Kissimmee, Florida — As a teenaged reporter for my hometown newspaper, I first photographed George H.W. Bush when he was an earnest and enthusiastic young unknown running unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate. A decade later, I interviewed him in San Antonio when he was running unsuccessfully for President in the Texas primary, losing to Ronald Reagan before eventually becoming his vice president.
I hadn’t seen him in person since — at least not until we both showed up at a sleepy Sunday afternoon Houston Astros spring training game last year in Florida. When I saw Secret Service agents trying to look inconspicuous in brand new Astros caps and jackets, I suspected there might be a “somebody” arriving soon. Sure enough, here came President and Mrs. Bush.
I was struck by how old and tottery President Bush looked that day. In my mind, I guess I thought he was the same vibrant George Bush we knew for all of those years. But this smiling old man was in his mid-eighties. In fact, he turns 87 today (June 12).
I photographed him again at the game that day. The face is still familiar. There’s that resolute look and strong jaw, that aquiline Connecticut Yankee profile and unruly wisps of hair draping his forehead. He seems relaxed and at peace with himself. I entitled the photo: “Elder Statesman.”
The face may be aged, but when I look closely, I can still see the bright, engaging, youthful candidate I first met in 1970 – so long ago — at the Chamber of Commerce banquet in Paris, Texas.