HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- The burial site of the late George Herbert Walker Bush opened to the public over the weekend. It's where one Huntsville man who worked with the 41st president intends to pay his respects in the near future.
It all started with a phone call in 1987. "He called me on a Sunday morning a long time ago," recalled Malcolm Thomas, a former associate of the former president.
After mentioning mutual acquaintance Jean Sullivan, who was the committeewoman of the National GOP at the time, Thomas knew who it was. "I said, 'Good morning Mr. Vice President.'"
That led to a relationship that would go to the oval office.
Thomas was brought to Washington D.C. to serve on the steering committee for then-presidential candidate George H.W. Bush. "We talked about basically how to get minorities to vote Republican."
He underscored his support during a Huntsville Times interview on inauguration night saying quote "George Bush is going to carry the torch."
He would go on to serve on the president's advisory committee, but it was his time on the Black Americans for Bush Committee of 100 that he values most.
"We talked about black-on-black crime, teenage pregnancies, high school dropouts, jobs for minorities."
The twice a year meetings he feels paid off. "I think he did a lot for small business, he did a lot for minority HBCUs."
One example he pointed to was when Bush put his wife Barbara on the board of trustee's for the Morehouse School of Medicine. When she passed in April, the school's president wrote "We are grateful for her passion, grace, and grit. Her lifetime commitment to MSM’s vision and mission will always be a treasured memory and remain an example of her believing in the power of what is possible."
Upon his passing, the president and dean wrote, "A beloved friend to Morehouse of School of Medicine, he was a champion for the elimination of health disparities and an advocate for the advancement of underrepresented minorities and communities."
There were times where Thomas disagreed with the commander-in-chief. "I felt I knew President Bush well enough that I could speak openly to him. I said, 'Mr. President, I respectfully disagree with your choice for Supreme Court justice,'" referring to now Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
But he remembers him fondly. "Togetherness. Country before party. That stands out with him."
A picture of the two sits on the bookcase in his family room. "I was privileged to have known him. And, I'm glad that he came my way. I'm glad I came his way, that we came each other's way."
A 31-year relationship that Malcolm Thomas, will never forget.
Thomas put together a grassroots campaign for Bush's second run at office. He continued to stay involved with the family, working on the campaign for his son, George W. Bush.