George H.W. Bush got elected president after a campaign marked by the infamous Willie Horton ad, about a black murderer who raped a white woman while on a weekend furlough from prison.

George H.W. Bush got elected president after a campaign marked by the infamous Willie Horton ad, about a black murderer who raped a white woman while on a weekend furlough from prison.

On the other side of the racial ledger, Bush appointed Gen. Colin Powell as the first black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

And while Bush replaced civil rights hero Thurgood Marshall with another black man to maintain the racial status quo on the Supreme Court, he picked Clarence Thomas, a conservative whose views are at odds with those of much of black America.

Lionized upon his death as a man of decency and civility, Bush has a mixed and complicated legacy when it comes to race.

"Intellectually and emotionally, he was somebody who was civil rights-minded," said Rice University historian Douglas Brinkley. "Bush wanted to see himself as being a man devoid of racism. But the reality is that Bush often had to do dog whistles and appeal to less enlightened Americans on race."