Republican Senator & American Legend
Bob Dole was born on July 22, 1923 in Russell, Kansas, the second of four children, to the late Doran R. and Bina Talbott Dole Bob's two sisters, Gloria and Norma Jean still live in Russell. His younger brother, Kenny, passed away a few years ago. The Doles were a modest, hard-working family. Bob Dole's father, Doran Dole, ran a creamery company. During Bob's childhood years, Bob's mother, Bina, sold sewing machines and gave sewing lessons.
The Great Depression hit Kansas hard. In order to provide more for the family, the Doles moved into the basement of their home and rented out the rest of the house As a lad, Bob Dole had various jobs: delivering newspapers, washing cars and delivering handbills. By the age of 12, he was serving sodas at Dawson's Drugstore. In his teenage years, Bob Dole was an athlete. He played end for the Russell football team and also played basketball. Between his parents, grandparents and fellow Russell citizens, Bob Dole developed honesty, respect for the community, and patriotism early in his life.
In 1942, Bob Dole joined the Army's Enlisted Reserve Corps to fight in World War II. He became a second lieutenant in the Army's 10th Mountain Division. By April of 1945, he was fighting the Nazis in the hills of Italy where the action was fast paced. One of the platoon's radio men was hit. Bob Dole crawled out of his foxhole to help him, but it was too late. Suddenly, while trying to assist the downed radio man, Dole was hit by Nazi machine gun fire in the upper right back and his right arm was so damaged that it was unrecognizable. Dole was immediately given morphine by an Army field medic to alleviate the pain, and his forehead was marked with an "M" in his own blood to alert medics. He was not expected to live.
Dole waited nine long hours on the Italian battlefield before he was finally taken to the Fifteenth Evacuation Hospital. After a brief stay in a field Army hospital in Italy, he was transported back to the United States and to Topeka's Winter General Army Hospital, where he continued his painful recovery and endured a kidney operation. Then, he was transferred to Percy Jones Army Medical Center in Michigan, where he survived his second brush with death -- blood clotting. He was a patient in that hospital along with Phillip A. Hart, whose name graces one of the U.S. Senate office buildings, where Bob Dole occupied an office.
Eventually, he returned to Percy Jones Army Medical Hospital for extensive therapy on his rebuilt arm. It took about three years and nine operations for Bob Dole to rehabilitate. He learned to strengthen his injured arm, and also had to learn how to write with his left hand, as the doctors could not rebuild the excessive damage done by the Nazi machine gun fire. Bob Dole was twice decorated for heroic achievement, receiving two Purple Hearts for his injuries, and the Bronze Star Medal for his attempt to assist the downed radio man.
Due to the extensive injuries he suffered while fighting the Nazis in Italy, Bob Dole realized that he would not complete his boyhood dream of becoming a doctor. However, motivated by the strong emotional and finacial support given to him by the people of Russell, he set out to give back to those who helped him by studying law. He earned his law degree from Washburn Municipal University (Kansas) in 1952, in addition to his undergraduate degree from the same institution.
While still in law school, Dole's friend John Woelk, a former Navy pilot and Russell County Attorney, urged Dole to run for the state legislature as a Republican. Dole was elected as Russell's youngest legislator, and served from 1951 to 1953. In June 1952, Dole announced his candidacy as Russell County Attorney and was elected to four terms, serving until 1960.
Having built a distinguished record as County Attorney, Dole decided to run for Congress. With a campaign budget of less than $20,000, and the campaign slogan "Roll with Dole," Bob Dole defeated Keith Seebelius and Phillip Doyle. By a narrow margin of 1 ,000 votes, Dole was elected to the House of Representatives from Kansas' Sixth District.
In a good-natured play on Dole's last name, Sebelius explained his loss in this manner: "It was quite simple. You drowned me in pineapple juice." Upon arrival in the nation's capital, Dole was instantly recognized as a leader by his fellow newly elected Members of Congress, and they elected him President of the Freshman class of 1960. Dole was re-elected to the House of Representatives in 1962, 1964 and 1966.
In 1968, Frank Carlson, the Senator from Kansas for more than 40 years decided to step down. Bob Dole seized the opportunity and jumped into the race for the Senate. Dole won the Republican primary and won the general election in November of 1968 to become the junior Senator for Kansas in November 1968. He was re-elected in 1974, 1980, 1988 and 1992.
Bob Dole's upbringing, his remarkable survival through World War II, and his commitment to public service allowed him to rise to the pinnacle of leadership in the Republican Party. Dole's leadership in the House and the Senate, and his tireless efforts on behalf of the GOP as a whole, made Dole a key asset to the Republican Party.
In 1971, President Nixon, asked him to use his skills and talent as the Chairman of the Republican National Committee. Dole served in that position for two years. Despite the pressures of being RNC Chairman during the early period of the Watergate scandal, Dole was unflappable and served his party and his president faithfully. Dole's cool grace under pressure at the RNC, and his strong record of leadership on Capitol Hill prompted President Gerald Ford in 1976 to pick Bob Dole as his running mate.
Although Ford and Dole lost the presidential election to Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale, Dole's drive for success kept him moving up the ranks of leadership in the Senate.In 1984, when Howard Baker retired from the Senate to join the Reagan White House as Chief of Staff, Bob Dole was elected Senate Majority Leader. In 1986, many of the Senators who were swept into office on the coattails of Reagan's landslide election in 1980, failed to win second terms, and the Democrats regained control of the Senate.
Though bruised by the unfortunate election result, Republican Senators knew that they needed Dole's leadership skills to wage political battle against the newly empowered Democrats. They asked him to continue his leadership of the party in the Senate as the Minority Leader. As Minority Leader of the Senate, Dole served with distinction and protected American families and taxpayers from many of the excesses of the desired big-government programs of the Democrats.
In 1993, newly-elected President Clinton pushed a massive tax hike which passed by only a one vote margin in the House and Senate. Then in 1994, the Clintons' proposed to nationalize the nation's health care system. Dole stood up for American families and taxpayers and demonstrated that he was indeed a true leader for America. The voters were outraged by the excesses of the Clinton Administration and gave the Republican Party control of both the House and Senate for the first time in over 40 years.
Upon recapturing the Senate, Dole's colleagues named him, for the second time in his career, Majority Leader of the Senate. Dole's 12 years as the leader of his party in the Senate set a record, and made him the longest serving Senate leader of the Republican Party since the party's founding in 1854. In addition to his leadership responsibilities in the Senate, Dole served as Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee from 1984-1986, and 1995-1996.