillery, Bush came under fire in the Meuse-Argonne offensive. In what became a controversy, Bush wrote home about receiving medals for heroic exploits, and his letters were later published in Columbus newspapers. He retracted such claims in a cable in which he stated that his earlier letter had been written "in a spirit of fun" and was not intended for publication.[6]

Business career

After his discharge in 1919, Prescott Bush went to work for the Simmons Hardware Company in St. Louis, Missouri.

The Bushes moved to Columbus, Ohio, in 1923, where Prescott Bush briefly worked for the Hupp Products Company. In November 1923 to become president of sales for Stedman Products in South Braintree, Massachusetts. During this time, he lived in a Victorian home at 173 Adams Street in Milton, Massachusetts, where his son, George H.W. Bush, was born.

In 1924, Bush became vice-president of A. Harriman & Co. His father-in-law, George Herbert Walker also worked with the company, as did E. Roland Harriman and Knight Woolley, Bush's Yale classmates and fellow Bonesmen. In 1931, Bush became a partner of Brown Brothers Harriman & Co., which was created through the 1931 merger of A. Harriman & Co with Brown Bros. & Co. (a merchant bank founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1818) and with Harriman Brothers & Co. (established in New York City in 1927).

In 1925, Bush joined the United States Rubber Company of New York City as manager of the foreign division, and moved to Greenwich, Connecticut. He was an avid golfer, and in 1935 named head of the USGA.[7]

From 1944 to 1956, Bush was a member of the Yale Corporation, the principal governing body of Yale University. Bush was on the board of directors of CBS, having been introduced to chairman William S. Paley around 1932 by his close friend and colleague William Averell Harriman, who became a major Democratic Party power-broker.

Bush and the Union Banking Corporation

Bush was one of seven directors of the Union Banking Corporation, an investment bank controlled by the Thyssen family, which was seized in October 1942 under the Trading with the Enemy Act as being owned by "enemy aliens." The assets were held by the government for the duration of the war, then returned afterward.

In an article relying on conspiracy theorist John Buchanan's work, The Guardian stated that the company formed part of a multinational network of front companies to allow Thyssen to move assets around the world.[8] The Alien Property Custodian records state "Whether all or part of the funds held by Union Banking Corporation, or companies associated with it, belong to Fritz Thyssen could not be established in this investigation."[9]

In 2003, the Anti-Defamation League responded, saying:

Rumors about the alleged Nazi 'ties' of the late Prescott Bush ... have circulated widely through the internet in recent years. These charges are untenable and politically motivated. Despite some early financial dealings between Prescott Bush and a Nazi industrialist named Fritz Thyssen (who was arrested by the Nazi regime in 1938 and imprisoned during the war), Prescott Bush was neither a Nazi nor a Nazi sympathizer.[8][10]

Political career

Bush was politically active on social issues. He was involved with the American Birth Control League as early as 1942, and served as the treasurer of the first national capital campaign of Planned Parenthood in 1947. Bush was also an early supporter of the United Negro College Fund, serving as chairman of the Connecticut branch in 1951.

Bush with President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Oval Office.

From 1947 to 1950, he served as Connecticut Republican finance chairman, and was the Republican candidate for the United States Senate in 1950. A columnist in Boston said that Bush "is coming on to be known as President Truman's Harry Hopkins. Nobody knows Mr. Bush and he hasn't a Chinaman's chance."[11] Bush's ties with Planned Parenthood also hurt him in heavily Catholic Connecticut, and were the basis of a last-minute campaign in churches by Bush's opponents; the family vigorously denied the connection, but Bush lost to Benton by only 1,000 votes.

In 1952, he was elected to the Senate, defeating Abraham Ribicoff for the seat vacated by the death of James O'Brien McMahon. A staunch supporter of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Bush served until January 1963. He was reelected in 1956 with 55 percent of the vote over Democrat Thomas J. Dodd (later U.S. Senator from Connecticut and father of the current U.S. Senator from Connecticut, Christopher J. Dodd), and decided not to run for another term in 1962. He was a key ally for the passage of Eisenhower's Interstate Highway System,[12] and during his tenure supported the Polaris submarine project (which were built by Electric Boat Corporation in Groton, Connecticut), civil rights legislation, and the establishment of the Peace Corps.[13]

On December 2, 1954, Bush was part of the large (67-22) majority to censure Wisconsin Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy, after McCarthy had taken on the U.S. Army and the Eisenhower administration. Eisenhower later included Bush's name on an undated handwritten list of prospective candidates he favored for the 1960 GOP presidential nomination.

