Half-mast pole for Bob Dole

Remembering former Sen. Bob Dole


Photo by Kevin Rofidal, wikimedia.com

Senator Robert Dole during a visit to the 2008 RNC – Republican National Convention.

Early life
Born on July 22, 1923, in Russell, Kan. Bob Dole was the second of four children to Doran and Bina. The Doles lived in rather uncertainty due to the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression during Dole’s youth. In September of 1941, Dole enrolled at the University of Kansas. Then, Dole left college for the U.S. Army in 1942, joining the Army’s Enlisted Reserve Corps all according to robertdole.org.

Military experience
He was called for active duty in 1943. On April 14, 1945, a few weeks before the end of World War II, Dole led the 85th Regiment in an attempt to capture Hill 913 against Nazi holdouts in Italy. During this, they were attacked by “intense enemy fire.” Dole tossed a grenade toward a machine-gun nest and plunged into a shell hole. He retrieved the body of his platoon’s radioman from the battlefield and sat his body in the shell hole, all according to military.com. Dole went back out and was subsequently hit by an exploding shell that “shattered his right shoulder and fractured his neck” and “filled his body with shrapnel,” according to abcnews.com. Paralyzed from the neck down, Dole laid on the battlefield for 10 hours before being evacuated to a field hospital, according to military.com.

Due to the attack, he also suffered from a life-threatening infection, blood clots and a fever of nearly 109 degrees Fahrenheit; Dole was expected to die. Doctors gave him large amounts of penicillin to help his recovery. When that was unsuccessful, doctors gave him an experimental new drug called streptomycin which Dole was able to fight the infection with, according to nytimes.com. Dole would then be in the hospital for the next 36 months, including nearly a year in a full-body cast, according to robertdole.org. Dole’s hometown of Russell passed around a cigar box to raise funds for Dole’s medical bills, according to latimes.com. Later, Dole said that he learned to write with his left hand and would always hold a pen in his right hand so people could not shake his hand due to his injury, according to nytimes.com.

Life after the military
According to robertdole.org, in 1948, Dole married his physical therapist, Phyllis Holden. Dole was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives in 1950 while a student at Washburn Law School in Topeka, Kan. In 1953, Dole decided not to seek re-election and went back home, practiced private law and was elected District Attorney. The following year, the couple had their first and only child, Robin.

Role in politics
According to nytimes.com, Dole won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1960. While Rep. Dole did not support much of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society agenda, he supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Dole would have the reputation of a “staunch fiscal conservative.” Rep. Dole made a significant impact in getting Rep. Gerald Ford elected as the House Minority Leader in 1965 while also starting a long-lasting friendship with future President Richard Nixon, all according to robertdole.org.

In 1968, Dole won a seat in the U.S. Senate and was made chairman of the Republican National Committee thanks to his support of President Richard Nixon. In 1972, Dole and Holden divorced and a few years later, on Dec. 6, 1975, Dole married Elizabeth Hanford, all according to robertdole.org.

In 1976, President Gerald Ford was running for reelection and needed a running mate, since Vice President Nelson Rockefeller declined to stay on. Ford announced his running mate would be none other than Dole. On the night of the election, as the results came in, it showed that the former Georgia Governor, Jimmy Carter, and Sen. Walter Mondale of Minnesota would become the president and vice president, respectively, all according to cnn.com. Carter ended up with 297 of the needed 270 electoral votes, whereas Ford had gotten 240 electoral votes. according to 270towin.com.

In 1980, Dole took his first chance for the presidency and lost in the primaries to future President Ronald Reagan. But with Reagan’s win came a landslide victory in the Senate too. Dole became Senate Finance Committee Chairman in 1981 and would hold the position for the next four years. Dole played an essential part in the record growth of the economy in the 1980s, also known as “Reaganomics.” A Senate colleague of his, Democratic Sen. Don Nickles of Oklahoma, once said that when Dole became chairman, the tax rates were as high as 70%, and by the time he had finished his work, they were down to 28%.

From 1985-1987 Dole served as the Senate Majority Leader. He would talk and bargain with other members of Congress on the balcony of his office. He did this so often that when Dole left the Senate in 1996, they unanimously passed a resolution naming the balcony, the Robert J. Dole balcony, all according to nytimes.com.

On Nov. 9, 1987, in Russell, Dole announced he was running for the Oval Office again. Dole started off with solid support, winning Iowa Caucus, the first state, and a key to winning the nomination. Vice President George H. W. Bush ended up winning the New Hampshire primary. When questioned about an ad in which Vice President Bush accused Dole of “straddling” on taxes, Dole lost his temper and told Bush, “stop lying about my record.” He did not win South Carolina, and eventually, Vice President Bush swept every southern state on Super Tuesday. Dole was slipping, and the final nail in the coffin was losing Illinois; with that, Dole withdrew from the race, all according to nytimes.com.

Dole then was elected as Senate Minority Leader as the Republicans had lost control of the Senate. He would hold that position until 1995, according to senate.gov. In the election of 1994, the Republican won back the Senate, and he once again was elected Senate Majority Leader. On April 10, 1995, Dole announced his candidacy for the White House. On Aug. 15, 1996, at the Republican National Convention, the convention nominated Dole for president and Dole’s running mate, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Jack Kemp for vice president. Dole would announce his retirement from the Senate in June of 1996 to focus on his campaign, according to usatoday.com.

During his campaign, Dole struggled with adapting to the “scripted politics of the television age.” He often would lapse into legislative terminology, according to nytimes.com. Dole was known for his constant use of talking in the third person while campaigning, and as someone who was able to take a joke. Dole went on “Saturday Night Live,” saying, “I don’t run around saying ‘Bob Dole does this’ and ‘Bob Dole does that’ that’s not something Bob Dole does,” according to nbcnews.com.

On election night in America, Clinton earned 379 electoral votes to Dole’s 159 electoral votes, according to 270towin.com.

On Jan. 17, 1997, just over two months after the election, former Dole received our nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It was awarded to him by then-President Bill Clinton. After Dole’s passing, former President Bill Clinton posted on Twitter in part, “After all he gave in the war, he didn’t have to give more. But he did.”

Dole has received several other accolades, including multiple honorary doctorates, two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and in 2018, Congress awarded former Dole with the Congressional Gold Medal. For his “his service to the nation as a soldier, legislator, and statesman.” An honor that has only been given to seven other Senators, according to cbsnews.com.

Former Dole’s final public appearance was in 2018 in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, honoring his once opponent and later friend, former President George H. W. Bush. The 95-year-old former Senator, in a wheelchair, stood up with someone assisting him. Dole saluted the former President and World War II veteran, according to cnn.com.

On Feb. 18, 2021, Dole announced he had been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. Dole would pass away less than a year later, on Dec. 5, 2021. The former Senator was survived by his wife, former Sen. Elizabeth Dole, his daughter Robin and many family and friends, all according to cnbc.com. Immediately following the news of his death, flags at the Capitol and the White House were flown at half-mast and at every federal building until his funeral. He lied in state at the U.S. Capitol on Dec. 9 for congressional leaders to pay their respects. He had a state funeral on Dec. 10 at the Washington National Cathedral. And finally, his body was transported to Kansas where he was buried, all according to nypost.com.