CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Former longtime West Virginia Congressman and Secretary of State Ken Hechler died at home Saturday at the age of 102, according to friends and various social media reports.
See also: Tributes pour in for Ken Hechler.
Hechler, a native of New York, served nine terms in Congress from 1959 to 1977. The Democrat began his congressional career after teaching one semester at Marshall. He had grown fond of the Huntington campus while traveling with President Harry Truman. Hechler had served in several positions in the Truman administration.
Hechler was a veteran of World War II and served as a combat historian in the Army. He wrote several books including “The Bridge at Remagen.” He had been an eyewitness to that battle in Germany.
Hechler, who marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1965 at Selma, Alabama, decided not to file for reelection to Congress in 1976, but instead he sought the Democratic Party’s nomination for governor. He was defeated by a fellow transplant from New York, Jay Rockefeller. He ran for Secretary of State in 1984 and held the position for four terms.
Hechler wasn’t done in making his voice heard. He ran unsuccessfully for Congress a few times following his four-terms as Secretary of State and he was also an outspoken critic of mountaintop removal mining. He claimed he was kicked by a politician in Logan County during a march in the months before fellow Democrat Bob Wise was elected governor in 2000. Hechler showed up in the lower rotunda of the state Capitol at Wise’s first news conference after the election. Wise had appointed the politician to a position in his administration. Hechler’s protest sign read “Kick me and get a job with Bob Wise.”
Hechler was known for his love for tennis and driving his little red Jeep, of which he had many, on the campaign trail. He married Carol Kitzmiller in 2013. She made several appearances on MetroNews “Talkline” the last few years reporting on Hechler’s health and activities. The couple lived in Slanesville in the Eastern Panhandle.