A timeline of Bob Dole's life: War hero, Republican leader, presidential candidate

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  • Bob Dole
    Bob Dole
    American politician

Bob Dole was a war hero, unsuccessful presidential candidate and one of the longest-serving Republican leader in the U.S. Senate. He died Dec. 5 at age 98.

Here are some key moments in Dole’s life:

July 22, 1923: Born in Russell, Kansas.

May 26, 1941: Graduated Russell High School in Kansas.

Dec. 15, 1942: Enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve.

June 1, 1943: Called into active duty and sent to boot camp in Texas.

Nov. 18, 1944: Commissioned as a second lieutenant in U.S. Army and started entered active duty at Fort Benning, Georgia.

1944: Began term as a pool officer in the 24th Replacement Depot in Italy

1945: Entered the 85th Mountain Regiment, 10th Mountain Division

March 1945: Wounded in battle in Italy and awarded Purple Heart.

April 14, 1945: Severely injured in combat in the mountains of Italy trying to protect his troops from enemy fire. He was hit in his upper right back and his right arm was badly injured. Awarded a second Purple Heart.

May 18, 1945: Awarded a Bronze Star.

Bob Dole in M-1 Steel Helmet during his service in WWII in 1942.
Bob Dole in M-1 Steel Helmet during his service in WWII in 1942.

1945-48: Hospitalized for battle wounds and went through extensive rehabilitation. Dole’s right arm was paralyzed. He would later carry a pen in his right hand as a signal that he could not shake hands with that arm.

June 12, 1948: Married Phyllis Holden.

1948: Received a GI loan and attended the University of Arizona.

1949: Entered Topeka’s Washburn Municipal College.

November 1951:Elected to the Kansas State Legislature.

June 1, 1952: Graduated Washburn Municipal College in Topeka with a joint undergraduate degree in history and a graduate degree in law.

November 1952: Elected as Russell County Attorney and served eight years.

Oct. 18, 1954: Daughter, Robin, was born.

Appreciation: A belief in hard work, an aversion to big talk and Kansas roots he never lost: Bob Dole's abiding legacy

November 1960: Elected to U.S. House of Representatives and served eight years.

1962: Helped create the modern public school lunch program by supporting a bill to cut the price of lunches for students in low-income communities

1964: Voted for the Civil Rights Act

1965: Voted for the Voting Rights Act

1967: Voted for the Age Discrimination Act, prohibiting discriminatory hiring and firing practices on the basis of age

Oct 22, 1964: Richard Nixon and Bob Dole
Oct 22, 1964: Richard Nixon and Bob Dole

November 1968: Elected to the U.S. Senate.

April 14, 1969: Made his first U.S. Senate floor speech and introduced his first bill in the U.S. Senate — to provide housing for the disabled. It is the 24th anniversary of Dole being severely wounded during World War II.

1971: Co-sponsored a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution.

1971-73: Served as chairman of the Republican National Committee.

1972: Divorced Phyllis Holden.

1974: Introduced his first campaign finance reform measure. Introduced a successful bill that prohibited Members of Congress from using the “franking” privilege to solicit money

Dec. 6, 1975: Married his second wife, Mary Elizabeth Alexander Hanford, better also known as Liddy.

A final interview: At 98 and facing cancer, Bob Dole reckons with legacy of Trump and ponders future of GOP

Senator Walter Mondale, D-Minn., left, speaks as Senator Robert Dole, R-Kan., listens during the Vice Presidential debate in Houston, Texas, Oct. 15, 1976. The debate was televised.
Senator Walter Mondale, D-Minn., left, speaks as Senator Robert Dole, R-Kan., listens during the Vice Presidential debate in Houston, Texas, Oct. 15, 1976. The debate was televised.

1976: Selected as President Gerald Ford’s vice presidential running mate.

1977: Began a nine-year push for the line-item veto (passed in 1996)

1977: Republican author of the Food Stamp Act, which sought to help low-income Americans affordably afford to feed their families.

