Bill Roy dies at 88

5/27/2014

By Steve Kraske

By Steve Kraske

The Kansas City Star

(MCT) — Former Kansas Congressman Bill Roy has died.

The Democrat from Topeka who served two terms in the U.S. House in the early 1970s was 88. He had been ill for several months.

Roy also wrote a weekly newspaper column for the Topeka Capital-Journal. But he'll be remembered most for his narrow loss in the 1974 U.S. Senate race against Republican Bob Dole.

Dole won the race by a scant 13,532 votes out of 794,434. A Dole defeat would have re-routed, and perhaps ended, a storied political careers in Kansas history.

Dole, who at 90 is in the midst of a series of tours of his old home state, was picked for the vice presidency two years later by President Gerald Ford. That selection sparked Dole to run three times for the White House in 1980, 1988 and 1996.

The nomination for vice president at the 1976 GOP convention in Kansas City, almost certainly wouldn't have happened if Roy had won the 1974 race, which, coming just weeks after President Richard Nixon had resigned the presidency over Watergate, was especially difficult for Republicans nationwide.

Roy, a doctor, struggled to be as aggressive as he needed to be. Afterward, he said, "Bob Dole wanted it more than I did."

Still, the race was thought to be close until the final weekend when Right-to Life members placed 50,000 fliers on car windshields, containing graphic pictures of dead fetuses along with denunciations of Roy, who thought the procedure warranted in some circumstances.

The fliers urged voters to back Dole, who insisted he had nothing to do with the lit drop.

Dole said the race gave him a jolt that brought him back to earth.

He said something else, too.

"I've told Bill Roy to his face that he made me a better senator."

Roy ran for Senate again in 1978 against Republican Nancy Kassebaum, but lost that bid, too.

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