George H.W. Bush, a patrician New Englander whose presidency soared with the coalition victory over Iraq in Kuwait, but then plummeted in the throes of a weak economy that led voters to turn him out of office after a single term, has died. He was 94.
The World War II hero, who also presided during the collapse of the Soviet Union and the final months of the Cold War, died late on Friday night, said family spokesman Jim McGrath. His wife of more than 70 years, Barbara Bush, died in April.
The son of a senator and father of a president, Bush was the man with the golden resume who rose through the political ranks: from congressman to UN ambassador, Republican Party chairman to envoy to China, CIA director to two-term vice president under the hugely popular Ronald Reagan.
The 1991 Gulf War stoked his popularity. But Bush would acknowledge that he had trouble articulating "the vision thing," and he was haunted by his decision to break a stern, solemn vow he made to voters: "Read my lips. No new taxes."
He lost his bid for re-election to Bill Clinton in a campaign in which businessman H. Ross Perot took almost 19 per cent of the vote as an independent candidate.
Still, he lived to see his son, George W., twice elected to the presidency - only the second father-and-son chief executives, following John Adams and John Quincy Adams.
Once out of office, Bush was content to remain on the sidelines, except for an occasional speech or paid appearance and visits abroad.
He later teamed with Clinton to raise tens of millions of dollars for victims of a 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean and Hurricane Katrina, which swamped New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005.
George H.W. Bush entered the White House in 1989 with a reputation as a man of indecision and indeterminate views. One newsmagazine suggested he was a "wimp."
But his work-hard, play-hard approach to the presidency won broad public approval. He held more news conferences in most months than Reagan did in most years.
The Iraq crisis of 1990-91 brought out all the skills Bush had honed in a quarter-century of politics and public service.
The other battles he fought as president, including a war on drugs and a crusade to make American children the best educated in the world, were not so decisively won.
Communism began to crumble on his watch, with the Berlin Wall coming down, the Warsaw Pact disintegrating and the Soviet satellites falling out of orbit.
Bush said the pain of losing in 1992 was eased by the warm reception he received after leaving office.
Bush approached old age with gusto, celebrating his 75th and 80th birthdays by skydiving over College Station, Texas, the home of his presidential library. He did it again on his 85th birthday in 2009, parachuting near his oceanfront home in Kennebunkport, Maine.
He became the patriarch of one of the US's most prominent political families. In addition to George W. becoming president, another son, Jeb, was elected Florida governor in 1998 and made an unsuccessful run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016.
The other Bush children are sons Neil and Marvin and daughter Dorothy Bush LeBlond. Another daughter, Robin, died of leukemia in 1953, a few weeks before her fourth birthday.