Bob Dole — WWII Hero, US Senator, Former Republican Presidential Candidate — Dies at 98
Sunday, 05 December 2021 11:53 AM
Former Republican U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Bob Dole, 98, died on Sunday, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation said in a statement on Twitter.
“It is with heavy hearts we announce that Senator Robert Joseph Dole died early this morning in his sleep. At his death, at age 98, he had served the United States of America faithfully for 79 years. More information coming soon,” the Elizabeth Dole Foundation announced on Twitter.
A former Senate majority leader and the 1996 Republican nominee for president, the native of Russell, Kansas, championed everything from reforming the federal food stamp program to bringing awareness to disabilities.
He was one of the oldest first-time presidential nominees at age 73, but even after retiring from politics after losing the race to President Bill Clinton, Dole didn't shy away from the limelight. He took on a new career starring in television commercials for Viagra, Visa and other brands.
He also kept his commitment to fellow war veterans, spending Saturdays well into his 90s greeting veterans who flew to Washington, D.C., courtesy of the Honor Flight Network, a nonprofit that arranges such flights for veterans.
As a 21-year-old platoon leader, Dole was trying to pull a radioman from the line of fire when he was struck in the upper back and right arm.
It took three years of treatment and countless setbacks before he was able to recover from the wounds, although he lost the use of his right arm and most of the feeling in his left.
Dole, who received two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star with a “V” for valor for his actions, always carried a pen in his right hand to discourage people from trying to shake hands with him.
“Experiencing a disability yourself, you could almost walk around with a blindfold and pick out the other people with disabilities. … Having a disability changes your whole life, not just your attitude,” he said in an interview with Disability magazine.
In February, Dole announced that he had been diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer.
“While I certainly have some hurdles ahead, I also know that I join millions of Americans who face significant health challenges of their own,” he said.
Dole received an immediate outpouring of sympathy, prayers and well wishes from across the political spectrum.
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, called Dole a friend and tweeted wishes for a speedy recovery. Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, a Republican who holds the seat Dole once did, expressed sadness at the cancer diagnosis and offered his prayers. Freshman Kansas Sen. Roger Marshall, who received Dole’s endorsement in running last year and described him as a mentor, said he’s not known “a man with a bigger heart.”
Retired four-term Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, a Republican, predicted that Dole would fight cancer “with his usual grit and determination.”
“We know cancer is tough, but Bob Dole is tougher,” Roberts said in a statement.
Dole, a native of Russell, Kansas, represented the state in Congress for almost 36 years before resigning from the Senate in 1996 to challenge Democratic President Clinton. Dole had unsuccessfully sought the GOP nomination in 1980 and 1988, and he was President Gerald Ford’s vice presidential running mate in 1976, when Ford lost to Democrat Jimmy Carter.
After his last run for office in 1996, Dole continued to be involved in Republican politics, offering endorsements and commenting on public issues. He was known during his congressional career for both a sharp tongue and his skills in making legislative deals.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a moderate Republican and a cancer survivor, tweeted that Dole is “a true American patriot and great statesman.”
Dole was a driving force behind the World War II Memorial on the National Mall, speaking poignantly at its 2004 dedication before tens of thousands of fellow veterans in their 80s and 90s, calling it “our final reunion.”
He served with Clinton following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as co-chairman of a scholarship fund for the families of the victims. He was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal in 2018 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1997 for his public service.
(more to come)