In terms of issues, Bush often agreed with New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, but personally disliked and politically opposed him, despite the close relationship his father had with the Rockefeller family. During the 1964 election, Bush denounced Rockefeller for divorcing his first wife and marrying a woman about 20 years his junior with whom Rockefeller had been having an affair while married to his first wife.[13]

Personal life

The grave of Prescott Bush

Bush married Dorothy Walker on August 6, 1921, in Kennebunkport, Maine. They had five children: Prescott "Pressy" Bush, Jr. (b. 1922), George H. W. Bush (b. 1924, named after Dorothy's father George Herbert Walker), Nancy Bush (b. 1926), Jonathan Bush (b. 1931), and William "Bucky" Bush (b. 1938).

Bush founded the Yale Glee Club Associates, an alumni group, in 1937. Following his father-in-law, he was a member of the United States Golf Association (USGA), serving successively as secretary, vice-president and president, 1928-1935. He was a multi-year club champion of the Round Hill Club in Greenwich, Connecticut, and was on the committee set up by New York City Mayor Robert F. Wagner, Jr. to help create the New York Mets.

Bush maintained homes in New York, Long Island, and Greenwich, Connecticut; the family compound at Kennebunkport, Maine; a 10,000 acre (40 km²) plantation in South Carolina; and a secluded island off the Connecticut coast, Fishers Island.

The headstone of Prescott Bush

He died in 1972 at age 77 and was interred at Putnam Cemetery in Greenwich, Connecticut.


Bush's articles include:

  • "Timely Monetary Policy," Banking, June 1955 and July 1955
  • "To Preserve Peace Let's Show the Russians How Strong We Are!" Reader's Digest, July 1959
  • "Politics Is Your Business," Chamber of Commerce, State of New York, Bulletin, May 1960

Further reading

  • The Prescott Bush Papers are at the University of Connecticut, Storrs.
  • The Greenwich Library Oral History Project has interviews with Prescott Bush, Jr., and Mary Walker.
  • There is material by and about Bush in the History of the Class of 1917 Yale College (1919) and the supplementary class albums.
  • John Atlee Kouwenhoven, Partners in Banking: An Historical Portrait of a Great Private Bank, Brown Brothers Harriman (1968).
  • Obituaries are in the Washington Post, October 9, 1972; the New York Times, October 9, 1972; the Hartford Courant, October 9, 1972; and Yale Alumni Magazine, December 1972.
  • "Prescott Sheldon Bush. "Dictionary of American Biography, Supplement 9: 1971-1975. Charles Scribner's Sons, 1994.
  • Darwin Payne, Initiative in Energy: Dresser Industries, Inc., 1880-1978. New York: Simon and Schuster (1979).

See also


  1. ^ Lassila, Kathrin Day; Mark Alden Branch (May/June 2006). "Whose Skull and Bones?". Yale Alumni Magazine. Retrieved 2009-02-28. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Kelley, Kitty (2004). The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty. Doubleday. pp. 17–20. 
  4. ^ Geronimo’s Heirs Sue Secret Yale Society Over His Skull
  5. ^ Daniels, Bruce (February 27, 2009). "Geronimo Lawsuit Sparks Family Feud". Albuquerque Journal. Retrieved 2009-02-28. 
  6. ^ As related in Tarpley, Webster and Anton Chaitkin, "George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography, Flora Sheldon Bush, Bush's mother, wrote the Ohio State Journal, "A cable received from my son, Prescott S. Bush, brings word that he has not been decorated, as published in the papers a month ago. He feels dreadfully troubled that a letter, written in a spirit of fun, should have been misinterpreted. He says he is no hero and asks me to make explanations. I will appreciate your kindness in publishing this letter.... This letter appeared in the Ohio State Journal on September 6, 1918.
  7. ^ AP (1934-11-09). "Prescott Bush Named Head Of U.S.G.A.". The Washington Post. 
  8. ^ a b "How Bush's grandfather helped Hitler's rise to power". The Guardian. 
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Fair Enough" by Westbrook Pegler, Burlington Daily News-Times (North Carolina), August 22, 1950
  12. ^ "A Bush at Both Ends: Before and After the Interstate Era". U.S. Federal Highway Administration. January 18, 2005 (last modified). Retrieved 2006-08-06. 
  13. ^ a b Stephen Mansfield (2004). The Faith of George W. Bush. Tarcher. 

External links

United States Senate
Preceded by
William A. Purtell
United States Senator (Class 3) from Connecticut
November 5, 1952—January 3, 1963
Served alongside: William B. Benton, William A. Purtell, Thomas J. Dodd
Succeeded by
Abraham A. Ribicoff

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