Bob Dole, the former Senate majority leader, war hero, and 1996 Republican presidential nominee, has died at the age of 98.
Dole announced in mid-February that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. He had begun treatment for the disease.
The Elizabeth Dole Foundation announced his death Sunday on Twitter.
It is with heavy hearts we announce that Senator Robert Joseph Dole died early this morning in his sleep. At his death, at age 98, he had served the United States of America faithfully for 79 years. More information coming soon. #RememberingBobDole pic.twitter.com/57NtGfqtmL— Elizabeth Dole Foundation (@DoleFoundation) December 5, 2021
Dole's political resume spanned nearly five decades and included multiple presidential bids, one for vice president, and multiple stints as Senate majority leader. He ran for president in 1980 and 1988 after being President Gerald Ford's vice presidential running mate in 1976. He was the first person to be nominated for both the presidency and vice presidency by one of the major political parties without winning either one.
Dole was Senate majority leader twice, sandwiched around eight years as minority leader. In the Senate minority, he helped defeat President Bill Clinton’s healthcare plan, which had been crafted by then-first lady Hillary Clinton. His 27-year Senate career, during which he also served as chairman of the Republican National Committee, came after four terms in the House of Representatives, where he represented Kansas starting in 1961. He received the Distinguished Service Award from the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress.
Dole, who enlisted in the Army in 1942 during World War II, was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and two Purple Hearts for an injury in the war that permanently damaged both of his arms. In 2019, Congress voted to promote him to honorary colonel for his actions during the war.
In his autobiography, One Soldier’s Story: A Memoir, he said, “What we dedicate today is not a memorial to war, rather it’s a tribute to the physical and moral courage that makes heroes out of farm and city boys and that inspires Americans in every generation to lay down their lives for people they will never meet.”
Growing up in Russell, Kansas, Dole attended Kansas University and was known as an athletic all-star. He transferred to the University of Arizona and finished his education at Washburn University with both an undergraduate and a law degree.
First elected to state legislature in 1950, Dole was regarded as a fairly moderate conservative. He advocated and spoke for men’s health issues, hospice care, and people with disabilities. He was also passionate about veterans, hunger, and nutrition and agriculture.
“In the end, what gets people through a physical or emotional crisis is not new technology or medication,” Dole wrote. “These things help, of course. But it's faith that gives you the strength to endure — faith that won't allow you to give up; faith that manifests itself in a ferocious determination to take the next step — the one that everyone says is impossible.”
"Dole's legacy of valor in combat and lifelong career of selfless service to the nation represent the highest ideals and values of the Army as well as the Greatest Generation," said Army chief of staff Gen. Mark Milley, honoring Dole at his honorary promotion ceremony.
Then-Army Secretary Mark Esper has said there are “few Americans who have compiled such a record of leadership and achievement in both war and peace as has Sen. Bob Dole."
Dole is survived by his wife, former Sen. Elizabeth Dole, who served as transportation and later labor secretary, and his daughter from his first marriage to Phyllis Holden, Robin.
In a 2019 interview, the couple said they had never had a serious argument during their 43-year marriage.
“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 said. “And I loved the fact that he had such a great sense of humor.”
— Mike Brest contributed to this report.