This family didn’t just shape St. Louis, it shaped the entire country. David Davis Walker was such a workaholic, he had to quit for two years to recover. At 40, he returned to work and, right off the bat, cofounded what would become the Ely & Walker Dry Goods Co. (After World War II, it was acquired by Burlington; the old Ely & Walker building now houses some of Washington Avenue’s coolest lofts.)
One of D.D.’s sons was George Herbert Walker, known as Bert. A New York Times reporter described him as a “buccaneer and raucous playboy” who “was raised like a Midwestern prince,” taking his valet with him when he went off to Stonyhurst, a Jesuit boarding school in England, to escape the influence of “ill-bred German immigrants.”
Bert studied medicine at Edinburgh University and law at Washington University, then organized an investment firm. He married Loulie Wear, who was a society beauty but (gasp) a Presbyterian. He’d been baptized Catholic, though he wasn’t much of a churchgoer. And until much later in life, he was a powerfully influential…wait for it…Democrat.
Bert was not a workaholic. He was the first president of the Automobile Company of Missouri and one of the first founders of the Country Day School, but he also boxed, played polo, helped found the St. Louis Raquet Club, and as president of the U.S. Golf Association, he donated the first Walker Cup.
At 26, he built 12 Hortense Place in the style of the Italian Renaissance, with marble bathrooms, a portico, and a carriage house. Seriously, 26? “Well, y’know, in that time in St. Louis, you walked down the street and somebody hit you on the head with a bucket of money,” remarks his youngest grandson, William H.T. “Bucky” Bush. “It was the gateway to the West, and that really meant something in those days, because you weren’t able to fly over it.”
Bert’s daughter, Dorothy, grew up on Hortense Place, and Prescott Bush, just back from fighting in France, courted her there. The Walkers then moved to New York and established a summer home (you’ve heard of it) in Kennebunkport, Maine.
Bert Walker (pictured at beginning of article) built 12 Hortense Place. His daughter Dorothy met Prescott Bush there—and from that coincidence, we got two presidents.
The Bushes’ first two sons were “Irish twins”: Close on the heels of Prescott Jr. came little George, and his uncle, G.H. Walker II, soon doted on him. G.H. Walker II was as tough and athletic as his old man; he cofounded a ball team called the New York Mets. He liked young George’s athleticism, his membership in Yale’s Skull and Bones Society, his stature as a war hero, his stature period. His own heir, G.H. Walker III, was shorter, gentler, milder—the consummate diplomat, made ambassador to Hungary later in life.
G.H. III, known as Bert, became chair of Stifel Nicolaus. Like his cousins, he loved politics, and in 1992, he ran for Congress because “incumbent Joan Horn and the U.S. House were blocking President Bush’s agenda and program in every possible way.” High marks for loyalty, but Jim Talent beat him in the primary. Undaunted, he served on board after board, holding the door open for women and minorities.
Bucky Bush, the 41st president’s youngest brother, was president of Boatmen’s Bank for eight years, then founded the Bush O’Donnell investment firm. An active board member, he helped restore Saint Louis University to solvency—“because when I joined, it was practically broke.” The first campaign under his watch set a goal of $50 million and raised $125 million.
Bucky hoped his son William Prescott, Scott for short, would take over Bush O’Donnell, “but he didn’t like it, so I said, ‘Well, for God’s sake, go out and do something you like.’” Scott became vice president of sales at Trans World Airlines, rose from marketing manager to CEO of Maritz Performance Improvement Company, then returned to finance at WhiteHawk Capital. Now a managing director at J.P. Morgan, he’s helped lead Variety, the Danforth Plant Science Center, and Fair Saint Louis. “He’s a giver,” Bucky says. “He’s his grandmother’s son.” On Twitter Scott identifies himself as “father, husband, social entrepreneur, supporter of St. Louis, financier, and christian.”
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