Senator and War Hero Bob Dole Dies At Age 98

Senator and War Hero Bob Dole Dies At Age 98

Bob Dole, a giant of the Senate, one of the longest-serving Senate Republican leader and the 1996 Republican presidential nominee passed away Sunday morning at the age of 98

Mona Salama
Mona Salama
|
December 5, 2021

Former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, a World War II hero who persevered from his battle wounds to become one of the most respected Republican stalwarts with a career that spanned nearly four decades, passed away Sunday at the age of 98.

The Elizabeth Dole Foundation announced in a statement that Dole had passed away in his sleep early Sunday morning, having "served the United States of America faithfully for 79 years."

"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," the foundation said in a statement, named after Bob Dole's wife, Elizabeth Dole, who was a former U.S. Senator from North Carolina.

Before becoming a GOP stalwart, Dole was a war veteran hero, serving as an army service member in World War II, where he was seriously wounded after being hit by German ammunition in 1945.

In 1960, Dole was elected to the House of Representatives. Eight years later, Dole moved up to the Senate, where he quickly earned a reputation as an ardent Nixon defender and a job he held for almost 30 years. Former President Richard Nixon rewarded Dole with the job as Chair of the Republican National chairman in 1971 and held it through most of the Watergate era until 1973. Dole later became Senate Finance Committee chair in 1981, before ascending to the party leadership position after the 1984 elections.

The former Senator represented Kansas for nearly 30 years before wagging and winning the Republican presidential nomination in 1996, but was unsuccessful in losing the White House big against former President Bill Clinton in 1996, 20 years after being the party's vice presidential nominee in 1976. Dole also ran for president two times prior, back in 1980 and 1988 but failed to clinch the GOP nomination.

Dole rose to the highest ranks of congressional power during his 27-year tenure, serving as Senate majority leader at two different points in his career. He also was the Republican party's longest-serving Senate leader until then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky eclipsed the record in June 2018.

In December 2018, in one of his last public appearances before announcing he had stage 4 lung cancer in early February of this year, Dole joined the line at the Capitol Rotunda where the body of former President George H.W. Bush, a one-time political rival and a fellow veteran was laying in state. As an aide helped him stand up from his wheelchair, Dole, using his left hand due to his right arm being rendered useless by the war, saluted the flag-draped coffin of the last president to have served in World War II.

Lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle mourned the loss of Dole on Sunday, sharing statements celebrating the former lawmaker's career.

"Bob was a man to be admired by Americans," President Biden, who served alongside Dole for over 30 years in the Senate, said in a lengthy heartfelt statement recalling his personal friendship with the former Kansas Senator. "He had an unerring sense of integrity and honor. May God bless him, and may our nation draw upon his legacy of decency, dignity, good humor, and patriotism for all time."

"Bob was an American statesman like few in our history. A war hero and among the greatest of the Greatest Generation. And to me, he was also a friend whom I could look to for trusted guidance or a humorous line at just the right moment to settle frayed nerves. I will miss my friend. But I am grateful for the times we shared and for the friendship Jill and I and our family have built with Liddy and the entire Dole family," Biden added.

The White House revealed that Biden and First Lady Jill Biden earlier after hearing the news spoke on the phone with Dole's wife to "express their sincere condolences."

Former President Donald Trump said Dole "was an American war hero and true patriot for our Nation." Dole was the only former Republican presidential nominee to endorse Trump in 2016 as well as attending the GOP convention that same year.

"Bob Dole was an American war hero and true patriot for our Nation. He served the Great State of Kansas with honor and the Republican Party was made stronger by his service." Trump said in an emailed statement. "Our nation mourns his passing, and our prayers are with Elizabeth and his wonderful family."

Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) issued the following statement on the passing of Dole.

Ann and I are heartbroken to learn of the loss of Senator Bob Dole. Bob was a tremendous leader, a pillar of the Senate, decorated WWII veteran, and a true champion for conservative values. His legacy will live on through the positive change brought to the State of Kansas and our great nation during his decades of public service, the success of all the dedicated public servants he worked with over the years, and the countless lives he shaped as a leader of conservatives across America. We join all in mourning this loss and praying for his wife, Elizabeth, daughter, Robin, grandchildren, and all who loved him," Scott said in a statement.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) remembered Dole for his willingness to work across the aisle with Democrats on issues

"A gentleman, statesman and public servant, #BobDole was able to transcend politics to help all Americans thrive. His defense of, and service to, our nation were exemplary. Our country could use more like him right about now. May his memory be for a blessing," Wasserman Schultz tweeted.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tweeted that Dole "dedicated himself to the American experiment and its deepest ideals."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, called Dole in a statement a "towering leader who embodied courage and excellence in public service." Pelosi's spokesperson announced flags at the Capitol would be lowered to half-staff to honor Dole's passing.

Dole is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, and his daughter, Robin.

Mona Salama

Mona Salama

Mona Salama is a political reporter for The Floridian covering Congress, the White House and Congressional elections.

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