September 20, 1914: Congressman Ken Hechler Born

Sep 20, 2018

Congressman Ken Hechler was born in New York on September 20, 1914—and celebrated his 100th birthday in 2014.

From 1959 to 1977, Hechler served in Congress and became an advocate for coal mine health and safety and environmental protection.
Credit e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

During World War II, he served as a combat historian and earned the bronze star and five battle stars. Afterward, he taught at Princeton University and served on President Harry Truman’s staff.

In 1957, Hechler moved to West Virginia to teach at Marshall College (now University). From 1959 to 1977, he served in Congress and became an advocate for coal mine health and safety and environmental protection. He played key roles in passing the federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act and fought to limit the effects of strip mining and preserve the New River. And he was the only congressman to march with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Alabama.

Hechler lost a race for governor in 1976 and later failed several times to regain his congressional seat. Between 1985 and 2001, he served four terms as West Virginia’s Secretary of State and became a vocal critic of mountatintop removal mining.

Ken Hechler’s book The Bridge at Remagen was made into a popular 1969 movie.

Editor's Note: Heckler died in December 2016 at the age of 102. The audio story was produced six months before his death.