One of the great privileges of Jim Napolitano’s Secret Service career was protecting president George H.W. Bush and his family; an honor he had for seven years.
“He treated us extremely well,” Napolitano says. “He was always worried, and Mrs. Bush was worried, ‘Did you get a chance to eat? Are you guys sleeping?' He was the kindest guy you ever met.”
Napolitano's collection of photos and mementos from his time with the 41st president is expansive but among his most cherished are two documents.
He held up one that Bush dedicated to his parents and read from it: "The handwritten note is here, and it says, 'Congratulations on your 50th anniversary. Barbara and I send our warmest best wishes, not only for a grand anniversary celebration on October 14th, but many happy returns as well. We long-married old timers must stick together,' he wrote."
Napolitano said it was a total surprise, the result of Bush’s habit of going out of his way, to be kind.
Napolitano goes on to show a note at the bottom, which brings a tear to his eye: "And then he put, 'Mr. and Mrs. Napolitano, your son did so much for me, and my whole family. He was the best! George Bush.’
“Every guy on that shift, we got pretty close with him,” he said. “We thought he was quite the man.”
Another treasure is a photo at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library dedication, featuring every living president and first lady. Napolitano says Bush swiped it from him: “He was walking by and he said: ‘Where'd you get that picture?’ And I said, ‘I got it from the guys on the Reagan detail.’ When he received it back, it was signed by all the presidents and first ladies."
Years later Napolitano, now a police chief, gave back to the president, by making him an honorary police officer.
"Kidding around, he goes: ‘Can I carry my 45?’ And I said, ‘Sure Mr. President, you can carry anything you want, and of course all the agents were like don't tell him that!’"
In one last act of generosity, the agents who guarded the president were given a private viewing of the casket in Houston. It was a gift from a man who was a fierce protector of those who protected him.
Napolitano described the evening as emotional, adding: “My most fond sentiment is how he treated others, and how he looked at the world in a sense that he was going to do everything he could to make it a better place before he left.”
“And he did,” Napolitano added. “I think he did.”
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