Wednesday, April 3, 2019

"Aunt Mary" of the Bush Family: Her life, the Bushes, and Her Nephew, President George H.W. Bush

The following is contributed by Greenwich Library Oral History Project volunteer Joseph Campbell.

This month we are taking a look at the interview of another member of the Bush family, Mary Carter Walker. Mary was married to George H. Walker, Jr., 
George H. Walker, Jr.
Photo: Wikipedia
brother of Dorothy Walker Bush, who was the mother of President George H.W. Bush.

It’s a long and complicated family tree, but suffice it to say, Mary Carter Walker was affectionately known in the Bush family as “Aunt Mary.” And that is who she was.

This interview was completed in 1991 by Greenwich Library Oral History Project volunteer Esther H. Smith.

Mary was born in St. Louis in 1905 and first met her future husband there when they were children. As she describes it, the meeting was not love at first sight. In fact it was not until later when they were in Maine as teenagers that things began to change. His mother came home one day and said, “I met the perfect girl for you today.” When he asked whom that might be, she replied, “Mary Carter,” to which he responded, “Oh Ma.” In spite of this rather inauspicious beginning, they met again soon thereafter at a dance, and their romance blossomed, mother vindicated.

After they married, they moved to Greenwich when her husband's father became the head of his brokerage firm, G.H Walker and Company. Prior to Greenwich, they lived for a short while on Long Island. Mary claims they eventually moved to Greenwich because of the Bush family. They built their own home in town and at the time of the interview had lived there for 55 years.

Mary also reminisces about their “baseball years.” Her husband was an owner of the Mets. While Mary initially disliked baseball, she eventually was introduced to the players and became a huge fan, even going on several road trips with them.

Mary also shares insights about living in Kennebunkport in Maine, remembering the future president when he was a child. She, as others have noted, mentions George Bush’s kindness toward others, especially toward his brother for whom he had great affection. She remembers fondly how the Bush brothers were close with their sister Nancy as well and how they played together, frequently getting into mischief. 
Bush Family Picnic
Photo: Wikipedia

In addition, she reminisces about the fabled Bush family athleticism, including that of George Bush’s mother, claiming it was Dorothy who spurred the boys’ interest in athletics. Mary also goes into George Bush’s years at Andover and then into his World War II experiences in the Navy, noting his becoming, at the time, the youngest Naval Aviator. She also recounts how nervous the family was when George was shot down and presumed to be missing—and how relieved they were to learn he had been rescued.

After coming came back from the war, the future president went to Yale. When Mary is asked about his marriage, she goes into detail about George and Barbara having been in love during the war. Their romance went back to their having first met when they were very young. Mary remembers their meeting at a dance in Rye, New York, but history has it they met at the Greenwich Country Club. She recounts how they were both very athletic, Barbara, a tomboy, and a good match for the handsome athlete, George. The young family flourished, but those early years were marred, tragically, by the loss of the their young daughter Robin to leukemia.

In addition to retelling family stories, Mary shares insights into the Bush family move to Texas to become involved in the oil business; she discusses President George H.W. Bush’s service at the United Nations and his political losses before winning the presidency. 

But what also makes the interview so engaging are Mary Walker’s insights into the more mundane problems coming with fame, such as the neighbors at Walker Point in Kennebunkport being both proud to have a president in their midst but also upset because of all the commotion and traffic caused by his visits. 
Bush Compound, Kennebunkport, Maine
Photo: Wikipedia

Much of the interview deals with the houses and family in Kennebunkport and about their lives there. All the details in this interview help to put the finishing touches on a portrait of a close and loving family, imbued with a deep sense of social responsibility to serve the country that had treated them so well.

Thanks to this interview, the accomplishments and the love inherent in this family are not lost to us.
Bush Family
Photo released by the White House
The Oral History Project interview “George Bush,” April 26,1991, can be found in the local history reference area on the first floor of the library and in the OHP office.