Herb Kohl, Former United States Senator & Milwaukee Bucks Owner Dies at 88

Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., in front of Hart Senate Office Building, on November 27, 1991
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Herb Kohl passed away at the age of 88 after a brief illness. His nonprofit foundation, Herb Kohl Philanthropies confirmed the news. Kohl was born and raised in Wisconsin to parents who immigrated from Poland and Russia. When Kohl was a child, he was there when the family opened their first supermarket. About 20 years later, the family opened the first Kohl’s department store, and Kohl became president of Kohl’s Corporation in 1970.

Despite being the head of the company, he was often seen bagging groceries while visiting stores around the country. He also reportedly knew almost every employee by their first name and something about them, opting to treat his employees like family.

Sen. Herbert Kohl, D-Wis., listens to Colin Powell at a hearing on the FY04 budget for the State Department and potential military action in Iraq

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In 1988, he decided to run for Senate and served for 24 years after winning reelections in 1994, 2000, and 2006. In addition, he was the longtime owner of the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team. He purchased the team in 1985 to save it from being sold and moved to another city. Due to this, he is a beloved figure in the state. He was best friends with Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig. The two grew up together and remained close for many years due to their love of baseball and their home state.

Chairman Herb Kohl, D-Wis., during the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights hearing on the proposed United-Continental airlines merger

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Though Kohl had little political experience before running for Senate, he certainly had a lot of business experience. When he decided not to seek a fifth term, former President Barack Obama said at the time, “Herb’s invaluable perspective as the long-time head of a family-owned business made him an unwavering voice for working families, small business owners, and seniors.”

Kohl made some incredible donations over the years with The Herb Kohl Educational Foundation, which was founded in 1990, including $25 million to the Kohl Center Arena at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The Foundation also donated over $34 million in grants and scholarships to teachers, students, and schools in his state. He is survived by his siblings as he never married or had children. May he rest in peace.

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