Bush made several visits to Lincoln before, during presidency

December 2, 2018
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President George H.W. Bush speaks to an enthusiastic crowd at the Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln on June 13, 1989.

About 11,000 people filled the Devaney Sports Center on June 13, 1989, to hear President George H.W. Bush make a speech about the future of alternative fuels.

A few hours earlier, the president had toured the University of Nebraska’s Center for Engine Technology on East Campus, and in his speech he praised the work being done there and touted the use of ethanol fuel.

“Nebraska’s going to make it work,” Bush said. “These alternative fuels are going to take the market by storm.”

In her introductory remarks, then-Nebraska Gov. Kay Orr applauded the president for his commitment to the environment.

“We are honored that you have come to Nebraska to focus national attention on your proposals to protect our environment and turn the winds of pollution into clean air,” Orr said. “You’ve come to the right place to talk about responsibility for the environment.”

The highly anticipated visit was just one of several to Nebraska by Bush, both before and during his presidency. Bush died Friday at the age of 94.

In 1978, as former CIA director, Bush made a stop in Lincoln to help raise money for gubernatorial candidate Charley Thone. The private, $100-a-ticket event, raised nearly $10,000 for Thone, who would go on to be Nebraska’s governor from 1979-83.

The two remained close friends, and in 1980, Thone was one of six Republican leaders who sat down with Ronald Reagan in a Detroit hotel room to consider who should be Reagan’s running mate. Reagan floated the idea of former President Gerald Ford; but Thone argued for Bush, the man Reagan eventually chose.

Then in 1988, Nebraska’s Republican convention delegates were startled and pleased when Bush stood at the podium in New Orleans preparing to accept his party’s presidential nomination, spotted Thone standing by the Nebraska banner and said: “Hi, Charley.”

The state’s top elected officials shared their thoughts on Bush’s legacy on Saturday.

“President George H.W. Bush served the American people with honor, diligence, and integrity — from his Naval service to the Oval Office,” Sen. Ben Sasse said in a statement. “His family knows well the sacrifices required of public service and they have the gratitude of our entire country.”

Sasse was connected to the Bush family from his time teaching at the University of Texas in the mid-2000s. Then in July 2007, he was nominated by President George W. Bush to the post of assistant secretary for planning and evaluation in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and Sen. Deb Fischer also released statements Saturday.

“President George H.W. Bush will be remembered as a devoted husband, loving father, committed statesman and a great man of faith,” Ricketts said. ”… As president, he carried on Reagan’s legacy in taking on communism as the Berlin Wall fell and helped expand trade with our neighbors, Mexico and Canada.”

Added Fischer: “A member of the Greatest Generation, President Bush humbly served the country he loved. George H.W. Bush was a patriot, a leader, and a decent man who had a noble spirit.”

Photos from Bush’s visits to Nebraska

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