Prescott Bush

Prescott Bush
United States Senator
from Connecticut
In office
November 4, 1952  January 3, 1963
Preceded by William A. Purtell
Succeeded by Abraham A. Ribicoff
Personal details
Born Prescott Sheldon Bush
(1895-05-15)May 15, 1895
Columbus, Ohio, U.S.
Died October 8, 1972(1972-10-08) (aged 77)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Dorothy Walker Bush
Children Prescott S. Bush, Jr.
George H. W. Bush
Nancy Walker Bush Ellis
Jonathan Bush
William H. T. Bush
Alma mater Yale University (B.A.)
Religion Episcopalian
Military service
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1917–1919
Rank Captain
Unit 158th Field Artillery Brigade
Battles/wars World War I

Prescott Sheldon Bush (May 15, 1895  October 8, 1972) was an American banker and politician. He was a Wall Street executive banker and a U.S. Senator, representing Connecticut from 1952 until January 1963. He was the father of President George H. W. Bush and the grandfather of President George W. Bush, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and television personality Billy Bush.

Early life

Bush was born in Columbus, Ohio,[1] to Samuel Prescott Bush and Flora Sheldon Bush. Samuel Bush was a railroad middle manager, then a steel company president and, during World War I, also a federal government official in charge of coordination of 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 College, 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.

According to Skull and Bones lore, Prescott Bush was among a group of Bonesmen who dug up and removed the skull of Geronimo from his grave at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in 1918.[2] According to historian David L. Miller, the Bonesmen probably dug up somebody at Fort Sill, but not Geronimo.[3]

Prescott Bush was a cheerleader,[4] played varsity golf, football and baseball, and was president of the Yale Glee Club.

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, he came under fire in the Meuse-Argonne offensive.

Business career

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

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

In 1924, Bush became vice-president of the investment bank A. Harriman & Co. where his father-in-law, George Herbert Walker was president. Bush's Yale classmates and fellow Bonesmen E. Roland Harriman and Knight Woolley also worked with the company.

In 1925, he joined the United States Rubber Company of New York City as manager of the foreign division, and moved to Greenwich, Connecticut.

In 1931, he 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 in 1818) and with Harriman Brothers & Co. (established in New York City in 1927).

He was an avid golfer, and in 1935 named head of the USGA.[5]

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

Union Banking Corporation

Bush was a founding member and one of seven directors (including W. Averell Harriman) of the Union Banking Corporation (holding a single share out of 4,000 as a director), an investment bank that operated as a clearing house for many assets and enterprises held by German steel magnate Fritz Thyssen.[6][7] In July 1942, the bank was suspected of holding gold on behalf of Nazi leaders.[8] A subsequent government investigation disproved those allegations but confirmed the Thyssens' control, and in October 1942 the United States seized the bank under the Trading with the Enemy Act and held the assets for the duration of World War II.[6] Journalist Duncan Campbell pointed out documents showing that Prescott Bush was a director and shareholder of a number of companies involved with Thyssen.[6]

According to journalist Joe Conason, Prescott Bush's involvement with UBC was purely commercial and he was not a Nazi sympathizer.[9] Historian Herbert Parmet agreed with that assessment.[7]

Political life

Prescott 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. He was also an early supporter of the United Negro College Fund, serving as chairman of the Connecticut branch in 1951.

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."[10] (Harry Hopkins had been one of Franklin D. Roosevelt's closest advisors.) 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 Sen. William Burnett Benton by only 1,000 votes.

Prescott Bush sought a rematch with Sen. Benton in 1952, but withdrew as the party turned to William Purtell. The death of Senator Brien McMahon later that year, however, created a vacancy and this time the Republicans nominated Bush.[11] He defeated the Democratic nominee, Abraham Ribicoff, and was elected to the Senate. A staunch supporter of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, he 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 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 (built by Electric Boat Corporation in Groton, Connecticut), civil rights legislation, and the establishment of the Peace Corps.[13]

