The Journal Gazette
Sunday, December 05, 2021 1:27 pm

From 1996: Bob Dole in Williams County, Ohio

Dale Emch | The Journal Gazette

This story originally appeared in The Journal Gazette on September 13, 1996:

Some people in the enthusiastic throng that jammed the Williams County Fairgrounds livestock pavilion on Thursday night had to hang precariously onto bleachers just to get a glimpse of Bob Dole.

The rest were hanging onto the Republican presidential nominee's every word.

Dole visited Montpelier on Thursday to walk the ground once farmed by his great-great-grandfather in the mid-1800s.

He also spoke at the Williams County Fair to a crowd of more than 1,000 that cheered as if it were at a rock concert rather than another stop along Dole's campaign trail.

"It's kind of exciting to walk across the land where your forebears have walked,'' Dole told the audience, referring to a stop at the 150-acre farm his great-great-grandfather Michael Dole bought in 1854 and the one his grandfather, Robert G. Dole, lived on as a teen before moving to Kansas with his family.

While sheep bleated and cows mooed outside the pavilion, Dole, standing in front of a wall of hay-bales, told onlookers that farmers are the best people he knows in the United States, a statement that played well in agriculturally dependent Williams County.

Farming generates $56 billion annually in Ohio and accounts for one of every seven jobs, according to the state's Agriculture Department.

Dole also hammered President Clinton, whom he trails by double digits in the polls, on tax issues. Throughout the audience, people waved yellow signs that said ``15%,'' referring to Dole's plan for an across-the-board tax cut.

``We have a plan to give you back more of your money, more of your freedom,'' Dole said. ``We're going to balance the budget and cut taxes at the same time.''

Dole got one of his biggest laughs of the night when he said: ``I want to welcome all my friends and relatives to the Bill Clinton retirement party. And even after his retirement, he'll get the 15 percent tax cut just like everyone else.''

Earlier in the evening, Dole spent about 15 minutes at Lash Cemetery, where his great-great-grandfather is buried. He spent much of the time talking privately with Montpelier native Alan Benjamin, an amateur historian who did the genealogical research that showed Dole's connection to Williams County.

Dole arrived at the cemetery in a motorcade about 15 minutes after a helicopter flew him from Toledo to Montpelier. He placed flowers at the weathered tombstone and braced himself on Benjamin's wheelchair so he could bend over and get a closer look at the inscription.

``I was really nervous about meeting him, but after a very short time he so much put me at ease,'' said Benjamin, a 59-year-old AT&T retiree. ``We just carried on a normal conversation. He's a very down-to-earth person.''

From the small graveyard near the corner of Ohio 15 and 107, Dole walked across the street to greet a small crowd of about 50. He shook hands with most of the people and remarked about the chilly evening.

Among the most pleased in the crowd were Joan Dewire of Edon and Montpelier teen-agers Shane Keller and Jason McCrady, all of whom received special attention from Dole.

Dewire had asked Dole whether she could take a picture of him, but the candidate surprised her when he took the camera from her and said he wanted someone to take a picture of him posing with her and the two boys.

Dewire's camera was out of film, but Dole asked another man in the crowd to allow his camera to be used for the impromptu photo opportunity.

``Who'd of ever thought he would walk across the street to talk to us?'' said Dewire, who was a big enough Dole fan to discreetly bump over a few Clinton-Gore campaign signs across the street from the cemetery.

Dole left the small crowd for a brief visit to his ancestor's farm on County Road 13, near Montpelier, then traveled to the fairgrounds.

Secret Service agents and about 100 officers from the Williams and Fulton county sheriff's offices and the Bryan and Montpelier police departments provided security for Dole's trip.

The Williams County Sheriff's Department said there were no incidents during the evening, except for a man who was angry because his daughter couldn't get into a barn near the pavilion to feed her pig.

Dole retired for the night at the Bryan-Montpelier Holiday Inn and was scheduled to spend the morning at Hill Manufacturing, in Wauseon, Ohio.

Share this article

Email story

Subscribe to our newsletters

* indicates required