WASHINGTON D.C. — Longtime Kansas Senator and 1996 presidential candidate Bob Dole passed away on Sunday at the age of 98. Dole represented the state of Kansas in both the House and the Senate for over 30 years.
Dole was born in Russell, Kansas in 1923 where he graduated from Russell High School. He then became a star athlete at the University of Kansas where he played basketball, football and ran track.
Dole’s time at KU was cut short by World War II when he enlisted in the army where he would ultimately become a second lieutenant. Dole was wounded while fighting near Bologna, Italy when he was hit in the back by a German shell, shattering his spine.
Dole was paralyzed from the neck down and suffered from a series of infections which he was not expected to recover from. It was not until the experimental drug streptomycin was administered that he recovered. Dole recovered from his injuries at a hospital in Battle Creek, Michigan which is now named after him. He was subsequently awarded two purple hearts and a bronze star for his sacrifice.
Dole began his political career in the Kansas House of Representatives where he served for two years. After serving as Russell County’s attorney, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1960. Despite having his congressional district merged with another, he was able to win the election again in 1962 and twice more after that.
In 1968 Dole was elected to the office that he would be most famous for, U.S. Senator from Kansas. He would be reelected to this office four times, and eventually elected as the Senate majority leader in 1984 despite being seen as a moderate who scorned partisanship.
Dole dabbled in presidential politics several times in his career. In 1976 he joined Gerald Ford’s ticket as running mate, ultimately losing to Jimmy Carter. Afterwards, he made multiple attempts at securing the Republican nomination for president, finally winning it in 1996.
Dole’s campaign in 1996 promised a 15% cut to income tax and a return to the economic policies of the Reagan era. Despite being the oldest first-time presidential candidate at that time, Dole’s campaign was the first to ever have a website. This artifact of the early internet is still active and can be seen here.
Dole eventually lost to Democratic Bill Clinton, but remained active in politics even after retiring from the U.S. Senate.
He became a staple on late-night TV and in commercials during the coming years. Regretting not being able to use his humor and wit during the presidential campaign, many Americans saw him in a new light with his television appearances.
His museum on the University of Kansas’ campus opened in 2003, The Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics. The institution would be another effort to increase bipartisanship in politics. Dole also wrote three books after his retirement from politics.
Dole had a slew of health-related problems during his later years but few were able to slow him down. However, he announced earlier this year that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, and eventually passed away at the age of 98 on Dec. 5.
Dole’s legacy is one of a political giant. His selfless sacrifice during WWII, 30 plus years of service in Congress and witty remarks delivered around every corner will be remembered for generations to come.