Business aviation groups paid tribute to former Senator and Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole following his passing on December 5 at the age of 98. The lawmaker, who represented Kansas in the U.S. Senate for 28 years and served as the majority and minority leader in the upper chamber for a combined 11 years, was born in Russel, Kansas, in 1923 and played football and basketball for the University of Kansas. However, Dole’s athletic and original ambitions to become a doctor were dashed after he suffered serious combat injuries in Italy while serving in the U.S. Army during World War II that took years for recovery, according to the Washington Post.
He initially served as a local county attorney following World War II before being elected to the U.S. House in 1960 and then the Senate in 1968. Dole, who was married to former Transportation Secretary and Sen. Elizabeth Dole, ended his Senate service in 1996 as he ran for president for his third and final attempt.
Following this time, he became busy consulting, public speaking and held roles chairing or co-chairing the advisory committee for the Veterans Airlift Command, the World War II Memorial Campaign, and a commission to investigate allegations of neglect and other issues at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, among other activities.
"Bob Dole was one of the greats from the greatest generation," said NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen. "He was a leader for our country and a champion for our industry. We will miss this extraordinary statesman."
NBAA noted that during his time in the Senate, he remained a steadfast advocate for the state’s aviation industry, including business aircraft manufacturers. This included playing a key role in shepherding the General Aviation Revitalization Act through the legislative process in 1994, added General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) president and CEO Pete Bunce.
“Senator Bob Dole is a true American hero and will always be regarded as the veterans’ veteran,” Bunce said. “He selflessly served his country for decades—on the battlefield, in the halls of Congress, and at the National World War II Memorial.”
Dole, who in 2018 became only the eighth U.S. Senator to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, also advocated for persons with disabilities. NBAA noted that, last year, Dole became the inaugural chair of the Honor Flight Network, which is dedicated to sending veterans to see the national memorials in Washington, D.C.
Dole further led the World War II veteran delegation attending the Arsenal of Democracy WWII Victory Flyover commemorating the 70th anniversary of V-E Day on May 8, 2015, and followed as honorary co-chairman for the Arsenal of Democracy WWII 75th Commemorative Flyover events.