It was Labor Day Weekend in 1992 when President George Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush visited the Asheville home of Roy Harris. It’s a visit that Harris recounted to me this morning following the death Tuesday of Barbara Bush at age 92.
Here’s how it all happened: Harris and his family were on vacation in Washington, D.C., in July 1992. His wife had a bucket list item to check off during that vacation – a visit to the White House. As Roy stood in line to get tickets for a White House tour the next day, he was one of about 200 people invited to a breakfast and television broadcast from the Rose Garden. It was a made-for-TV event to show how Bush, who was being questioned about his role in what’s now known as the Iran-Contra affair, could connect with common people. The White House visitors were allowed to ask questions, and education was on Roy’s mind. He was on the local school board at the time and was concerned about the education of his two daughters, ages 7 and 5 at the time.
As part of his question, Roy asked President Bush if he would consider having lunch at him home in Asheville and “tell them what you’ve done for them.” Following the event, President Bush took Roy aside and wrote down his telephone number and address.
A month later, Roy got a call at his home. It was the White House, and they wanted to know if the president, who would be campaigning in the area, could make good on that home visit during Labor Day Weekend.
Roy’s two girls greeted the President and First Lady that Saturday, then invited them in for lunch from provided by the owners of a local Greek restaurant who were friends of the Harris family (think gyros). Roy recalls that the Bushes were kind and good listeners. He noted specifically that Barbara Bush clearly loved her husband, and was just as described by so many people today – a tough, gracious woman.