WASHINGTON – Congressional leaders announced Monday that the late Sen. Bob Dole, who passed away on Sunday, will lie in state in the U.S. Capitol on Thursday – a building he worked in for over 30 years representing Kansas in both chambers of Congress.
Dole was a decorated World War II veteran and Kansas Republican lawmaker who, until 2018, held the record as the Senate’s longest-serving Republican leader, a post he held for nearly 11 years.
In February, Dole announced he had lung cancer. He died in his sleep, according to an announcement from the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. He was 98.
“Senator Dole exemplified the greatest generation, and while I never had the pleasure of serving in the Senate with him, his reputation and his achievements, and most of all his character preceded him,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “I always admired his steadfast advocacy for veterans and for Americans with disabilities and his love for his country.”
Dole returned from the battlefield with grievous injuries that required years of rehabilitation and cost him the use of his right arm and hand for the rest of his life. For his service, Dole was awarded two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star, which is given to those who displayed heroic efforts in war.
He is also known for pushing to make Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a national holiday, and passing the Americans with Disabilities Act and “Megan’s Law,” which protects children from convicted sex offenders.
The tradition of using the Capitol Rotunda to pay tribute to distinguished Americans began in 1852. Lying in state is a rare honor bestowed on only 34 people in 169 years, according to the Office of the Historian.
A formal ceremony will be held in the Capitol Rotunda on Thursday, Schumer’s office announced. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ceremony will be open to only invited guests.
The last person to lie in state at the Capitol was former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September of 2020. Others have included U.S. presidents dating to Abraham Lincoln, vice presidents, members of Congress, military leaders; and unknown soldiers from World Wars I and II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
Dole was known as being a powerhouse of the Republican party in his more than three decades of political service as a House member and Senator. In 1971, he was the party’s national chairman, and his power culminated in 1996, as the GOP presidential nominee in an election lost to Democrat Bill Clinton.
“Whatever their politics, anyone who saw Bob Dole in action had to admire his character and his profound patriotism,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said.A bright light of patriotic good cheer burned all the way from Bob’s teenage combat heroics through his whole career in Washington and through the years since. We look forward to honoring his life and legacy at the Capitol.”
Speaking to USA TODAY’s Susan Page in July, Dole emphasized he was worried about the country’s polarization.
“I don’t like to second-guess, but I do believe we’ve lost something,” he said. “I can’t get my hand on it, but we’re just not quite where we should be, as the greatest democracy in the world. And I don’t know how you correct it, but I keep hoping that there will be a change in my lifetime.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., wrote that “Dole was an extraordinary patriot, who devoted his entire life to serving our nation with dignity and integrity.”
“From the Well of the House to the Floor of the Senate, as a presidential candidate and as an elder statesman, he was one of the foremost advocates for our Servicemembers, veterans and military families,” Pelosi’s statement read. “May it be a comfort to his loving wife, his dear daughter and all his loved ones that a grateful nation joins them in mourning during this sad time.”
Contributing: Kathy Kiely, Susan Page, Richard Wolf, Jordan Mendoza