George W. Bush

George W. Bush – 1981/82 Campaign Chair

President Bush visits Midland, tells 15,000+, “My values were shaped here.”

United Way of Midland’s 1981-82 campaign chairman moves into new residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.


President George W. Bush, left, and wife Laura, stopped in Midland on January 17, 2001, to bid farewell to the town in which they both grew up and he would later return and serve as United Way of Midland’s 1981-82 Campaign Chair. Mrs. Bush was also a United Way of Midland volunteer.

In this section…


George W. Bush played key role in 1981 United Way of Midland success

Friends, volunteers remember President as someone you couldn’t say no to, and who always wanted to have fun in whatever project he started

By Jimmy Patterson

MIDLAND, Tex. — Most 33 year olds are just beginning to effectively map their way through life’s long and often arduous journey. Many people at that age have more than enough personal concerns to keep them occupied, and seldom venture outside their immediate circle of family, friends and work.

Not George W. Bush.

The former Texas governor who was sworn in as the 43rd United States President Saturday was one of the youngest people to ever serve as the United Way of Midland Campaign Chair when he accepted the challenge in 1981.
Like his political resume, the results of his campaign were impressive. Bush and his team of volunteers raised 104 percent of their goal, bringing in $1,407,000 for the community of Midland. And he did it all while his wife, Laura — the country’s new First Lady — was pregnant with twins.

“It was a very successful campaign,” said Bill Franklin, a retired Midland banker who was board president of United Way of Midland that year. “George was very energetic and enthusiastic in his approach to the campaign. He talked personally to many employee groups. He did an outstanding job.”

Mr. Franklin recalled that anyone privileged to work with Mr. Bush during the campaign enjoyed the experience.

“At that time, Donnie Evans was still as prominently at George’s side as he’s been during the presidential campaign,” Mr. Franklin said. Evans, chair of Tom Brown, Inc., a Midland-based oil company, is Mr. Bush’s Commerce Secretary-designate and himself a Midlander. Like Mr. Bush, Mr. Evans chaired a United Way of Midland campaign. Evans oversaw the 1980 campaign and exceeded his goal by 12 percent, raising $1.71 million.

During Mr. Bush’s sentimental return to his Midland home Wednesday, he spoke of the generosity of Midlanders, twice holding back emotions as he spoke of his hometown.

“The most important things in my life happened here,” he said. “I’m leaving Texas, but not forever. This is my home. There was so much energy here, not only in the ground but in the lives of the people of West Texas. The spirit of possibility was as big as the West Texas sky.

“Twenty-five years later, this is my last stop on the way to Washington. I’m going to take a lot of Midland and a lot of Texas with me up there.”

United Way of Midland friends fondly remembers “George”

Americans know him simply as Mr. President. But around here, people still call him George. That down home, relaxed atmosphere, as ever-present as the West Texas wind, is likely one of the reasons Mr. Bush continues to feel such a special kinship with the area.

Mr. Bush grew up in a small wood-frame house on Ohio Street in Midland — a historic house simply because it is now the former home of two presidents and a Florida governor, an astounding slice of history when you stop and think about it.

When Mr. Bush left Midland, he retained many of the friendships he had formed here. Many of those relationships were strengthened at the United Way of Midland, where Mr. Bush left an indelible mark.

“I was in Richmond, Virginia in June 1981 and George called me long distance and said, ‘You’ve got to chair the professional division of our campaign,’” recalled Jane Wolf who at the time was the United Way of Midland board secretary. “I told him, ‘George, I’ve never raised one dime in my life,’ but he said, ‘You have to do it, we don’t have any women in our campaign leadership.’

Mr. Bush then told Mrs. Wolf, who later served as executive director of the United Way of Midland, that he would help her if needed. As it turned out, she did need help, and Mr. Bush helped.

“I’ve never met anyone from that day forward who has ever been able to tell that guy no,” Mrs. Wolf said.

“George never did anything unless it was going to be fun”

Mr. Bush was also helpful in the establishment of the Midland Community Trust, an effort that later evolved into the Permian Basin Area Foundation, a fund that currently lists its assets at $12 million.

“It was George’s efforts that really were the jump start to get that thing going,” recalled Jack Swallow, Executive Director of the PBAF who also served on Mr. Bush’s volunteer team during the 1981 campaign. “We started off with $400,000 thanks to a couple of gifts. Our future gifts will probably be 10 times what our assets are today.”

Mr. Swallow said Mr. Bush was present during a conversation that Levi Strauss executives had with Midland representatives when the clothing company announced it was closing its Midland operation.