On December 2, 1954, Prescott 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. During the debate leading to the censure, Bush said that McCarthy has "caused dangerous divisions among the American people because of his attitude and the attitude he has encouraged among his followers: that there can be no honest differences of opinion with him. Either you must follow Senator McCarthy blindly, not daring to express any doubts or disagreements about any of his actions, or, in his eyes, you must be a Communist, a Communist sympathizer, or a fool who has been duped by the Communist line."[14] Eisenhower later included Prescott Bush 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. According to Theodore H. White's book about the 1964 election, Bush and Rockefeller were longtime friends. Bush favored a Nixon-Rockefeller ticket for 1960, and was presumed to support Rockefeller's 1964 presidential candidacy until the latter's remarriage in 1963. He then publicly denounced Rockefeller for divorcing his first wife and marrying a woman with whom Rockefeller had been having an affair while married to his first wife.[13] Bush then very publicly endorsed his former Senate colleague Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., who was also the older brother of one of Bush's proteges', former Connecticut Governor John Davis Lodge.[13]

Another of Senator Bush's major legislative interests was flood and hurricane protection. He drafted Public Law 71, the Bush Hurricane Survey Act, enabling U.S. Army engineers to develop a new program of community protection against tidal flooding.[15][16]

Personal life

The grave of Prescott Bush

Prescott Bush married Dorothy Walker on August 6, 1921, in Kennebunkport, Maine. They had five children: Prescott S. Bush, Jr. (August 10, 1922 – June 23, 2010),[17][18][19] 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. As was his father-in-law, he was a member of the United States Golf Association, 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; the 10,000-acre (40 km²) Duncannon Plantation near Barnwell, 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:


  1. Chapman, Roger Culture Wars: an Encyclopedia of Issues, Viewpoints and Voices Volume 1 M.E. Sharpe Inc. Armonk, New York 2010 page 61
  2. "Geronimo's kin sue Skull and Bones". MSNBC. February 18, 2009. Retrieved January 10, 2013.
  3. Lassila, Kathrin Day; Branch, Mark Alden (May–June 2006). "Whose Skull and Bones?". Yale Alumni Magazine. Retrieved January 10, 2013.
  4. Cheerleading of the ’20s: Epitome of masculinity Archived October 21, 2016, at the Wayback Machine.. Yale Daily News (January 28, 2008). Retrieved on 2013-07-15.
  5. "Prescott Bush Named Head Of U.S.G.A.". The Washington Post. Associated Press. November 9, 1934.
  6. 1 2 3 Aris, Ben; Campbell, Duncan (September 25, 2004). "How Bush's grandfather helped Hitler's rise to power". London: The Guardian. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
  7. 1 2 Parmet, Herbert. "What Should We Make of the Charge Linking the Bush Family Fortune to Nazism?". History News Network. Retrieved June 5, 2011.
  8. "Hitler's Angel Has $3m in US Bank". Washington Post. July 31, 1941. p. 1.
  9. Conason, Joe (October 26, 2003). "Bush 'Nazi' Smear Unworthy of Critics". New York: The New York Observer. Retrieved June 5, 2011.
  10. "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. Retrieved August 6, 2006.
  13. 1 2 3 Stephen Mansfield (2004). The Faith of George W. Bush. Tarcher.
  14. "National Affairs: Splendid Job". Time. December 13, 1954.
  15. McQuaid, John; Schleifstein, Mark (2006). Path of Destruction: The Devastation of New Orleans and the Coming Age of Superstorms. Little, Brown and Company: Hachette Book Group USA. p. 54. ISBN 978-0-316-01642-1.
  16. Freudenburg, William R.; Gramling, Robert; Laska, Shirley; Erikson, Kai (2009). Catastrophe in the Making: The Engineering of Katrina and the Disasters of Tomorrow. Washington, DC: Island Press. p. 26. ISBN 978-1-59726-682-6.
  17. O'Connor, Anahad (June 24, 2010). "Prescott Bush Jr, Scion of a Political Family, Dies at 87". New York Times. Retrieved June 25, 2010.
  18. Prescott S. Bush, Jr Archived April 26, 2016, at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved on July 15, 2013.

Further reading

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Prescott Bush.
United States Senate
Preceded by
William A. Purtell
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Connecticut
November 4, 1952 – January 3, 1963
Served alongside: William B. Benton, William A. Purtell, Thomas J. Dodd
Succeeded by
Abraham A. Ribicoff
Party political offices
Preceded by
Raymond E. Baldwin
Republican nominee for United States Senator from Connecticut
(Class 1)

Succeeded by
William A. Purtell
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