Jean Becker was George H.W. Bush’s Chief of Staff after his Presidency starting in 1994. During his Presidency, Bush’s Chiefs of Staff were John H. Sununu, James Baker, and Samuel Skinner. Jean Becker came along later, but made a big impact on the world through her work with Bush. She was a longtime friend of the family and was by his side when he passed away. Here’s what you need to know about Jean Becker.
1. Jean Becker Joined Barbara Bush’s Staff While George H.W. Was President, After Working with USA Today
Jean Becker was a news reporter for USA Today before she began working for the Bushes, she told The Maine. In 1988 she was part of USA Today’s election team when George H.W. was elected President. That year, they did a weekly column with Barbara Bush and Kitty Dukakis. She got to know the women so well that Barbara Bush’s chief of staff offered her a job after Bush was elected President. From 1989 to 1992, she was First Lady Barbara Bush’s deputy press secretary.
Becker was one of the family friends who was on “Special Air MIssion 41,” the former President’s final flight when his casket was taken to Washington, D.C. from Houston.
2. She Became Bush’s Chief of Staff in 1994 & Helped Oversee the Opening of His Presidential Library
Her job with Barbara Bush was only the beginning for Becker. In 1993, she was helping Barbara Bush write her book, she told The Maine. That’s when President Bush’s then-Chief of Staff decided to retire (this was after Bush was no longer President.) At that point, in 1994, Bush asked her to be his acting Chief of Staff until he decided what to do. She accepted, and he never chose anyone else for the position.
“I keep thinking that one day I’ll walk in the office and there will be nothing to do, and I’ll know it’s time to move on—but it hasn’t happened yet,” Becker told The Maine in 2012. “I haven’t gotten bored in 20 years.”
In her role as Bush’s Chief of Staff, she oversaw the opening of the George Bush Presidential Library Center in 1997, according to her bio on Points of Light.
She divided her time between Kennebunkport, Maine and Houston. “I love that for five months I get to live in a small town,” she told The Maine in 2012. “It takes me back to my roots. You know, everything takes longer in Kennebunkport—grocery shopping, walking—because you’re going to run into someone you know. I can run my errands in about half the time in Houston because there isn’t all that chatting going on. But I love that.”
In 1999, Becker took a leave of absence to edit and research “All the Best, George Bush: My Life in Letters and Other Writings.”
3. Becker Was Raised on a Farm & Graduated Valedictorian of Her High School
Becker grew up on a family farm in Missouri, the LBJ Library shared in her bio. She was valedictorian of her high school and graduated with a bachelor’s in journalism and political science from the University of Missouri in 1978.
4. Becker Serves on Many Charity & Non-Profit Boards
Becker is very busy outside of her work with the Bush family, according to her bio on Points of Light. She’s a member of the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board and a member of the C-Change Cancer Board. She’s also an ad hoc member of The George Bush Presidential Library advisory board and The George Bush School of Government and Public Service advisory board. She’s also a member of the Points of Light Institute Board of Directors.
Bush once said about Becker: “In addition to serving as a bedrock for both Barbara and me during and after our time in the White House, Jean’s devotion to the CEO Roundtable on Cancer has propelled the organization forward. We would not be where we are today without her.”
5. Becker Was with Bush When He Passed Away, & Had Asked a Friend to Sing to the Former President
After Barbara Bush died and when George H.W. Bush’s health was failing, Becker often updated the public about his condition. In April, she said that Bush was “broken-hearted to lose his beloved Barbara.” She said in a statement at the time: “So many of you are asking, ‘How is 41?’ He, of course, is broken-hearted to lose his beloved Barbara, his wife of 73 years. He held her hand all day today and was at her side when [she] left this good earth… Obviously, this is a very challenging time. But it will not surprise all of you who know and love him, that he also is being stoic and strong, and is being lifted up by his large and supportive family. He is determined to be there for them as well. He appreciates all the well wishes and support.”
President George H.W. Bush died in his home in a gated community in Houston. He was surrounded by friends and family, including Becker, The New York Times reported. That Friday, Ronan Tynan, an Irish tenor, had wanted to visit Bush. Becker asked him to sing to the President, so he sang “Silent NIght” and a Gaelic song. Bush’s last words were Friday night on the phone to his son George Bush: “I love you too.”