“The representatives from Levi Strauss said, ‘Too bad you don’t have a community foundation. We’d make a donation to it,’ Mr. Swallow said. “George, the late Jack Steele and myself started brainstorming and George eventually became the first chairman of the foundation. We had a lot of fun with it. We were doing a lot of nice things for the community with the income generated off the original gifts.

“George never did anything unless it was going to be fun. He really enjoyed everything he did. There was an infectious nature to his projects, and good things happened. But George would always say, ‘If it’s not fun, let’s don’t do it.’ Pretty soon, people would always end up telling George, ‘Gosh, I want to be part of this fun, too.’ ”

Foresight is 20-20

Jim Henry, who last year was named a lifetime member of the United Way of Midland, admits that, though he worked as a volunteer during Mr. Bush’s time, he never had the chance to get to know him as well as he wanted to. Mr. Henry, founder of the West Texas petroleum company that bears his name, admitted that had he been able to predict the future, he might have schmoozed a little more when both he and Mr. Bush officed in Midland’s historic Petroleum Building.

“I probably missed out on an opportunity because I never took him out to lunch,” Mr. Henry laughed. “If I’d have had any idea at that time that the small independent down the hall was going to be president, I would’ve gotten to know him better.”

Mr. Henry and Mr. Bush, acquaintances more than friends, attended the same church together — First United Methodist.

“I’m very pleased that a man with George’s integrity and religious beliefs will be President of the United States,” Mr. Henry said. “He’s a teetotaler, a man of God. It’s difficult to find that strong of a Christian who’s in public office.”

Mr. Henry noted that in the early ‘80s his oil company was slightly larger than Mr. Bush’s.

“Now, his job description is slightly larger than mine,” Mr. Henry said. “The pecking order has changed a little.”

“George took care of this community”

Mr. Franklin said that Mr. Bush’s victory over Ann Richards in the 1994 race for Texas governor was more surprising to him than his victory over Democrat Al Gore for the presidency.

“When he made the decision to run for president, I knew he’d run a wonderful campaign and we felt like he’d win the election,” Mr. Franklin said. “He’ll surround himself with intelligent, energetic folks of the highest integrity and he’s going to be a president we can be very proud of.”

Mr. Swallow said the only thing that is surprising to him is that the presidency was never on Mr. Bush’s radar screen in his Midland days of the early ‘80s. But now that that radar screen has fully detected Mr. Bush as the next White House occupant, Mr. Swallow sees what he’s always seen: a man with admirable qualities.

“At a point where most men are going middle age crazy, George is recommitting himself to leadership and to the high ideals of this country,” Mr. Swallow said.

Mrs. Wolf sums up Mr. Bush with one word, then and now.

“Dazzling. Toward the end of the campaign, Laura’s pregnancy was precarious; it was risky,” Mrs. Wolf said. “George never missed a beat. He took care of Laura and he took care of this community. He was a wonderful chairman and no one could say no to him. He was there for us, he was there for the donors, and he was there for our agencies.”
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Message to United Way of Midland’s Annual Report to Contributors, 1981

“When the United Way Campaign for 1982 began taking shape early last spring, many of those involved in its planning saw a growing need for human services in Midland – a need that in many cases seemed as if it would soon outdistance the growth our community was experiencing in other areas.

“We saw, too, a way for Midlanders to put into action what we have been saying for years – that we can put our money to better use than the federal government can.

“We hoped Midlanders would recognize these problem areas and growing opportunities to help, and so we set an ambitious but attainable goal — $1,350,000.

“From every part of the city, people responded to the needs that goal represented, affirming our theory that Midland could and should be a place any of us would like to call home – not just a constantly expanding façade of steel and glass.

“Contributors from all areas of employment supported the campaign in record numbers. Charitable foundations increased their giving by more than 58 percent. And corporate giving jumped to an unprecedented level.

“But the ingredient that, as always, made this campaign a real success was the personal commitment and hard work of hundreds of volunteers who continue to make the United Way of Midland our city’s largest volunteer organization.

“Those volunteers – and every person in our city who contributed to the United Way – helped prove that Midland hasn’t grown too big to see those who may need extra help. And by contributing $1,407,895 – 20 percent more than last year – Midlanders have assured our city’s human needs will be met for another year.

“Thanks to the volunteers and to the generous support of the whole community, it does work in Midland … the United Way.”


George W. Bush’s Comments about Midland, Delivered at the Republican National Convention, August 3, 2000

“In Midland, Texas, where I grew up, the town motto was ‘The Sky’s the Limit’ … and we believed that. There was a restless energy, a basic conviction that with hard work, anybody could succeed and everybody deserved a chance.

“Our sense of community was just as strong as that sense of promise. Neighbors helped each other.”
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