Former US Senator Herb Kohl Dead at 88

By Victor Winston, updated on December 28, 2023

A profound loss has struck the heart of Wisconsin and the nation.

Herb Kohl, a man of many roles - a former U.S. Senator, owner of the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks, and a noted philanthropist - passed away at 88.

Herb Kohl's passing, confirmed by his philanthropic foundation, brings to a close a life rich in public service and private generosity. Kohl's journey began with his graduation from the University of Wisconsin in 1956, followed by an MBA from Harvard in 1958. His early years also included service in the Army Reserve until 1964, laying the groundwork for his future endeavors.

A Life Devoted to Wisconsin

In the 1970s, Kohl took the helm of Kohl's department stores, demonstrating his business acumen. His political journey began as the chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party from 1975 to 1977, a role that marked his early commitment to public service and politics.

1985 marked a turning point for Kohl, not just in business but in the hearts of Milwaukee's basketball fans. He purchased the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks, a move celebrated for keeping the beloved team in its hometown. Kohl's love for Milwaukee was evident in his statement at the time, expressing delight at ensuring the Bucks remained in the city.

Senator Kohl's Notable Contributions

Kohl's political career ascended in 1988 when he was elected to the U.S. Senate. As a Senator, Kohl was particularly focused on Wisconsin's interests, notably dairy policy, and was known for his quiet yet effective approach to legislation.

His wealth, attributed in part to his ownership of the Bucks, never overshadowed his dedication to his role. He famously never accepted a pay raise in the Senate and self-financed his election campaigns, a testament to his commitment to public service over personal gain.

Philanthropy and the lasting impact on Milwaukee

Outside of politics, Kohl's philanthropy had a significant impact on Wisconsin. His generous contributions, often from his personal fortune, supported numerous civic and educational causes. Notable among these was his $25 million donation to the University of Wisconsin, the largest single private donation in the university's history at the time.

In sports, Kohl's legacy includes the Fiserv Forum, the new arena for the Bucks. His $100 million contribution was pivotal in its establishment, demonstrating his unwavering support for the team and the city.

The Milwaukee Bucks, under his ownership, flourished, culminating in an NBA Championship in 2021, a testament to his vision and commitment to the team.

Remembering a Beloved Figure

Giannis Antetokounmpo, a star of the Milwaukee Bucks, reflected on Kohl's impact, acknowledging the deep void his passing leaves in the organization and the city.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver also paid tribute, highlighting Kohl's extraordinary commitment to the Bucks and his visionary role in the development of Fiserv Forum.

More than anything, Herb loved Milwaukee and Wisconsin, where he chose to live out his days. He touched an incalculable number of lives, and those who love him would remark that he is among the most decent people ever to walk the earth.

Legacy of a Dedicated Wisconsinite

Herb Kohl's life was marked by astute business skills, political expertise, and a profound affection for his state. His endeavors, whether as a Senator or in his philanthropic work, consistently aimed to improve the lives of others.

Reflecting on his journey, it becomes evident that Kohl's true legacy lies beyond his physical contributions. It resides in the enduring influence he had on the lives and sentiments of those who knew him and were beneficiaries of his kindness.

  • Herb Kohl, former U.S. Senator and owner of the Milwaukee Bucks, passed away at 88.
  • Kohl's philanthropic efforts significantly impacted Wisconsin's civic and educational spheres.
  • His legacy includes significant contributions to the Milwaukee Bucks and the University of Wisconsin.
  • Kohl was known for his quiet, effective approach in the Senate, especially in dairy policy.
  • He demonstrated a lifelong commitment to Milwaukee, evidenced by his actions to keep the Bucks in the city.

About Victor Winston

Victor is a freelance writer and researcher who focuses on national politics, geopolitics, and economics.

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