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
born in Columbus, Ohio, to Samuel Prescott Bush and Flora Sheldon
Samuel Bush was a railroad executive, then a steel
company president, and, during World War
, also a federal government official in charge of coordination
and assistance to major weapons
attended St. George's School in Newport, Rhode Island, from 1908 to 1913. In 1913, he enrolled
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.
urban legend holds that Bush stole the bones of Geronimo
for the society while he was stationed at Fort Sill.
In 2009, Ramsey
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.
Prescott Bush played varsity golf, football, and baseball, and was
president of the Yale Glee
After graduation, Bush served as a field artillery captain with the
(1917–1919) during World War
received intelligence training at Verdun, France, and was
briefly assigned to a staff of French
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.
discharge in 1919, Prescott Bush went to work for the Simmons Hardware Company in St.
moved to Columbus,
Ohio, in 1923, where Prescott Bush went to work for the
Hupp Products Company, where his business
efforts generally failed. He left 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
Massachusetts, where his son, George H.W.
In 1924, Bush became vice-president of A. Harriman & Co.
father-in-law, George Herbert
also worked with the company, as did E. Roland
Harriman and Knight Woolley,
Bush's Yale classmates and fellow Bonesmen.
Seven years later, Bush became a partner of
Harriman & Co.
, which was created through the 1931 merger
of A. Harriman & Co with Brown
Bros. & Co.
merchant bank founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1818) and with Harriman Brothers &
Co. (established in New York City in 1927).
Bush joined the United
States Rubber Company of New York City as manager of the foreign division, and moved to
He was an avid golfer, and in 1935 named
head of the USGA
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
, having been introduced to chairman William S. Paley
around 1932 by his close friend and
colleague William Averell
, who became a major Democratic Party
Bush and the Union Banking Corporation
Bush was one of seven directors of the Union Banking Corporation
investment bank controlled by the Thyssen
, which was seized in October 1942 under the Trading with the Enemy Act
being owned by "enemy aliens." The assets were held by the
government for the duration of the war, then returned
In an article relying on John Buchanan
stated that the
company formed part of a multinational network of front companies
to allow Thyssen to move assets around the world.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." The seizure of companies under
the Act were designated "classified" and declassified in 2002 when
all similar records were declassified.
In 2003, the Anti-Defamation
On September 25th of 2004, just over a month before the U.S
Presidential Election, The Guardian
left wing British paper, ran a story about business links between
Prescott Bush and "the financial backers of Nazi Germany,". While
noting that throughout the 1930s these activities were not illegal,
the new documents, many of which were only declassified in 2002,
show that even after America had entered the war and when there was
already significant information about the Nazis' plans and
policies, he worked for and profited from companies closely
involved with the very German businesses that financed Hitler's
rise to power. It has also been suggested that the money he made
from these dealings helped to establish the Bush family fortune and
set up its political dynasty. The article further states "A report
issued by the Office of Alien Property Custodian in 1942 stated of
the companies that "since 1939, these (steel and mining) properties
have been in possession of and have been operated by the German
government and have undoubtedly been of considerable assistance to
that country's war effort" and "Erwin May, a treasury attache and
officer for the department of investigation in the APC, was
assigned to look into UBC's business. The first fact to emerge was
that Roland Harriman, Prescott Bush and the other directors didn't
actually own their shares in UBC but merely held them on behalf of
Bank voor Handel." The primary source for the article was John
Buchanan described in the article as "suffers from hypermania, a
form of manic depression, and when he found himself rebuffed in his
initial efforts to interest the media, he responded with a series
of threats against the journalists and media outlets that had
spurned him. The threats, contained in e-mails, suggested that he
would expose the journalists as "traitors to the truth"."
Bush was politically active on social issues. He was involved with
the American Birth Control
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
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
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
." Bush's ties with Planned Parenthood also hurt him in
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
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
Highway System, 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.
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
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.
married Dorothy Walker on August
6, 1921, in Kennebunkport, Maine.
The grave of Prescott Bush
They had five children: Prescott "Pressy" Bush, Jr.
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
Bush founded the Yale Glee Club
, an alumni group, in 1937. Following his
father-in-law, he was a member of the United States Golf
, 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.
help create the New York Mets
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.
in 1972 at age 77 and was interred at Putnam Cemetery in Greenwich,
The headstone of Prescott Bush
Bush's articles include:
- "Timely Monetary Policy," Banking, June 1955 and July
- "To Preserve Peace Let's Show the Russians How Strong We Are!"
Reader's Digest, July
- "Politics Is Your Business," Chamber of Commerce, State of New
York, Bulletin, May 1960
- The Prescott Bush Papers are at the University of Connecticut,
- 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
- 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).