1979: Proposed welfare reform measure to transfer power to the states

1980: Unsuccessfully sought the GOP nomination for president.

1981: As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Dole introduced and shepherded the enactment of President Ronald Reagan’s Economic Recovery Tax Act, the largest tax cut in American U.S. history.

1983: Elizabeth Dole named Reagan’s secretary of Transportation

April 20, 1983: Reagan signed into law bipartisan legislation crafted by Dole and Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan that saved Social Security from insolvency.

November 1983: Reagan signed into law legislation that made Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a national holiday. The measure was shepherded on the Senate floor by Dole, who helped it get a veto-proof 78 votes.

1984: Elizabeth gave Bob a miniature schnauzer from the Humane Society named “Leader”

1985: Elected as U.S. Senate majority leader.

1986: Instrumental in passing Tax Reform Act, which cut taxes by $122 billion

1987: Elected as U.S. Senate minority leader.

Nov. 10, 1987: Bob Dole and his wife, Elizabeth Dole, worked their way through a crowd of about 2,000 at the Russell Veterans of Foreign Wars post Sunday night during a pre-announcement party. The party ended a day of church services and visits with friends of Dole's hometown.
Nov. 10, 1987: Bob Dole and his wife, Elizabeth Dole, worked their way through a crowd of about 2,000 at the Russell Veterans of Foreign Wars post Sunday night during a pre-announcement party. The party ended a day of church services and visits with friends of Dole's hometown.

1988: Won the Iowa Republican nominating caucuses for president but then dropped out of the race for the GOP presidential nomination after losing several Southern states to George H.W. Bush. In an interview with NBC’s Tom Brokaw before the New Hampshire primary, Dole said of Bush: “Stop lying about my record” in response to a Bush campaign commercial about Dole’s position on taxes.

1989: Elizabeth Dole named secretary of Labor

July 26, 1990: Bush signed into law the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act, which Dole championed in the Senate and helped bring to passage.

1991: Elizabeth Dole became president of the American Red Cross

1991: Introduced the Women’s Equal Opportunity Act

1993: Sponsored the Comprehensive Campaign Finance Reform Act. Led opposition to Clinton’s $26 billion tax increase on Social Security benefits. Sponsored the Sexual Assault Prevention Act

1994: Introduced a health care reform bill that used a free-market approach to health care reform by focusing on insurance reform and offering subsidies to help low-income Americans buy health insurance. The plan included no taxes, mandates or price controls.

1994: Elected U.S. Senate majority leader.

Jan. 11, 1995: Pushed the Congressional Accountability Act through the Senate, requiring members of Congress to live under the same laws as the American people.

Feb. 21, 1995: Introduced the Snowe-Dole Child Support Enforcement Act designed to improve and expand existing child support enforcement measures

April 10, 1995: Announced his intent to run for president.

July 25, 1995: Pushed the first comprehensive lobbying reform legislation in 45 years through the Senate

July 27, 1995: Introduced the Equal Opportunity Act

Sept. 19, 1995: Led passage of sweeping welfare reform plan that was vetoed by Clinton

Oct. 18, 1995: Authored the “Dole GI Bill”

Dec. 22, 1995: Led welfare reform plan to passage. It was vetoed by Clinton.

Dec. 22, 1995: Became the longest-serving Republican leader in U.S. Senate history. His record would be surpassed by Sen. Mitch McConnell in 2018.

March 27, 1996: Engineered passage of line-item veto in the Senate, enabling future presidents to delete costly pork-barrel spending measures from bills

May 9, 1996: Pushed “Megan’s Law” through the Senate, protecting America’s children from convicted sex offenders

May 15, 1996: Announced resignation from Senate to campaign full-time for the presidency

June 6, 1996: Came within a single vote of passing the Balanced Budget Amendment

June 11, 1996: Resigned from the Senate to campaign full-time for the presidency.

Aug. 15, 1996: Became the GOP nominee for president. Dole was the oldest first-time presidential nominee, at the age of 73 years and one month.

