4:33 PM PST, December 5, 2021
Former United States Senator and presidential candidate Bob Dole died early Sunday morning. The news broke Sunday afternoon in a tweet from the Elizabeth Dole Foundation.
“It is with heavy hearts we announce that Senator Robert Joseph Dole died early this morning in his sleep,” it begins. “At his death, at age 98, he had served the United States of America faithfully for 79 years. More information coming soon. #RememberingBobDole”
The tweet did not mention where he died or the cause. However, he announced in February he had been diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer.
Born Robert Joseph Dole in Russell, Kansas on July 22, 1923, he was a 19-year-old student at the University of Kansas with dreams of becoming a doctor when he enlisted in the army in 1942.
Dole fought in Italy in 1945, as a lieutenant in the Army’s 10th Mountain Division and was wounded and left for dead while trying to carry a fellow soldier to safety. He spent more than three years in and out of hospitals. His injuries left his right arm permanently disabled. For his service in World War II, Dole received the Purple Heart twice and two Bronze Stars with an oak leaf cluster.
The war changed the course of Dole’s life, pursuing a legal career when he returned to the U.S. He served a term in the Kansas House of Representatives before spending eight years as Russell County prosecutor. Dole was elected to the US House to represent Kansas in Washington in 1960, serving four terms before he was elected to the US Senate in 1968.
The republican served for 27 years in the senate representing Kansas, twice becoming Senate majority leader.
Early on in his senate career, critics slammed him for defending former President Nixon during the Watergate scandal.
Dole ran for the position of commander-in-chief three times; first in 1980, again in 1988 but he may be best known for unsuccessfully running for president against incumbent Bill Clinton in 1996. Then 73 years-old, the Baby Boomer was seen by many as too old and out of touch for the job.
Not long after his 1996 loss, former President Clinton awarded him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his service in World War II and Congress.
Bob Dole was a champion of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was signed into law under former President George H.W. Bush in 1990.
The civil rights legislation mandates “that persons with disabilities ought to be judged on the basis of their abilities; they should not be judged nor discriminated against based on unfounded fear, prejudice, ignorance or mythologies.” Dole spent his career advocating for the disabled, calling the ADA one of his proudest achievements. In 1989 he founded the Dole Foundation, an organization helping people living with disabilities find employment.
Dole endorsed former President Donald Trump in 2016, telling USA Today in July, “I’m a Trumper…I’m sort of Trumped out though.” Dole was one of the most prominent republicans to speak out against Trump’s false claims of election fraud in the 2020 presidential election.
President Biden tweeted, “Bob Dole was a man to be admired by Americans. 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.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has ordered flags at the U.S. Capitol to fly at half-staff in Dole’s honor.