Former press secretary remembers Sen. Bob Dole

Published: Dec. 8, 2021 at 10:24 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Walt Riker first came to know Sen. Bob Dole as a journalist, working for WIBW-TV in Topeka.

He would later come to know him as a boss, traveling to 58 countries and all 50 states with him as his press secretary.

“He had stature. He had gravitas. He had tremendous sense of humor,” Riker told 13 NEWS. “He certainly, on immediate meeting, was formidable in a positive way. You knew you were in the presence of talent and stature.”

Riker spent 13 years with Senator Dole, from 1981 to 1993.

“Behind the scenes, he was like an Olympic athlete. It was a 24/7 job, all-in, working Saturdays and Sundays,” Riker said. “If you couldn’t keep up with him, he didn’t look around to see if you were keeping up.”

Riker said Dole had a tremendous understanding of issues from agriculture, finances, and taxes, to defense and foreign affairs. He said Dole earned the respect he received from both sides of the aisle.

“His word was golden. He was sincere,” Riker said. “He would go the extra mile. He’d figure out the right way to get legislation passed.”

Riker said one of the most impressive things he saw was how Dole handled his disability. An injury suffered in World War II left Dole without the use of his right arm, and caused limitations with his left. Riker recalled how Dole taught himself to write left-handed while in law school, calling it a testament to Dole’s determination.

“The thing I was most proud of was being on his team,” Riker said. “I look back and think I was so lucky, I can’t believe it.”

Riker said Dole’s legacy will loom large.

“I consider him to be the last great senator,” Riker said. “When he walked out of Senate, there’s never been another person to take his place on either side of the aisle. His stature, his integrity has never been replaced. He was a born leader. Whether it was in the fox holes of Italy or the halls of Congress, or standing in the well of the Senate, he was a tremendous hall of fame leader we haven’t seen likes of since.”

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