Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole, who valiantly fought during World War II and then represented his home state of Kansas as a powerful US Senator for decades, has died at 98.
Born into a working-class family in Russell, Kansas in 1923, the future senate majority leader paused his university studies to enlist in the army after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Dole would earn two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star for his service.
In April 1945, Nazis shot Dole in the right shoulder during a fight in the hills of Italy. Given little odds to pull through, it took years for him to recover and his right arm was permanently disabled. Dole was always seen in public holding a pen in his right hand to discourage people from shaking it.
The decorated veteran entered politics in 1950 by winning a two-year term in the state’s legislature. He then served as Russell County’s prosecuting attorney for eight years until he made the jump to the US House of Representatives in 1961. Starting in 1969, he represented Kansas in the US Senate. During his long and influential tenure in upper chamber, Dole was a Republican party leader who reached across the aisle to broker deals and served as majority leader.
In 1976, President Gerald Ford picked Dole as his running mate but they lost to the Democratic ticket of Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale. Dole vied for the Republican presidential nomination twice – in 1980 and 1988 – before finally securing it in 1996. After resigning from the Senate to focus on his campaign, Dole lost to incumbent Bill Clinton, a Democrat.
Dole married his first wife, Phyllis Holden, in 1948 and they have a daughter together, Robin, who was born in 1954. The couple divorced in 1972, and he met and then married Elizabeth Hanford in 1975. Elizabeth Dole has served in three Republican administrations and was also a US Senator representing North Carolina from 2003 until 2009.
On February 18, Dole announced that he had stage four lung cancer. He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, and his daughter, Robin.
From 1969 until 1996, Dole served in the US Senate where he was a leader of his party, held powerful positions such as majority leader, and was a skilled negotiator to get legislation passed. He resigned from the Senate to focus on his presidential campaign. Above, Dole and his wife, Elizabeth, at a welcoming rally in San Diego during his run for the White House in 1996. The couple had come to the city for the race’s last debate. Dole chose Jack Kemp, who had served nine terms in the US House of Representatives, as his running mate but they lost to the Democratic ticket of Clinton and Al Gore, then vice president
‘I could see my platoon’s radioman go down… After pulling his lifeless form into the foxhole, I scrambled back out again. As I did, I felt a sharp sting in my upper right back,’ Dole wrote in his 1988 autobiography. That sharp sting was a bullet that tore through his right shoulder. A fellow soldier pulled him back to the American lines. Dole was given morphine but wasn’t expected to make it. Using Dole’s own blood, his fellow soldier marked his forehead with an ‘M’ to indicate he had already been given a shot: a second dose would have been fatal. Above, Dole recovering at Percy Jones Army Hospital in Battle Creek, Michigan in 1945
Robert Joseph Dole was born on July 22, 1923 in Russell, Kansas. His father, Dorian Ray, worked at a facility that stored grain, and his mother, Bina, sold sewing machines. The family of six, which included his brother Kenny and his two sisters, Gloria and Norma Jean, lived in a small house that a New York Times article pointed out was ‘quite literally the wrong side of the tracks.’
Religious, hardworking and poor, the family struggled like many during the Great Depression of the 1930s. ‘As a young man in a small town, my parents taught me to put my trust in God, not government, and never confuse the two,’ he said, according to Biography.com.
At Russell High School, Dole was an athlete who was seen as handsome and popular, according to the Times profile, which was published as part of a series called Political Life in 1996. Dole was ‘noted mainly for his shyness around girls’ in the school newspaper about his class, according to the article. After graduating in 1941, Dole went to the University of Kansas with the goal of becoming a doctor. Like in high school, he was also on the college’s basketball, track and football teams.
But since 1939, the global battle to fight Nazi Germany raged and after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the United States entered the war. At the age of 19, Dole enlisted in the US Army Reserve Corps in 1942.
While Dole was rehabilitating, he met his first wife, Phyllis Holden, an occupational therapist, in 1948. They married soon after and had one daughter together, Robin, in 1954. Dole first ran for Congress in 1960. In the conservative Congressional district he sought to represent, the primary was key. To differentiate him from the other candidates, his wife Phyllis set to work making skirts for the ‘Dolls for Dole.’ On the skirts were ‘applique elephants holding ‘Dole for Congress’ signs in their trunks,’ according to a New York Times series in 1996. Above, Dole campaigns for Congress sometime in the 1960s
Robert Joseph Dole was born on July 22, 1923 in Russell, Kansas. His father, Dorian Ray, worked at a facility that stored grain, and his mother, Bina, sold sewing machines. ‘My father missed only one day of work in 40 years,’ Dole said, according to the Horatio Alger Association. ‘My mother was a source of inspiration; sacrificing her comfort for others was a lifelong habit.’ Above, Dole with his parents, Doran and Bina in 1968, which is the year he won his first Senate term after serving in the US House of Representatives since 1961
Dole was married to his first wife until they divorced in early 1972. That year, he met Elizabeth Hanford, a lawyer who would serve in three administrations and run for office herself. The pair met at his office on Capitol Hill, according to a Today interview. ‘All of a sudden, the side door opens and in comes Bob Dole. And I look up and I think, ‘Gee, he’s a good-looking guy.’ And he says he wrote my name on the back of his blotter,’ Elizabeth said during the show. They married in December 1975 and are seen above on their wedding day
Dole started active duty in the summer of 1943 and was then deployed to Italy as a second lieutenant in the Army’s 10th Mountain Division late the next year.
