Herb Kohl, the 88-year-old Jewish owner of the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team who served as a Democratic Wisconsin senator from 1989 through 2013, died on Dec. 27 at the age of 88.
U.S. President Joe Biden called Kohl “one of the finest people I’ve served with—a kind and principled man of integrity and character.”
Kohl, the child of Russian and Polish Jewish immigrants, went from a bag boy in his father’s market to purchasing the Bucks in 1985 for $18 million, to becoming the only senator to own a professional sports team. He sold the franchise in 2014 for $550 million.
Kohl earned popularity in Wisconsin for buying the team to keep it in Milwaukee and for self-funding his Senate campaigns, calling himself “nobody’s senator but yours.”
Before he became a senator, he served as chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party. As a senator, he also served as chair of the Senate Aging Committee from 2007 to 2013.
He donated widely to philanthropic causes and started an eponymous education foundation.
Biden said that “Herb was living proof of the American Dream” and “as a senator, he always chose work over the limelight and responsibility over ego, serving not for credit but for the common good.”
He praised Kohl for being “unafraid to stand up to the business community that he’d come from, seeking to level the playing field for workers and make our economy more efficient and fair.”
Biden cited gun safety, community policing and juvenile justice programs as issues on which he and Kohl collaborated.
“In all our years of friendship and time spent serving his beloved Wisconsin, Herb’s humility was always an immense source of strength—for him and for all of us blessed to know him,” stated the president. “He embodied the simple truth that we are a great nation because we are a good people.