TIOGA — When president George H.W. Bush claimed Texas as his adopted home, he fell in love with everything about it – especially country music.
And some country music legends fell in love with him, too, especially North Texan Randy Travis.
“He was the epitome of greatness. And Randy felt that,” said Randy’s wife Mary. “Randy used to talk about George Bush not as a Republican or Democrat, but as a great American.”
We sat down with Travis in a room inside his home filled with awards. Just as prominent as the Grammys and the Country Music Hall of Fame plaque that are on display are mementos of Travis’s friendship with Bush.
“When I told Randy [about Bush’s death], I looked over at him and he had this little tear that fell down,” Mary said. “His eyes were welled up, but he was smiling. It was a tear in one eye and twinkle in the other, because what a great human being.”
Travis sang at Bush’s 1989 inauguration festivities, and when Bush unveiled his “thousand points of lights” initiative, Travis became the voice of the movement, hand selected to sing the signature song “Point of Light.”
“The very first time Randy sang Point of Light, President Bush and Barbara were there and their family. You could tell at the beginning of the song that, since people hadn’t heard it, they were like – oh this is a nice song,” Mary recalled. “By the end of the song, people were clapping, singing along - that’s how quick it caught on.”
Travis has the lyrics to Point of Light framed below a picture of an oval office visit. During that visit, Bush told him that he listened to him and other country music stars for inspiration. Bush also showed him a collection of Randy Travis CDs and cassettes, kept within quick reach.
Travis is recovering from a stroke, so his wife does most of the talking now. But he lit up when asked if he felt nervous singing for the president.
“Yep!” he said with a big laugh. “Yep!”
“We’re going to miss him,” said Mary. “But we know he’s exactly where he wants to be though right now. He wants to spend Christmas with Barbara.”
“We just thank him and we thank the family for letting Randy be a big part of the things he did.”