In April 1945, his company was fighting to take Hill 913 – northwest of Florence – from the Nazis when they came under heavy gunfire, including from a sniper, and were trapped by the hail of bullets and a minefield.
‘Dole had to get that gunman. He selected a small group of men to help him take out the sniper and find a safer passage. As he climbed a rocky field, his radioman was hit,’ according to his 1996 presidential campaign website.
‘I could see my platoon’s radioman go down… After pulling his lifeless form into the foxhole, I scrambled back out again. As I did, I felt a sharp sting in my upper right back,’ Dole wrote in his 1988 autobiography.
That sharp sting was a bullet that tore through his shoulder. ‘I lay face down in the dirt,’ Dole said, according to the campaign website. ‘I could not see or move my arms. I thought they were missing.’
Sergeant Frank Carafa bravely pulled the wounded Dole back. ‘They had a perfect field of fire,’ he told the Associated Press in 1995. The Germans ‘could have killed every person that went out on that field.’
Dole was given morphine but wasn’t expected to make it. Using Dole’s blood, a fellow soldier marked his forehead with an ‘M’ to indicate he had already been given a shot: a second dose would have been fatal.
In 1968, Dole won his first Senate term after serving in the House – the same year Richard Nixon took the White House. Nixon tapped Dole to be the chairman of the Republican National Committee in 1971. During Nixon’s second term, he resigned after the Watergate Scandal and Gerald Ford, right, became president in 1974. Ford chose Dole as his running mate and they are seen above at the 1976 Republican National Convention in Kansas City. The Democratic ticket of Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale defeated them
Dole first sought the Republican presidential nomination during the 1980 election but soon bowed out. Republican Ronald Reagan won the White House for two terms. He again pursued the nomination in 1988, but George H W Bush, Reagan’s vice president, won the nomination and the presidency. Bush lost to Democrat Bill Clinton in 1992. Dole secured the nomination in 1996 and took on Clinton. Above, supporters cheer Dole at a rally in March 1996
Above, First Lady Hillary Clinton, Chelsea Clinton, President Bill Clinton, Dole, the Republican nominee, his wife Elizabeth and his daughter Robin after a presidential debate on October 6, 1996. Two years earlier, there was a ‘Republican Revolution’ in which the party made substantial gains and won control of both houses of Congress during the midterm elections in November 1994. Momentum was believed to be on the side of the Republicans but with a strong economy, Clinton, the incumbent, prevailed
Dole did survive but was seriously wounded and temporarily paralyzed. But the 22-year-old persevered and eventually after the paralysis subsided, he was able to relearn simple tasks using his left arm due to the damage to his right.
His road to recovery was long but it was while he was recuperating that he met his first wife, Phyllis Holden, an occupational therapist. She saw him across the cafeteria at the Percy Jones Army Medical Center in March 1948. ‘He was handsome, with dark, penetrating eyes and shiny hair – and because his right arm was up in a sling,’ she told The Spokesman-Review in 1996 about why she noticed him.
At a party soon after, Dole asked her dance. Three months later, they were married, according to the article.
For a short period, the couple moved back to Russell and his fellow townspeople raised money – $1,800 in 1947 – for surgeries to straighten his right arm, according to the Times profile.
Dole went back to college, first at the University of Arizona before transferring to Washburn University in Topeka and switched his ambition from medicine to law. He then earned his undergraduate and law degrees. It was while he was in law school that he decided to enter politics and in 1950, he was elected to the state legislature. Four years later, his daughter, Robin, was born.
After the two-year term, Dole was the county’s prosecuting attorney for eight years. By 1960, he was ready for a bigger stage and ran for Congress.
In the conservative Congressional district, the primary was key. To differentiate him from the other candidates, his wife Phyllis set to work making skirts for the ‘Dolls for Dole.’ On the skirts were ‘applique elephants holding ‘Dole for Congress’ signs in their trunks,’ according to the Times series.
