WWII Veteran And Longtime US Senator Bob Dole Dies at 98
Bob Dole, a World War II veteran-turned-career politician who served as GOP Senate leader, died in his sleep on Sunday, according to a statement issued by the late 98-year-old's family. Back in February, Dole publicly revealed that he had been diagnosed with stage IV lung carcinoma - the most advanced form of lung cancer.
Dole — born Robert Joseph Dole on July 22, 1923, in Russell, Kansas — was remembered by his family and second wife, Elizabeth Dole, as a pragmatic conservative who "never forgot where he came from."
"Thank you for the outpouring of love over the last year, it continues to sustain us as we grieve the loss of the precious man we knew as husband and father," read a family statement issued by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation.
Dole is survived by Elizabeth Dole and Robin Dole, daughter of Bob and Phyllis Holden, the late GOP senator's first wife.
The Dust Bowl native began his nearly lifelong career of public service by enlisting in the US Army during World War II. During his 1945 deployment to Italy, Dole was struck by German ammunition, resulting in serious wounds that would require years of rehabilitation at a military hospital.
Despite being afflicted with paralysis in his right arm, Dole launched a successful campaign for Kansas state legislature in 1951, and graduated with a law degree from Washburn Municipal College in Topeka, Kansas, by 1952.
Soon after, Dole was elected as Russell County attorney, a position he held for eight years before being elected to represent his home state in the US House of Representatives.
Over the next several years, the GOP congressman would vote in favor of a number of critical pieces of legislation, such as the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and the Age Discrimination Act, which sought to combat discriminatory, age-based hiring practices.
After eight years in the House, Dole was elected to the US Senate in November 1968. The freshman senator wasted little time drafting his first piece of legislation — a bill to provide housing to disabled individuals.
Despite the bipartisan successes during his US Senate tenure, Dole was also familiar with failure, after being selected as then-President Gerald Ford's vice-presidential running mate in the 1976 presidential election. Following Ford's loss to Democrat Jimmy Carter, Dole launched his own presidential campaign for the GOP nomination in the 1980 election.
California's Ronald Reagan ultimately received the Republican Party's nomination.
Dole would attempt a presidential bid in 1988, but did not formally declare a new campaign until 1996, when he resigned from the Senate and his position as GOP leader. Despite securing the GOP nomination at the record-breaking age of 73 (and one month), Dole would lose the presidential election to then-Democratic nominee Bill Clinton.
Despite a decadeslong career in public service, Dole's charisma and comedic timing allowed the GOP heavyweight to casually connect with the American public.
Shortly after retiring from the US Senate, then-US President Bill Clinton awarded Dole with the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the highest US civilian honor. While the medal ceremony is traditionally a solemn and serious occasion, Dole took time to lighten the mood during the 1997 ceremony.
"I had a dream that I would be, this historical week, receiving something from the president," Dole told attendees. "But I thought it would be the front door key."
Clinton lauded the retired US senator from Kansas for his "adversity to advantage and pain to public service" during his transition from the military to Capitol Hill.
However, Dole's comedic stylings were elevated in the 1990s, when 'Saturday Night Live' star Norm Macdonald portrayed the Republican heavyweight amid his 1996 run for president.
Oddly enough, Macdonald — also recently diagnosed with cancer — died less than three months prior to Dole.
"Norm ... was a great talent, and I loved laughing with him on SNL," tweeted Dole on September 14
. "*Bob Dole* will miss Norm Macdonald."
Dole and Macdonald first met in late 1996, after Dole had already lost the election to Clinton.
From everyday Americans to US President Joe Biden, individuals have been flooding social media with condolences and promises of prayers and well wishes since Dole's Sunday passing.
"Bob Dole was a man to be admired by Americans. He had an unerring sense of integrity and honor," tweeted the US president.
"May God bless him, and may our nation draw upon his legacy of decency, dignity, good humor, and patriotism for all time," Biden noted.
Per presidential order
, flags will be flown at half-staff to honor Dole's legacy.
Former US President Donald Trump also remembered the 98-year-old as a US "war hero and true patriot" whose career of public service strengthened the Republican Party.
"Senate Republicans and the entire Senate were better off for Bob's stewardship," asserted Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). "His Dust Bowl roots fueled a special commitment to vulnerable Americans, and sure enough, Bob's work on food security, veterans' issues, and the rights of disabled Americans have continued to have an especially lasting impact."
Former US President George W. Bush praised the late US senator "for his life of principled service."
"Our entire family benefitted from that friendship, including my father," Bush wrote, speaking of the bond between Dole and the late, former US President George H.W. Bush.
Dole, a self-proclaimed 'Trumper,' acknowledged to USA Today in July that former US President Donald Trump did in fact lose the 2020 presidential election.
"He lost the election, and I regret that he did, but they did," the GOP heavyweight said. "He had Rudy Giuliani running all over the country, claiming fraud. He never had one bit of fraud in all those lawsuits he filed and statements he made."
Dole stated that while he supported Trump's agenda and wanted a second term for 45, he was also "sort of Trumped out" and believed that democracy in the US "lost something."
"And I don't know how you correct it, but I keep hoping that there will be a change in my lifetime," he told the outlet, just days before his 98th birthday.
"Senator Bob Dole was a truly great man who lived an extraordinary life of service to America and he will be deeply missed by all of us who had the privilege to know him," tweeted former US Vice President Mike Pence.