WASHINGTON, D.C. - Former Pennsylvania Governor and U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge worked with late President George Herbert Walker Bush before either man served in their respective executive branch. That occasion: when Ridge worked as Erie County Chairman for then-candidate Bush’s 1980 presidential campaign.

But the two would later become colleagues and close friends while working in the nation’s capital; Ridge was in Congress, and Bush in the White House as vice president to President Ronald Reagan and then later as president himself.

“President Bush’s public persona was one of grace and humility, dignity, thoughtfulness, kindness,” Ridge said. “And that was his private world, as well.”

In his only on-camera interview Saturday, Ridge recalled and praised President Bush’s decades of service to the nation both in the military and in politics. Ridge also elaborated on that ‘thoughtfulness’ he said Bush displayed. Perhaps the most personal example: in the form of a phone call Bush placed to Ridge on a busy election night in 1994 after Ridge, moments before, had been elected as governor of Pennsylvania.

“He called me that evening and he congratulated me, but he said it was a bittersweet night for him because his one son (Jeb Bush) had lost in Florida and the other son won in Texas,” Ridge said. “But he thought he would go down and be with Jeb. It’s one thing to be with the victor... but he really wanted to be with Jeb and of course Jeb won eventually. But that’s just the way he was, the relationship he had with his family.”

The governor from Texas was future President George Walker Bush, who would become Ridge’s future boss when Ridge became the first Secretary of Homeland Security in 2003.

Ridge and George H.W. Bush would cross paths once again in 2006. Ridge became the board chair for the National Organization on Disability while Bush was the honorary chair, a title he held from 1990 until his death.

Ridge interviewed Bush at the President’s Houston, Texas home in 2015 on the 25th anniversary of Bush signing the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Men and women with disabilities are sometimes the best and most effective employees (companies) have. That probably doesn’t surprise you, does it?” Ridge asked Bush in the 2015 interview.

“No,” Bush replied. “Just so they get a chance. That’s the main thing."

The Act would aid Bush himself later in life as he battled multiple illnesses in his final years, often times utilizing a wheelchair.

“I think it’s very important, it’s something I’m very proud of… perhaps proudest of when I was President,” Bush added in the interview.

Ridge, 73, last saw Bush about a year and a half ago, he said.

Ridge plans on attending the upcoming funeral services in Washington, his way of paying his final respects to the man he calls a great and honorable leader.

“He was a special man,” Ridge said, “a great president and a good friend.”


Photo courtesy: National Organization on Disability and Steve Aaron.