January 21, 2021
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Nancy Bush Ellis, Only Sister To President George H.W. Bush, Dies Of Coronavirus

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Nancy Bush Ellis, who stood out among her famous Republican family for supporting liberal causes for much of her life, died Sunday at age 94, the George and Barbara Bush Foundation said in a statement that described the late activist as “a remarkable woman who brought joy and light to the world.”

George Bush with Nancy Ellis

President Bush ducked reporters’ questions about the United States Navy warships in Columbia by … [+] playfully hiding behind his sister, Nancy Ellis.

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Key Facts

According to the New York Times, Ellis died at an assisted living facility in Concord, Mass., due to complications stemming from a coronavirus infection she contracted late last year.

In contrast to her relatives, a number of whom have won political office on the Republican Party line, Ellis was a noted activist for causes more associated with the Democrats, like environmental protection and anti-poverty efforts, and she served as the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund’s head in New England, the newspaper reported.

Despite their differences, Ellis supported her relatives in their political aspirations—she joined the GOP in 1988 and campaigned for her brother’s presidential bid that year, and did the same for his son, President George W. Bush, when he ran for president in 2000 and 2004.

George Bush’s biographer, Jon Meacham, told The New York Times Ellis “was a Democrat for whom family came first.” 

“Our condolences and prayers are with the Ellis and Bush families as we remember a remarkable woman who brought joy and light to the world,” the George and Barbara Bush Foundation said in a statement Sunday.

Crucial Quote

“She’s a part of this great American ethos that’s almost entirely gone,” Meacham told The New York Times. “She was the best kind of aristocrat. There was a sense of service without a shred of snobbery.”

Key Background

The only daughter in her family, Ellis was born February 4, 1926, in a suburb of Boston. She was an avid tennis player growing up. She married insurance broker Alexander Ellis Jr. in 1946 after graduating from Vassar College with an English degree, the New York Times reported. She was close with her nephew, George W. Bush, and would meet with him weekly when he attended Harvard Business School. According to the New York Times, he called her “my favorite aunt,” to which she would say, “George, I am your only aunt.” She is survived by her brother, Jonathan James Bush, three sons, a daughter, nine grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren, according to the newspaper.

Further Reading

Nancy Bush Ellis, Sister and Aunt of Presidents, Dies at 94 (New York Times)