Saturday, September 28, 2013

Tar Heel Nation: Elizabeth Dole

Elizabeth Hanford Dole (b. 1936) has been a public servant for most of her life. She is a good exemplar of North Carolina, which has for a long time been a fairly moderate state politically (except for today's Tea Party Republicans, and serious fans of Jesse Helms), about half and half. It went Democratic in the presidential elections of 1960, 1964, 1976 and 2008, for instance.  

Born in Salisbury -- about fifty miles down the road from Greensboro, a city of groundbreaking civil rights fame -- Elizabeth Hanford attended and graduated from Duke University in Durham in 1958, just two years before the Greensboro sit-ins. Duke's East Campus was still "the women's college" at the time. Afterwards, she briefly taught high school history in Massachusetts before heading to Harvard for a master's degree in 1960, at which time she also supported the JFK-LBJ ticket as a Democrat.
Hanford next worked in government in Washington, D.C., then went back to Harvard for law school, earning a J.D. in 1965. In her entering class, there were only 24 women in a class of 550. 

Next, on to join the LBJ administration and the Great Society back in Washington.
In 1968, barely three months after the Tet Offensive, in the midst of the highly controversial war in Vietnam, Hanford switched from Democrat to Independent. She stayed on with the outgoing LBJ administration and was then taken up by the Richard M. Nixon Administration, working in consumer affairs until being picked to serve on the Federal Trade Commission. She married Kansas Republican Senator Bob Dole (b. 1923) in 1975, assuming his last name. Just previously, she had switched from Independent to Republican. 
Elizabeth Dole and Bob Dole became, like Bill and Hillary Clinton, a formidable team. In the 1980s, Elizabeth served first as Secretary of Transportation and next as Secretary of Labor. Then she stepped out of government to become President of the American Red Cross in 1991, the first woman to head the organization since Clara Barton.  

Both Doles have had presidential aspirations. Bob first ran as VP candidate in 1976 with Gerald Ford against Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale. He ran against George H. W. Bush in 1988 (losing in the primaries) and then against Bill Clinton in 1996 (losing in the general election). That was it for him. But Elizabeth Dole ran against George W. Bush in 2000, also losing in the primaries. Then, in the wake of North Carolina Republican Senator Jesse Helms' retirement, she ran and won his seat, serving from 2003 until early 2009. After an unfortunate attempt to smear her Democratic opponent (Kay Hagan of Greensboro) using religion as a weapon, she lost her seat in the 2008 election. Hagan remains standing senator. Good fifty year work arc, though, I'd say. 

Today's Rune: Signals.  


the walking man said...

Wasn't she also the first head of a non profit to make more than half a million a year?

I voted for her in the republican primary.

Charles Gramlich said...

Now I could have voted for her.