Former Sen. Bob Dole awarded nation’s highest civilian honor

In this AP file photo from July 18, 2016, former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole arrives at the Quicken Loans Arena before the evening session of the opening day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas now shares an honor also bestowed on the likes of George Washington, Ulysses S. Grant, Charles Lindbergh and Frank Sinatra.

President Donald Trump on Friday signed a bill awarding Dole the Congressional Gold Medal. Along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, it is the highest civilian honor the nation bestows.

Current U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas praised Dole, saying, “I cannot think of anyone more deserving of our nation’s highest honors than Bob Dole. Bob is a true American hero who has dedicated his life to serving our nation and the great state of Kansas.”

Dole, who is now 94, served in the U.S. Army during World War II and was severely injured during combat in Italy. He returned to Kansas and graduated from the Washburn University School of Law.

He served briefly as county attorney in his native Russell County, and also served in the Kansas House of Representatives. He was elected to the U.S. House in 1960 and served four terms. In 1968, he was elected to the U.S. Senate and served there until 1996. In his final 10 years there, he served as leader of the Republican caucus.

He ran unsuccessfully for the GOP presidential nomination in 1988, losing to then-Vice President George H.W. Bush. Eight years later, he won the nomination and stepped down from the Senate to concentrate on what would be an unsuccessful campaign to unseat then-President Bill Clinton.

Since that campaign, Dole founded the Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas. It opened on July 22, 2003, Dole’s 80th birthday. Among those attending its opening were NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw and former U.S. Sen. George McGovern, a Democrat from South Dakota and a World War II veteran who lost to Richard Nixon in the 1972 presidential race.

Dole and McGovern worked closely together in the 1970s to reform the federal food stamp program.

Clinton, Dole’s former rival, delivered the first Dole Lecture for the institute in 2004. The event drew such a large audience it had to be moved to Allen Fieldhouse.