The First President To Officially Pardon A Thanksgiving Turkey Was?
Answer: George H.W. Bush
The practice of the President formally pardoning a Thanksgiving turkey seems like one of those traditions that has been around forever. Left to guess, most people would guess it preceded them or even their parents. In reality, however, the tradition of pardoning a turkey is only a few decades old.
The first U.S. President to formally pardon a turkey was U.S. President George H.W. Bush in 1989. He kicked off the tradition by explaining during the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation: “But let me assure you — and this fine tom turkey — that he will not end up on anyone’s dinner table. Not this guy. He’s been granted a presidential pardon as of right now, allowing him to live out his days on a farm not far from here.”
The turkey (and his alternate) ended up at a petting zoo and each subsequent Thanksgiving the President continued the tradition of pardoning the turkeys given to the White House.
Image courtesy of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library.