In Memoriam: Robert Dole, 1923–2021

December 5, 2021

Former U.S. Senator Robert Dole served in Congress for more than three decades. His personal experiences as a veteran who was critically injured during World War II influenced his political work on veterans’ issues and the rights of disabled Americans. 

From 1960 to 1996, Dole served in the House and Senate, rising to the ranks of Senate Majority Leader (1985–87) and Republican Floor Leader (1985–96). “It was always the art of the possible with Bob Dole,” one aide remarked. He is remembered as a senator who worked across party lines to support social services, such as when he helped rescue Social Security from bankruptcy in 1983. He supported critical legislation on disability rights, including the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. A staunch Republican, he briefly chaired the Party’s National Committee (1971–72) and ran as the 1996 Republican presidential nominee.

Dole was the recipient of numerous awards, notably the Presidential Citizens Medal (1989), the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1997), and the Congressional Gold Medal (2018). He received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his military service. As a veteran, he played an instrumental role in raising funds for the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

man wearing a suit seated in a chair facing left
Robert Dole, February 2, 1988, Plymouth, New Hampshire / by Arthur Grace / Gelatin silver print, 1988 / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; Gift from the Trustees of the Corcoran Gallery of Art (Gift of Arthur Grace) The Corcoran Gallery of Art, one of the country’s first private museums, was established in 1869 to promote art and American genius. In 2014 the Works from the Corcoran Collection were distributed to institutions in Washington, D.C.