Ge­orge H.W. Bush kicked off his cam­paign in Gulf­port in 1992,

The Sun Herald (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY KAREN NEL­SON

GULF­PORT

Ge­orge H.W. Bush and his Vice Pres­i­dent Dan Quayle hit the road quickly af­ter se­cur­ing the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion in 1992 and made Gulf­port their first stop.

Af­ter that, they sep­a­rated to cover more ground in what was even­tu­ally called a rather nasty cam­paign against Bill Clin­ton and Al Gore.

But in Gulf­port, it was all be­gin­ning and both men had their wives with them, as seen in the photo by David Purdy.

It was quite an honor to have him start here, ac­cord­ing to those who were there. It was hot as the dick­ens in Jones Park that late Au­gust day, but Bush pulled off his coat and waved to the crowd in what has be­come an iconic photo of an en­thu­si­as­tic cam­paigner.

Bush, 94, died late Fri­day night, about eight months af­ter his wife, Bar­bara.

John Mashek, who cov­ered the story for the Bos­ton Globe, called it “a steamy park,” and said “Bush and Quayle, both in their shirt sleeves, crit­i­cized the Democrats as out of step with Mis­sis­sippi res­i­dents.”

Mashek said Gulf­port was picked as the first stop “largely to demon­strate the im­por­tance of the South to the GOP in the elec­toral strat­egy against Clin­ton.”

Sun Her­ald pho­tog­ra­pher at the time, David Purdy, said the tem­per­a­ture was in the 90s “and it was hu­mid as all heck.”

“We were stuck in Jones Park wait­ing, just melt­ing,” Purdy said. “There wasn’t a lot of shade.”

He shot this pho­to­graph with a 300 mm lens from the back of a large crowd that had gath­ered to see Bush and his en­tourage.

“He was in a shirt, drenched in sweat like the rest of us, but the whole stage was jovial and happy,” Purdy said. “He was wav­ing both hands, like ‘take my pic­ture.’ He must have known some­one in the crowd.

“I’ve cov­ered pres­i­den­tial vis­its to cities be­fore, but this seemed like a big deal to Gulf­port,” he said. “There was a sense of pride. It was like,

‘We’re im­por­tant. The pres­i­dent is com­ing.’

“Bush was very pop­u­lar at that time,” Purdy said. “Busi­ness peo­ple and lead­ers on the Coast were buzzing that he was com­ing.”

Gulf­port Mayor Billy Hewes was a newly minted state sen­a­tor when the stop was planned.

“It was my the first op­por­tu­nity to be part of a del­e­ga­tion to re­ceive a pres­i­dent,” he told the Sun Her­ald. “What I re­mem­ber is get­ting to shake his hand on the rope line. He was just sin­cere.

“The im­pres­sion I got was that he was very kind, and they were con­sid­er­ate folks. He’s from that Great­est Gen­er­a­tion. ...

“Any time we have a pres­i­dent visit, it’s a time to stop and take no­tice and roll out the red car­pet,” Hewes said.

Pat Sul­li­van was on the Gulf­port Fire De­part­ment and worked with the Se­cret Ser­vice in set­ting up the pro­tec­tion de­tail.

Such an im­por­tant visit was still a rel­a­tively new thing for the Coast in

1992, Sul­li­van said, and it took some co­or­di­nat­ing, but as more pres­i­dents have come, the Coast agen­cies have got­ten bet­ter and bet­ter at work­ing to­gether.

“I had the op­por­tu­nity to be around him at dif­fer­ent times. Ev­ery time I met him, he was gen­uinely a good per­son, ap­pre­cia­tive of the peo­ple around him, it ap­peared to me,” Sul­li­van said. “He was hum­ble, down-to-Earth and just a good man.”

“I can’t tell you why he chose us, but it was some­thing we were ex­cited about.”

Bush left Gulf­port for Bran­son, Mis­souri, but went on to lose his bid for re-elec­tion.

DAVID PURDY Sun Her­ald file photo

Sun Her­ald pho­tog­ra­pher David Purdy la­beled this photo, ‘Hi Mom’ in 1992, when he cov­ered the pres­i­den­tial rally in Jones Park in Gulf­port.

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