Houston-area leaders discuss Barbara Bush's impact on region

HOUSTON – After news of former first lady Barbara Bush's declining health, lawmakers and community leaders are reflecting on the impact she has had on the Houston region.

Jim McIngvale, better known as Mattress Mack, is a personal friend of former President George H.W. Bush and his wife.

"My wife and I kind of pattern our family life after theirs because they've been so successful and have such a close relationship," McIngvale said. "(She is) just a wonderful role model as the tremendous mother, tremendous wife, tremendous community advocate -- tremendous leader for all of us."

[Leave your well-wishes for Barbara Bush]

Longtime NBC News political reporter Andrea Mitchell called Barbara Bush a great political force.

"The historian and biographer John Meacham was saying to me, there would have been no President Bush 41 if not for Barbara Bush," Mitchell said. "And then there would have been no President Bush 43, because if she had not been willing to move to Odessa, Texas, and then to Midland, Texas, and to give up a life of privilege back in Rye and Greenwich and New England and all the rest."

Barbara Bush has been a fixture in Houston since moving back to Texas after leaving the White House in 1993.  

While she once walked on the international stage, children have always been her focus.  

"Houston has benefited from the Bush family," said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. "They are our heroes.  And Barbara Bush is the stalwart of that family. Someone who has, when it comes to literacy, when we look at the library, devoted her life work to literacy."  

“She will always be known for her quit wit," said Harris County Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis. "Whenever things got down on the campaign trail, she always managed to have a zinger that would put you back in your place. She is truly one of the great figures in American politics."

As Barbara Bush has chosen comfort care over hospital care, Houston feels the pain for a woman known as "America’s grandmother." 

"The city's hurting because we know she is hurting," said Houston City Councilman Jack Christie. "She is one of the most beloved mothers and grandmothers this state, this nation has, and our thoughts and prayers are with her."  

Praying is something that the Bushes have done together for years.  She explained its importance in their lives during an interview in 2013 with CSPAN.

"I'm a huge believer in a loving God," she said. "I pray. George and I pray every night, out loud, and sometimes we fight over whose turn it is, but we do."