HOUSTON, Texas -- The Coast Guard Museum Association announced more than $4 million in pledges Thursday night including $1 million from one of its honory co-chairs, James David Power III, who along with George H.W. Bush and Arnold Palmer co-hosted an invitation-only advance screening of the Walt Disney Pictures' production 'The Finest Hours' at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.
The museum association is working to raise funds for the planned $100 million National Coast Guard Museum in downtown New London.
The Power family foundation, Kenrose Kitchen Table Foundation, also pledged $1 million. Power's daughter Susan Curtin is managing director of the foundation and a member of the museum association's board.
The museum association on Thursday also honored recent, previously announced donors including a $1 million pledge from Louisiana shipbuilding mogul Donald "Boysie" Bollinger and close to $2 million in pledges from the American Waterways Operators, the national advocate for the U.S. tugboat, towboat and barge industry.
Bollinger is the chairman and chief executive officer of Bollinger Enterprises and the former chairman and CEO of Bollinger Shipyards Inc., which has built many Coast Guard patrol vessels.
The museum association has received just under $35 million in support, according to Wes Pulver, executive director of the museum association.
That total includes a $20 million commitment from the state for a pedestrian bridge that will provide access to the museum.
Bollinger and many AWO members were at Thursday's screening, which was attended by more than 300 guests including Coast Guard brass such as Commandant Paul Zukunft, who delivered remarks, and former Secretary of Transportation and the Coast Guard's 25th Commandant Norman Mineta.
Mineta was the first to join the Secretary's Circle, composed of all of the past cabinet-level officers who have either been the secretary or deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security or the Department of Transportation.
The job of the Circle members is to use their rolodexes to help raise awareness and money for the museum through invitation-only dinners across the country.
While not an official fundraising event, the Houston screening was intended to raise awareness about the museum.
The movie, which will officially be released on Jan. 29, chronicles the daring Coast Guard rescues of crews from two oil tankers that had both broken in half off the coast of Cape Cod during a nor'easter.
"This wonderful event, which was focused around Disney's exciting portrayal of one of the greatest rescues in Coast Guard history, truly emphasizes the need and generous support for our museum," Richard J. Grahn, president of the museum association, said in a prepared statement. "It's also a testimony to the power of this and other great stories of human courage and sacrifice by uniformed members of the United States Coast Guard, which will be featured and displayed with the honor they deserve in the National Coast Guard Museum."
During the "war on drugs" in the 1980s, Bush, then vice-president under Ronald Reagan, worked to establish the South Florida Drug Task Force, comprising representatives from multiple government agencies and the military.
Through that effort, he worked closely with the Coast Guard.
Power served as a commissioned officer on a Coast Guard icebreaker in the Arctic and Antarctica from 1953 to 1957. Palmer served as yeoman in the Coast Guard from 1950 until 1953.
The movie is based on the bestselling book, "The Finest Hours," co-authored by Casey Sherman and Michael Tougias. Sherman attended Thursday's advanced screening and presented Bush a signed copy of the book.
He said by phone Thursday that he inscribed in the book to the former president: "Dear Mr. President, a book about true heroes for a true hero."
Sherman said he had tired hands after signing about 400 books Thursday to give away to everyone who attended the screening.
"Our book and film have given (the public) entree to the mission of the U.S. Coast Guard," Sherman said, adding that he hopes the public will "take that entree and start to explore the service."
Many in Coast Guard leadership ranks over the years have expressed to Sherman that the service doesn't do a good job of telling its story, he said.
Sherman said that he is a "huge supporter" of the museum.
"I've donated my time and certainly there's a lot of different ways I'm going to support this mission going forward," he said.
By early to mid-February, the museum association expects to unveil more mature schematics of the museum, which organizers are hoping to open by 2020.