Likely the president in United States history with the greatest affinity for tennis, George H.W. Bush passed away on Friday after a prolonged struggle with a form of Parkinson's disease. The illness had rendered him wheelchair-bound in his last few years of life, a difficult physical fact to accept for the former captain of baseball and soccer teams. He was 94.
Tennis players, many of whom interacted with President Bush over time, published their condolences. Among them were Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, stalwarts in documenting remembrances on the occasion of a public figure's passing:
A faithful public servant, a veteran, and a person who believed in the power of a kinder, gentler nation, George H.W. Bush’s life was one lived fully and with honor. Sending love and prayers to the Bush family. May he Rest In Peace. #RIP41— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) December 1, 2018
George H.W.Bush was a true american patriot , hero and a man who always gave his best- thank you for your service to our country, sir. RIP…— Martina Navratilova (@Martina) December 1, 2018
Heartbroken ???????????? His legacy of kindness, generosity, service, and love of family will live on. I will forever cherish my time with him...R.I.P. Mr. President pic.twitter.com/9OtC6MjBOY— Chris Evert (@ChrissieEvert) December 1, 2018
Others, including Pam Shriver, a distant relative of Maria Shriver, a former First Lady of California, shared a variety of posts.
The most fun doubles loss ever, losing to Jeb and Marvin with their dad, President Bush presiding as an even handled umpire. We never broke the brother’s serve!! Spring of 1989.. pic.twitter.com/uLFGDF79Lj— Pam Shriver (@PHShriver) December 2, 2018
Many other observers, including media members, shared thoughts on the passing of the country's 41st president, dubbed "41" by the country upon his election and "Poppy" by his mother at a young age. It was H.W. Bush's parents who also instilled a love for tennis – and a proper way about things – in him.
Can’t find the link to this, but I remember it from ‘88 race- always stuck with me. "Our parents were of Midwestern stock and very strict. They didn't want us to grow up to be spoiled and rich. If we left our tennis racquets in the rain, we were punished."— Sam Seder (@SamSeder) December 1, 2018
-Nancy Ellis GHWB sis
Bush 41 was a tennis enthusiast, to say the least. He played the sport frequently as he rose through the ranks of business and politics, moving from the oil industry to public servanthood and inhabiting (among others) the roles of directors of the Central Intelligence Agency, vice president and – in 1988 – president.
Reflecting on the life of George H.W. Bush, he probably was the most passionate tennis player of any U.S. President. Here he is at Camp David playing doubles with @ChrissieEvert pic.twitter.com/YcOHn8IgiG— Randy Walker (@TennisPublisher) December 1, 2018
"I hated to lose but I never broke my racket or anything like that. I've always been a good sport." - George H.W. Bush on his tennis game pic.twitter.com/A32xVBeexp— Randy Walker (@TennisPublisher) December 1, 2018
He even attended the 1995 International Tennis Hall of Fame induction of Evert, a friend and sometimes doubles partner over the years.
REMEMBER WHEN former President George H.W. Bush visited the International Tennis Hall of Fame in #NewportRI for the induction of Chris Evert, left, on July 16, 1995? Evert later played a game of doubles with Bush. (AP Photo) #RIPGeorgeHWBush pic.twitter.com/NhgtbZMbhA— Newport Daily News (@TheNewportDaily) December 1, 2018
Tennis was, at times, a gateway for the future president to make inroads with people socially and even network to staff his future administration. His lifelong friend and adviser James Baker first struck up a friendship with him by striking tennis balls on court together, as seen in an image shared by the New York Times via the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum.
The last American president of the World War II era, George H.W. Bush leaves behind a legacy of public service, political prowess, foreign policy expertise and a strong affection for competition in sport. May he rest as gracefully as he played the game.
Follow Jon on Twitter @jonscott9.