Robert Dole, former Republican senator, presidential candidate and decorated World War II hero, died Sunday, Dec. 5, from lung cancer according to his wife, Elizabeth Dole. Born July 22, 1923 in Russell, Kansas, he died at the age of 98.
Dole distinguished himself as a respected politician, moving from the House to the Senate and eventually rising to the rank of Senate Majority Leader, representing his beloved home state of Kansas for 35 years, from 1961 to 1996.
But he equally exuded a passion for veterans, particularly wounded veterans – a condition which he intimately understood.
As the nation paused on Dec. 7 for the annual observance of National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, Dole’s absence from the National World War II Memorial in the District could not be ignored.
Both his many colleagues and those veterans who attend each year and for whom Dole served as an advocate and friend for decades paused to honor his commitment to his country.
Dole would become known for his inspirational speeches from the floor of the U.S. Senate and keeping his right arm clinched so as to avoid people attempting to shake his hand – an injury he sustained in World War II while serving as a lieutenant in the Army’s 10th Mountain Division.
While his injuries would force him to abandon his dream to become a surgeon, they ultimately led him into a life of public service.
President Joe Biden said in a tweet after his death, “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.”
Senator Mitch McConnell, (R-Ky) said in a statement, Dole’s “lifetime of service was rooted in a simple mission: looking out for his neighbors.”
While Dole served as the standard bearer for Republican ideals he also supported the Civil Rights Act of 1965. Still, during his three failed runs for president, he achieved only lackluster support from the Black community.
Dole gained a reputation as a smart lawmaker and tough negotiator who knew how to work across party lines, securing essential compromises with Democrats on issues which included Social Security reform, the Americans with Disabilities Act and landmark nutrition legislation.
Vice President Kamala Harris said in a tweet, “Senator Bob Dole was a war hero and patriot who devoted his life to service. Today, @SecondGentleman and I are thinking of Sen. Elizabeth Dole and the entire Dole family as we remember the life of a great American.”
“As a veteran, Senator Dole became known for articulating the Republican position on many hot button issues during his years on Capitol Hill. His wife, Elizabeth, developed her unique voice after serving under Presidents Ronald Regan and George Herbert Walker Bush and being elected to the U.S. Senate from North Carolina.”
U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin, one of the nation’s leading African Americans in the upper echelons of the armed forces, said he will remember Dole as a soldier who put his life on the line for his country.
“As a young World War II platoon leader during a spring offensive in Italy, he sustained grievous injuries and almost died while trying to pull his radioman to safety. He never knew what exactly tore into him in April 1945 – a mortar, a shell, shrapnel, or a machine gun,” Austin said in a statement.
“But he battled his way back and never forgot those who helped him including those in his hometown of Russell, Kansas who chipped in to help pay his way to Chicago for an operation. He was a man of uncommon strength, keen wit and deep feeling,” Austin said.
Dole’s body will lie in state in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, Dec. 9. The next day, Friday, a private funeral will be held at the Washington National Cathedral. President Biden will attend and offer words of tribute alongside other former U.S. presidents, congressional leaders and Dole’s family and friends.
After the service, Dole’s casket will pass by the National World War II Memorial – dedicated to American civilians and those who served in the armed forces during World War II – for which Dole helped raise funds for its construction. Tom Hanks, Savannah Guthrie and U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley, the 20th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will speak during a ceremony at the Memorial.
Dole’s body will be returned to his native Kansas for a final tribute and interment.