Dole won his first term in the US House of Representatives and in 1961, the family split its time between Russell and Washington, DC. Phyllis told The Spokesman-Review that DC ‘was kind of scary for me.’
In 1968, after serving as a Congressman for eight years, Dole sought a Senate seat and won – the same year Richard Nixon took the White House. Nixon tapped Dole for Republican National Committee chairman in 1971. And while he traveled the country, Dole spent time away from his wife and daughter. The couple divorced in January 1972.
When asked about his accomplishments in the Senate, Dole told The New York Times: ‘Just being there. I mean being in the United States Senate. I can’t think of very many days I went to work without being a little excited. You see the Capitol dome and know that you’re part of something that most people would give anything for. It’s a great opportunity, and a great privilege.’ Above, Dole after speaking to VFW members in Louisville, Kentucky during his run for the White House in 1996
Dole kisses his wife, Elizabeth, above, on November 5, 2002 after her electoral victory. Born in Salisbury, North Carolina in 1936, Elizabeth Dole served in Lyndon B Johnson, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan’s administrations. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she ran for her native state’s Senate seat in 2002. She won and was reelected in 2006. In 2012, she founded her namesake foundation dedicated to ’empowering, supporting, and honoring military and veteran caregivers,’ according to the organization’s Twitter page
After he lost the White House in 1996, Dole continued to advocate on the behalf of veterans. Above, Dole, who was then co-chair of a President’s Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors, speaks about the group’s report as President George W Bush and Donna Shalala, left, then the Health and Human Services Secretary, listens in the Rose Garden in October 2007
But 1972 was also when he met his wife of 45 years: Elizabeth Hanford, a lawyer who would serve in three administrations and run for office herself. The pair met at his office on Capitol Hill, according to a Today interview from February 2019.
‘All of a sudden, the side door opens and in comes Bob Dole. And I look up and I think, ‘Gee, he’s a good-looking guy.’ And he says he wrote my name on the back of his blotter,’ Elizabeth said during the show.
They went on their first date after talking on the phone and three years later they married in December 1975. ‘I love his compassionate heart. And the fact that he loved to feel that each day he could make a difference for at least one person in need,’ she told Today. ‘And I loved the fact that he had such a great sense of humor.’
Dole won reelection several times and served in the Senate for nearly three decades. Throughout his tenure, he led his party and was able ‘to maintain a unified Republican caucus, a job that grew increasingly difficult as the Senate grew more fractious and individual members more assertive,’ according to The New York Times series. With his reputation as a pragmatist and a dealmaker, Dole was able to work with Democrats. He was also a strong supporter and advocate for 1990’s American with Disabilities Act.
He was first elected the majority leader in 1984. Elizabeth told Today: ‘I got a miniature schnauzer from the Humane Society and walked into his national press conference with this little dog with a big sign ‘Leader’ around his neck, and presented him to Bob.’
Dole was majority leader again in 1995 but did not hold the position long. In 1996, after he secured the Republican presidential nomination, he resigned from the Senate to focus on his campaign. He had first sought the nomination in 1980 but quickly dropped out. George H W Bush beat him in 1988 when he vied for it again.
During the midterm elections of 1994, there was a ‘Republican Revolution’: for the first time in 40 years, the party won both the House and the Senate. Many pointed to this momentum to push Democrat Bill Clinton out of the White House. Nonetheless, voters chose the incumbent and Dole lost.
‘Sure, losing an election hurts, but I’ve experienced worse. And at an age when every day is precious, brooding over what might have been is self-defeating. In conceding the 1996 election, I remarked that ‘tomorrow will be the first time in my life I don’t have anything to do.’ I was wrong. Seventy-two hours after conceding the election, I was swapping wisecracks with David Letterman on his late-night show,’ Dole wrote in The Washington Post in 2012.
Dole was then a spokesman for Visa, Dunkin’ Donuts and Viagra, worked at law firm and as a lobbyist as well as founded the Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas. He also continued to work on behalf of veterans.
In 1997, Clinton awarded Dole the Presidential Medal Freedom.
‘At every stage of my life, I’ve been a witness to the greatness of this country,’ Dole said at the ceremony. ‘I have seen this nation overcome Depression and segregation and communism, turning back mortal threats to human freedom. And I have stood in awe of American courage and decency, a virtue so rare in history and so common in this precious place.’
‘For a long time after my loss to Bill Clinton in 1996, I would lie awake nights wondering what I could have done to change the outcome,’ Dole wrote in The Washington Post in 2012. ‘Did we rely too much on the Republican base, letting cultural issues define us in a harsh light and driving away independents and suburban voters?’ After the election, Dole was a spokesman for Visa, Dunkin’ Donuts and Viagra. Above, Dole at an ASPCA’s Fourth Annual Paws for Celebration pet adoption event in June 2015