Former US Senator, WWII veteran Bob Dole dies at 98

Bob Dole, a World War II veteran and the Republican Party's presidential nominee in 1996, died on Sunday.

 Bob Dole (photo credit: REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE)
Bob Dole
(photo credit: REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE)

Bob Dole, who overcame grievous World War II combat wounds to become a pre-eminent figure in US politics as a longtime Republican senator from Kansas and his party's unsuccessful 1996 presidential nominee, died on Sunday. He was 98.

Dole, known for a wit that ranged from self-deprecating to caustic, died in his sleep, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation said. Dole announced in February that he had been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer and would begin treatment.

"It is with heavy hearts we announce that Senator Robert Joseph Dole died early this morning," the foundation said in a statement on Twitter. "He had served the United States of America faithfully for 79 years."

Dole sought the presidency three times and was the Republican Party's nominee in 1996 but lost to Democratic incumbent Bill Clinton. Dole was his party's vice presidential nominee in 1976 on a ticket headed by incumbent President Gerald Ford but they lost to Democrat Jimmy Carter and his running mate Walter Mondale.

Dole, known for referring to himself in the third person, made a classic American journey from the poverty of the Great Depression of the 1930s, through World War II battlefields to the corridors of power with a stoic Midwestern dignity.

He represented Kansas in Congress for 35 years: 1961 to 1969 in the House of Representatives and 1969 to 1996 in the Senate. Dole helped shepherd Republican President Ronald Reagan's legislative agenda as Senate majority leader in the 1980s and spearheaded important legislation of his own.

 President Bill Clinton pins the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award, on former Senator Bob Dole, January 17, 1997 (credit: REUTERS) President Bill Clinton pins the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award, on former Senator Bob Dole, January 17, 1997 (credit: REUTERS)

Dole, who lost the use of his right arm from a war wound, was an advocate for the disabled and worked to shore up the finances of the Social Security retirement program. Dole was instrumental in passage of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, public accommodations and transportation.

He also was a key figure behind building a memorial honoring Americans who served in World War Two on Washington's National Mall, now a popular tourist stop.