‘Statesman,’ ‘hero,’ ‘favorite son’: Well wishes pour out after death of Sen. Bob Dole

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi orders flags at the U.S. Capitol be flown at half-staff

By: - December 5, 2021 12:39 pm

An exhibit is pictured Sunday at the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the Unviersity of Kansas in Lawrence. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Reverence for U.S. Sen. Bob Dole’s service as a soldier in World War II, a longtime senator and fixture in Washington, D.C., was evident Sunday morning following the announcement of his death.

In the hours after the Elizabeth Dole Foundation announced Dole, 98, had died following a battle with lung cancer, well wishes poured out from prominent Republican and Democratic lawmakers, journalists and historians. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi ordered the American flags at the U.S. Capitol be flown at half-staff to honor the Kansas icon and giant in the Republican Party. President Joe Biden and Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly also issued orders to lower flags until Dec. 9.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said in a statement that Dole’s longtime service was “rooted in a simple mission: looking out for his neighbors.” He said the Senate, the state of Kansas and the nation were better off from Dole’s service.

“Bob was a steady leader and a legislative master. He unlocked both conservative victories and big bipartisan achievements,” McConnell said. “His Dust Bowl roots fueled a special commitment to vulnerable Americans, and sure enough, Bob’s work on food security, veterans’ issues and the rights of disabled Americans have continued to have an especially lasting impact.”

Statements referred to Dole as a “statesman,” civil servant and “hero.”

“When I think of the greatest generation, I think of Senator Bob Dole — a man who dedicated his life to serving our country,” U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said on Twitter. “Rest In Peace, my friend. Ann and I will be praying for Elizabeth, their family, and loved ones.”

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, who sits in Dole’s old desk on the Senate floor, said on Twitter he was “regularly reminded of his tireless commitment to Kansas values while being, first and foremost, a statesman who treated others with respect and kindness.”

“Sen. Bob Dole will be remembered as a true American hero and an exemplary statesman — a man who chose what was right over what was convenient,” Moran said.

Kelly, a Democrat, said Dole “embodied everything good and decent about Kansas and about America.” She said his work in the Senate on Social Security and championing of the Americans with Disabilities Act had a profound impact on the country.

“Senator Dole’s legacy goes far beyond the walls of Congress,” Kelly said. “He was a larger-than-life presence in our nation’s politics and demonstrated a decency, a humility, and a civility that should serve as a model for those of us in public life.”

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who is running for governor and was endorsed by Dole, and his wife, Jennifer Schmidt, offered their prayers to Dole’s family in a statement.

“America has lost a national hero and Kansas a favorite son,” Schmidt said. “A powerful example of the courage and integrity of the Greatest Generation, Senator Dole dedicated his life — in the military and in elected office — to selfless service to his beloved country and his fellow Americans.”

Former Gov. Jeff Colyer offered his prayers to the Dole family, noting Dole’s service representing western Kansas in the U.S. House of Representatives when Colyer was a child.

“Kansas lost a true statesman today,” Colyer said on Twitter. “Ever since growing up in the Big First and interning in his office, I’ve been inspired by Bob Dole to do more and be better.”

Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson offered his condolences on behalf of the Kansas Senate.

“A great man, he will be forever missed but never forgotten,” Masterson said. “As Kansans, we will always be proud. As Americans, we will always be thankful.”

Dole’s longtime service inspired comments from both Republicans and Democrats alike.

“He was one of the finest leaders I have ever had the fortune of meeting and served his state, country, and the world with great distinction,” said Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas.

Congressional outpour

Congresswoman Sharice Davids, D-Kansas, said she was sorry to hear of Dole’s passing, who she called a “dedicated public servant.”

“My thoughts are with his family and loved ones as our state mourns his loss — though we know his legacy will surely live on, preparing future generations of Kansans to lead,” she said.

U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kansas, said Dole’s “huge heart and ability to work across the aisle” delivered results.

“For him, it was always more than politics, it was about being a positive influence for our nation and the world,” Marshall said in a statement.

He added: “Senator Dole always imparted the best advice to me, which was to ‘always remember where you are from’ and when there is ‘any problem too big, just go listen to the people of Kansas – they will give you the answer.’ He was forever a Kansan who always put service above self and was profoundly dedicated to bettering the lives of all those in our great state.”

Congressman Ron Estes, R-Kansas, called Dole an “American icon, a heartland hero and the epitome of Kansas grit and values.”

“His life has been an inspiration to me and countless individuals around the world, and a number of leaders can point to advice and encouragement they received from this giant in Kansas and U.S. politics,” Estes said n a statement. “His wounds fighting for freedom in World War II only strengthened his character, and his love of this country was fully displayed in his decades of public service that followed.”

Congressman Jake LaTurner, R-Kansas, said Kansas lost “a devoted statesman, a role model and a true American hero.”

“Senator Dole was the very personification of service and never wavered from his passion for a better and stronger America,” LaTurner said in a statement. “Senator Dole will always be an inspiration to me as I serve Kansas, and his legacy will live on forever.”

Dole, born in Russell, was a giant in Kansas politics. He began his service during World War II and suffered combat injuries that limited the mobility of his right arm for the rest of his life. He briefly served in the Kansas House of Representatives before running for Congress and then the U.S. Senate where he served as both minority and majority leader.

In 1976, he served as running mate to President Gerald Ford as he sought a full term after assuming the presidency following the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Ford was defeated by President Jimmy Carter.

And in 1996, Dole won the Republican nomination for president, ultimately losing to President Bill Clinton.

In 2003, the University of Kansas established the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics.

The institute’s director, Audrey Coleman, said Dole “left a tremendous legacy of service and leadership.”

“When I knew him in the last decade of his life, Senator Dole was both a towering figure and a bridge to our nation’s past, who urged Americans to work together for a better future,” Coleman said.

Director emeritus Bill Lacy, who served on several of Dole’s senatorial and presidential campaigns, said he would miss the “great man and dear friend” more than he could say.

“Today, America lost one of her great sons,” Lacy said. “Bob Dole served the people of Kansas and of this country with integrity, honor, and humility. He was involved in virtually every major piece of legislation in the second half of the 20th Century.”

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Allison Kite
Allison Kite

Allison Kite is a data reporter for The Missouri Independent and Kansas Reflector, with a focus on the environment and agriculture. A graduate of the University of Kansas, she’s covered state government in both Topeka and Jefferson City, and most recently was City Hall reporter for The Kansas City Star.