November 1996: Lost presidential election to Bill Clinton. Clinton received 49.2% of the popular vote, Dole won 40.7% and Ross Perot got 8.4%. Clinton won 379 electoral college votes to Dole’s 159.

Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole is being cheered on by supporters during a rally on City Plaza in Murfreesboro, Tenn., Sept. 10, 1996. He called for a smaller, less intrusive federal government.
Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole is being cheered on by supporters during a rally on City Plaza in Murfreesboro, Tenn., Sept. 10, 1996. He called for a smaller, less intrusive federal government.

Jan. 17, 1997: Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his military service and political career by his former rival, political rival, President Bill Clinton.

1999: Helped his wife, Elizabeth, run for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination. She dropped out before any of the primaries because of a lack of fundraising.

June 27, 2001: At age 77, Dole underwent surgery for an abdominal aortic aneurysm at the Cleveland Clinic.

2002: Helped wife Elizabeth get elected to the U.S. Senate from her home state of North Carolina. She lost her 2008 re-election bid to Democrat Kay Hagan.

July 2003: The Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics is dedicated at the University of Kansas, timed to coincide with Dole’s 80th birthday.

May 29, 2004: Spoke at the dedication of the National World War II Memorial, located on the National Mall in Washington. Dole was co-chairman of fundraising and helped garner get more than $197 million in cash and pledges for the project.

(L-R)  U.S. Senator John Warner, former Senator Bob Dole and Senator Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J, visit the new World War II Memorial April 27, 2004 in Washington, DC.
(L-R) U.S. Senator John Warner, former Senator Bob Dole and Senator Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J, visit the new World War II Memorial April 27, 2004 in Washington, DC.

Dec. 14, 2004: Underwent successful hip-replacement surgery at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.

January 2005: Hospitalized for part of the month at Walter Reed Army Medical Center after using a blood thinner for his hip surgery and a fall that caused his right eye and left arm to bleed as well as sharp pain in that arm. causes bleeding in one eye and bleeding and sharp pain in his left, or “good,” arm.

April 12, 2005: Dole’s autobiography, "One Soldier’s Story: A Memoir," is released. In the book, Dole wrote about his World War II experiences and his battle struggle to survive his war injuries.

March 6, 2007: Appointed by President George W. Bush to co-chair a special commission to investigate substandard conditions and other problems at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

July 13, 2009: Doctors performed a skin graft on Dole’s left leg. He had been hospitalized at Walter Reed Army Medical Center for several weeks for an elevated heart rate and sores on his leg.

Feb. 22, 2010: Dole issued a statement that he had been hospitalized for several weeks at Walter Reed for pneumonia after undergoing knee surgery.

Bob and Elizabeth Dole with George H.W. Bush in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Nov. 1, 1996.
Bob and Elizabeth Dole with George H.W. Bush in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Nov. 1, 1996.

Aug. 30, 2010: Visited by President Barack Obama at Walter Reed.

July 19, 2016: Dole is the only former Republican presidential nominee to attend the 2016 GOP convention following his endorsement of candidate Donald Trump.

Sept. 13, 2017: Hospitalized at Walter Reed National Medical Center due to low blood pressure.

Jan. 17, 2018: Received the Congressional Gold Medal, Congress' highest civilian honor, in recognition of his service as a soldier, legislator and statesman.

Dec. 4, 2018: With help from an aide, Dole stood to salute the casket of George H.W. Bush on the floor of the Capitol rotunda, his onetime rival in the 1988 Republican presidential primary.

March, 2019: Lawmakers pass a resolution granting Dole an honorary promotion from the grade of captain to colonel in the U.S. Army.

Feb. 18. 2021: Announced his diagnosis of stage IV lung cancer.

Dec. 5, 2021: Dole dies in his sleep at age 98.

Sources: The Associated Press, CNN, Politico, Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics, Dole-Kemp 1996 presidential campaign, USA TODAY research

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Bob Dole's life: Timeline and campaigns for president

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