Bob Dole, WWII hero and former US Senate majority leader, dead at 98

TOPEKA, Kan. — Longtime U.S. lawmaker Bob Dole, a World War II hero who became a juggernaut in the Republican Party, has died at the age of 98.

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Dole’s death was confirmed Sunday by both the Elizabeth Dole Foundation and his family in separate statements.

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The sharp-tongued statesman announced in February 2021 that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, following a 36-year political career that shaped tax and foreign policies, bolstered farm and nutrition programs and introduced the field-leveling Americans with Disabilities Act.

Meanwhile, Dole’s 25-year Senate tenure made him his party’s longest-serving leader until Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell surpassed that record in June 2018, The New York Times reported.

In addition to his ADA success, Dole was most proud of helping to rescue Social Security in 1983, and of mustering a majority of reluctant Republicans to support President Bill Clinton’s unpopular plan to send American troops to Bosnia in 1995, the newspaper reported.

A Russell, Kansas native, Dole dedicated his later years to helping wounded military veterans, especially those of the Greatest Generation who served during World War II.

According to the Times, World War II actually directed Dole’s political future because he returned from serving in Italy in a full body cast and nearly paralyzed, dashing his former hopes of pursuing a surgical career.

Meanwhile, thousands of former soldiers gathered on the National Mall in 2004 for what Dole “our final reunion” as he dedicated the World War II Memorial there, the AP reported.

“Our ranks have dwindled,” he said then. “Yet if we gather in the twilight it is brightened by the knowledge that we have kept faith with our comrades.”

The former Senate majority leader mounted three unsuccessful bids for president, losing most recently when President Bill Clinton was reelected in 1996. He also sought the Republican party’s nomination in both 1980 and 1988, and was the 1976 GOP vice presidential candidate on the losing ticket with President Gerald Ford, NBC News reported.

According to the Times, Dole was named national Republican chairman under President Richard M. Nixon in the early 1970s; chairman of the Senate Finance Committee during Ronald Reagan’s presidency in the 1980s; and presidential standard-bearer during Newt Gingrich’s “revolution” of the mid-1990s, “when the Republicans captured the House for the first time in 40 years and upended the power dynamic on Capitol Hill.”

--The Associated Press contributed to this report.