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Bob Dole

Politician. Republican. Born: July 22, 1923, Russell, Kansas. Served in U.S. House of Representatives, 6th and 1st Districts: January 3, 1961, to January 3, 1969. Served in U.S. Senate: January 3, 1969, to June 11, 1996. Died: December 5, 2021, Washington, D.C.

Bob Dole

Robert Joseph “Bob” Dole was born in Russell in 1923, to Doran Ray and Bina N. (Talbott) Dole. As a boy growing up in western Kansas during the Great Depression, he worked a number of odd jobs. 

Coach Forrest "Phog" Allen went to Russell to recruit Dole to play basketball at the University of Kansas (KU). He began his college career in fall 1941, also competing in football and track at KU. Dole completed three years of college before attending the U.s. Army Officer Candidate School.

As a second lieutenant and member of the 10th Mountain Division, Dole was sent to Italy to serve during World War II. During the spring offensive in April 1945 Dole's right shoulder, collarbone, and arm were shattered by enemy fire. He was initially sent to Winter Army General Hospital (now Colmery-O'Neil Veterans Administration Medical Center) in Topeka, then to an orthopedic specialist in Chicago, and to Percy Jones Army Hospital in Battle Creek, Michigan. He underwent seven surgeries, but unable to regain the use of his right hand, he was forced to rely completely on his left hand. People in Russell contributed to his medical bills after 39 months of hospitalization. Dole was awarded two Purple Hearts and the Bronze Star with an Oak Cluster for military service. 

After the war, Dole married Phyllis Holden in 1948; they had one daughter. Dole attended the University of Arizona from 1948 to 1949; then graduated from Washburn University Law School in Topeka in 1952. After his admission to the Kansas bar, Dole returned to Russell to practice law.

Dole first ran for public office in 1950. Elected to the Kansas House of Representatives, he served a two-year term. He was county attorney in Russell County for eight years. In 1960 Dole was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives from the Sixth Congressional District in northwest Kansas. In 1962 his district was merged with the Fifth District in western Kansas to form the First Congressional District, a huge 60-county area. Dole was re-elected three times.

After eight years in the House, he won election to the U. S. Senate in November 1968. While in the Senate, Dole served as chairman of the Republican National Committee from 1971 until 1973, was the ranking Republican on the Agriculture Committee from 1975 to 1978, and majority leader and chair of the Finance Committee in the 1980s and 1990s.  He became known as an advocate for veterans and the disabled.

He was the G.O.P. nominee for the vice-presidency in 1976, serving as Gerald Ford's running mate.  With the Republican convention in Kansas City, Dole later introduced Ford to his home town of Russell at a political rally on the courthouse lawn. He served as senate majority and senate minority leader in the 1980s and 1990s.  He was an unsuccessful candidate for the presidential nomination in 1988. He resigned his seat in the Senate on June 11, 1996, after capturing his party's presidential nomination.

Dole married Elizabeth Hanford Dole in Washington, D.C., on December 6, 1975. He practiced law in Washington, D.C., and was involved in numerous areas of public service. She served as a U.S. senator from North Carolina, twice as a cabinet secretary, and was president of the American Red Cross.

Bob Dole was the Native Sons and Daughters of Kansas' Distinguished Kansan of the Year in 1976. Dole received the Presidential Citizens Medal in 1989, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1997, and the American Patriot Award in 2004. He was named the Native Sons and Daughters' Kansan of the Year in 2003. The Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics was established in Lawrence in his honor in 2003. Senator Dole died in Washington, D.C., on December 5, 2021. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

View primary sources related to Bob Dole in Kansas Memory.

Inducted into the Kansas Walk of Honor in 2011.

Entry: Dole, Bob

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: April 2011

Date Modified: July 2022

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.