George Herbert Walker III, Ambassador and Cousin of Two Presidents, Dies at 88

George Herbert Walker III, center, at the presidential palace in Budapest in 2004, when he was the United States ambassador to Hungary. He was flanked by Representative Tom Lantos of California, left, and President Ferenc Madl of Hungary.
Credit…Bela Szandelszky/Associated Press

George Herbert Walker III, a cousin of two presidents, a former United States ambassador to Hungary and a prominent St. Louis businessman and philanthropist, died on Saturday at a hospice facility in St. Louis. He was 88

His son, George, said on Thursday that the cause was complications of a stroke that Mr. Walker had about a year ago.

Mr. Walker grew up in Greenwich, Conn., and graduated from the Groton School in Massachusetts before earning a bachelor’s degree from Yale University in 1953 and a law degree from Harvard in 1955.

After serving two years in the Air Force, he moved to St. Louis in 1958 to work for a financial services company founded by George Herbert Walker, the grandfather he shared with his first cousin, George H.W. Bush, who also grew up in Greenwich. Mr. Walker was later president and chief executive of the business, Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, which grew significantly under his watch and which he took public in 1982.

In 1992, as Mr. Bush sought a second term as president, Mr. Walker tried his own hand at politics, seeking the Republican nomination for a suburban St. Louis congressional district. He lost in the primary to James M. Talent, who won the seat and later became a United States senator; Mr. Bush lost the presidency to Bill Clinton.

Mr. Walker remained active in Republican politics, helping to raise funds and organize Missouri campaigns for Republican presidential candidates. Notably, he took part in the successful presidential campaigns of Mr. Bush’s son George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004.

George W. Bush appointed Mr. Walker ambassador to Hungary in 2003, about a year before Hungary withdrew its troops from the Iraq war. He worked to maintain positive relations with the country, serving as ambassador until 2006.

George Herbert Walker III was born on March 16, 1931, to George Jr. and Mary (Carter) Walker in St. Louis, moving later to Greenwich as a child. His mother was a homemaker; his father, an investment banker, was an original investor in the New York Mets and an executive with the team.

Mr. Walker’s first two marriages ended in divorce. He married Carol Banta, with whom he lived in St. Louis and Kennebunkport, Me., in the mid-1980s.

In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife; four daughters, Mary Elizabeth Bunzel, Wendy Cleary, Isabel Walker and Carter Walker; a stepson, John Martin; two stepdaughters, Hilary Roach and Paige Martin; a brother, Ray Walker; a sister, Betty Holden; and 14 grandchildren.

Mr. Walker was active in Downtown St. Louis Inc., the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis and the Siteman Cancer Center. He was a trustee of Webster University in Missouri for 42 years; the business school there was named for him after he made a $10 million donation in 2005.

SOURCE: The Associated Press