CHARLESTON, W.Va. — He says he knows he is fortunate.
“I’ve just been lucky,” said longtime West Virginia Statesman Ken Hechler on Friday’s MetroNews “Talkline,” what was the eve of his 100th birthday. “I’ve been very lucky in the things that I’ve been able to accomplish.”
Born on Sept. 20, 1914, he grew up in Roslyn, N.Y. and went on to graduate from Swarthmore College and Columbia University before joining the U.S. Army in 1942 where he served as a combat historian in Europe until 1946.
From 1949-1953, Hechler was an advisor to President Harry Truman and, later, a research director for Adlai Stevenson, a presidential hopeful, before moving to Huntington to teach political science at Marshall College, now Marshall University.
He represented West Virginia in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1959-1977–marching with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma, Al. in 1965–and served as Secretary of State from 1985 to 2001. He ran again for Secretary of State in 2004 at the age of 90, but lost.
His last political campaign was in 2010 when Hechler ran for U.S. Senate to protest mountaintop removal mining following the death of longtime U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd.
Hechler said he has always worked across political lines. “Even though I am a registered Democrat, I have many friends in the Republican Party and I appreciate their help,” he said.
Over the years, Hechler has written more than ten books. Last year, at the age of 99, Hechler married his longtime partner, Carol. The two, who live in Hampshire County, met decades ago when she enrolled in one of Hechler’s classes.
“I took an immediate liking to her,” Hechler said. “I decided one day to do what everybody thought I would never do which is to ask somebody to be my wife.”
Hechler will mark his birthday with private party this weekend in Romney.
“The secret of longevity is to exercise,” Hechler said. “I always exercised on the tennis court until I had to give that up, but I’ve got a new hip.”