President George H.W. Bush with Hampton University President William Harvey

President George H.W. Bush with Hampton University President William Harvey — Hampton University

Longtime Hampton University President William Harvey said former President George Herbert Walker Bush was a “vastly under-appreciated friend” of historically Black colleges and universities.

“I believe in giving people their credit when it is due,” Harvey said Thursday. “President Bush was not only a good friend of mine, but he was an extraordinary person who believed it was crucial that African Americans have access to education. I think that’s something that we must acknowledge.”

HBCUs received $776 million in federal funds in 1989 and $894 million in 1990 — an increase of $118 million in just two years, said Harvey, who served on the President’s Advisory Panel on HBCUs. He said Bush encouraged the development of the 15-member HBCU consortium, which had been awarded $4.3 million to increase the number of African-American scientists, engineers and other professionals in the growing fields of environmental restoration and waste management.

“Look, anyone who is a friend of HBCUs is a friend of mine and should be considered a friend of all African Americans,” Harvey added.

The 41st president, Bush died on Nov. 30 at the age of 94.

Harvey, president of Hampton for the last 41 years, developed a friendship with Bush through their shared work with the United Negro College Fund.

Bush had founded the UNCF chapter at Yale while he was a student there in 1948. Later, he became Texas UNCF chairman. And in 1987, Bush donated the proceeds from his memoir to the UNCF.

Harvey said the two became so close that they and their wives visited each other at their homes.

In 1991, to the displeasure of many, Harvey named Bush, a Republican, as Hampton’s graduation speaker.

Later, when Harvey celebrated the 25th anniversary of his Hampton presidency, Bush sent a video tribute recognizing Harvey’s service to Hampton and HBCUs in general.

“It was very touching and even comical. I didn’t expect it,” Harvey said. “At the end he said to the board of trustees, ‘President Harvey has served well. He deserves a sabbatical. I want you to give him one.’”

They listened.

“I got the next nine months off,” Harvey said. “My wife and I went to Hilton Head.”

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