Barbara Bush, the snowy-haired first lady whose plainspoken manner and utter lack of pretense made her more popular at times than her husband, President George H.W. Bush, died Tuesday. She was 92.
Family spokesman Jim McGrath confirmed the death in a statement. The cause wasn’t immediately known.
Mrs. Bush brought a grandmotherly style to buttoned-down Washington, often appearing in her trademark fake pearl chokers and displaying no vanity about her white hair and wrinkles.
“What you see with me is what you get. I’m not running for president — George Bush is,” she said at the 1988 Republican National Convention, where her husband, then vice president, was nominated to succeed Ronald Reagan.
The Bushes, who were married Jan. 6, 1945, had the longest marriage of any presidential couple in American history. And Mrs. Bush was one of only two first ladies who had a child who was elected president. The other was Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams and mother of John Quincy Adams.
“I had the best job in America,” she wrote in a 1994 memoir describing her time in the White House. “Every single day was interesting, rewarding, and sometimes just plain fun.”
The publisher’s daughter and oilman’s wife could be caustic in private, but her public image was that of a self-sacrificing, supportive spouse who referred to her husband as her “hero.”
In the White House, “you need a friend, someone who loves you, who’s going to say, ‘You are great,'” Mrs. Bush said in a 1992 television interview.
Her uncoiffed, matronly appearance often provoked jokes that she looked more like the boyish president’s mother than his wife. Late-night comedians quipped that her bright white hair and pale features also imparted a resemblance to George Washington.
Eight years after leaving the nation’s capital, Mrs. Bush stood with her husband as their son George W. was sworn in as president. They returned four years later when he won a second term. Unlike Mrs. Bush, Abigail Adams did not live to see her son’s inauguration. She died in 1818, six years before John Quincy Adams was elected.
Story by The Associated Press