Former U.S. Senator, Russell native Bob Dole dies at 98

Remembering Bob Dole
Published: Dec. 5, 2021 at 10:53 AM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Former United States Senator Bob Dole has died at 98, according to a statement Sunday morning from the Elizabeth Dole Foundation.

“Senator Robert Joseph Dole died early this morning in his sleep,” the statement reads. “At his death, at age 98, he had served the United States of America faithfully for 79 years.”

In February, Dole revealed he was battling Stage 4 lung cancer and that he was beginning treatment.

“Recently, I was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. My first treatment will begin on Monday,” Dole said in a statement on Feb. 18. “While I certainly have some hurdles ahead, I also know that I join millions of Americans who face significant health challenges of their own.”

Dole represented Kansas in the Senate from 1969-96. He helped reform the federal food stamp program in 1977, chaired the finance committee from 1981-85 and was Republican floor leader from 1985-96.

Dole left the senate in 1996 to run for president, opposing a second term for Democrat Bill Clinton. Dole earned 159 electoral votes and 40.7 percent of the popular vote in defeat.

After leaving politics, Dole wrote several books, practiced law and served as a spokesperson for consumer products, including Viagra, Dunkin’ Donuts and Pepsi.

A 1941 graduate of Russell High, Dole attended the University of Kansas, where he was a three-sport athlete, participating in football, basketball and track.

He joined the U.S. Army in 1942 and was wounded in World War II, suffering life-threatening injuries that left him disabled. He earned two Purple Heart awards and was twice awarded the Bronze Star.

Dole’s career in public service began in the early 1950s when he won a seat in the Kansas State Legislature. He passed the bar in 1952 and began practicing law in Russell.

In 1960, Dole was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served from 1961-69. In 1968, Dole ran for a vacant U.S. Senate seat and won, taking office in 1969 for the first of five terms. He was re-elected in 1974, 1980, 1986 and 1992.

A year after Dole lost the presidential election, Clinton awarded Dole in 1997 with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor a civilian can receive. He earned a Congressional Gold Medal in 2018.

Dole’s 1996 run for president wasn’t his only brush with the nation’s highest office. He served as running mate in 1976 to Republican presidential candidate Gerald Ford, who lost that year to Jimmy Carter in a reelection bid.

Dole aimed for the presidency in 1980 and again in 1988 but fell short during the primaries, failing to make it onto the ballot. He finally broke through as the Republican candidate in 1996, winning 46 state races to earn the nomination. Dole was endorsed that year by then-Texas Governor George W. Bush.

Dole is survived by Elizabeth Dole, his wife of 46 years, and his daughter, Robin, from a previous marriage.

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