Hampton U. president recalls special bond shared with George H.W. Bush


HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — Much has been said about two presidents this week with a strong bond.  

In most cases we’re referring to President George H.W. Bush and his son, Bush 43. But 10 On Your Side delved into a different take on that theme here in Hampton Roads, the relationship over two decades between the former U.S. president and the leader of a local HBCU.  

Dr. William R. Harvey at Hampton University reflected on a special relationship he formed over the years with President Bush.

“I found him to be a man of character who supported historically black colleges practically all his life,” recalled Harvey.

They met long before Bush became president.  And when he assumed the highest office in the land, President Bush appointed President Harvey to his Board of Advisors on HBCUs.

Dr. Harvey says getting to know President Bush over the course of two decades, he always found him to be an honest, respectful man of character with a great sense of humor.  

Graduation is always a momentous occasion celebrating another class of Pirates poised to take on the world after graduating from Hampton University.  On Mother’s Day 1991, President Bush delivered the commencement address at Hampton.  Then the University bestowed upon him an honorary degree. 

“I do remember him extolling the virtues of Hampton and encouraging the young people to go out in the world and lead,” Harvey said. “We need more politicians like him. Those with a great sense of purpose in serving people and not just a political party.”

Years before his trip to this HBCU though, Dr. Harvey says one of the little known things about President Bush that cemented a bond between the two of them was that Bush actually founded the United Negro College Fund Chapter on the campus of Yale as an undergrad. 

So his service in office with President Harvey advising him only continued a commitment he had already made.  And after Bush left Hampton’s commencement, he sent President Harvey a handwritten note that Harvey has now framed and mounted in his office. 

It was a personal touch and the trademark for a man Harvey recalls as a giver who listened and cared.

“He really pushed and coordinated so many things for us and the facts are that funds for HBCUs went up during his administration,” Harvey said. “A lot of folk don’t know that. There are so many things I could tell on a personal note.  I mean the cuff links I have on right now. I was in the Oval Office and he said ‘Bill you’re always so impeccably dressed, do you have any presidential cuff links?’  I said ‘no Mr. President.’  He got up, went to his drawer and pulled out these cuff links and gave them to me.”

In 2003, when Dr. Harvey was celebrating 25 years as president here in Hampton Roads, President Bush, who had become a professional friend by then, sent a special message from miles away that Harvey says brought him to tears.

Two lives connected through leadership. They shared a bond formed as they each forged a path shaping the future of our nation in their own way. 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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