The life and legacy of Senator Bob Dole
On Sunday, December 5th, former U.S. Senator from Kansas Bob Dole passed away at the age of 98.
Born and raised in Russell , Kansas, Dole honorably served in the United States Army during World War II. In April of 1945, while deployed in Italy, he was struck by a German shell which shattered his right shoulder, collarbone and arm. Dole survived his wounds but was lost the use of his right arm. This experience led him to advocate for both war veterans and those with disabilities throughout his life in and out of politics.
A lifelong Republican, Dole represented Kansas first in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1960 to 1968 and then in the U.S. Senate from 1969 to 1996.
He was well known for being willing to work across the aisle with Democrats, but was also capable of being fiercely partisan at times. Washburn University political scientist Bob Beatty says that was what made Dole such a unique political figure.
"When you look at some of the things he worked on with Democrats and the relationships he was able to develop — in signature legislation regarding social security, food stamps, and obviously the Americans with Disabilities Act — it shows you the dynamics of his depth," Beatty explains.
Dole ran as the vice-presidential nominee alongside President Gerald Ford in 1976. He made his own run for the U.S. presidency in 1988 coming in second in the primary to George H.W. Bush. Dole tried agian in 1996, this time securing the Republican nomination, but lost in the general election to incumbent President Bill Clinton.
A mere three days after his loss to Clinton in the general election, he made a classic appearance on "The Late Show with David Letterman" that demonstrated his quick wit.
Bill Lacy, director emeritus of the Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas, says Dole was the funniest man he ever met. At Dole's 90th birthday party celebrated at the U.S. Capitol, Lacy recalls Dole addressing the attendees by commenting, "It looks like to me there's about 400, 500, 600 people here... that's about as many votes as I got in New Hampshire!"
In February of this year, Dole announced that he had been diagnosed with stage four long cancer. He will lie in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda on Thursday, December 9.
- Bill Lacy, director emeritus of the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas
- Bob Beatty, political scientist at Washburn University