For former lawmaker, life began in New York

[cleeng_content id="989821898" description="Read it now!" price="0.49" t="article"]Ken Hechler, West Virginia’s former Congressman from Huntington and Secretary of State from 1985 to 2001, now resides in Hampshire County. He recently agreed to write a regular column for the Spirit.

SLANESVILLE – I was born Sept. 20, 1914, but I feel more like 29 than I do almost 99. It’s just that I can’t play tennis like I use to or walk as fast.

Ken Hechler, a West Virginia Congressman from 1959 to 1977 and later West Virginia’s Secretary of State, was born in New York in 1914. He is the youngest of three sons.

Ken Hechler, a West Virginia Congressman from 1959 to 1977 and later West Virginia’s Secretary of State, was born in New York in 1914. He is the youngest of three sons.

Let me give you a little background on my family. I was born in the Long Island, N.Y., town of Roslyn which is located about 35 miles east of New York City.

Both my father and mother, Charles H. and Catherine Hauhart Hechler, were born in Missouri. My mother graduated from Central Wesleyan College and taught in the St. Louis County schools.

My father graduated from the University of Missouri majoring in animal husbandry. His academic record was so outstanding that he was asked to teach at the university after his graduation.

He was also made the director of the experimental farm, developing both vegetables and animals and earning a national reputation in these fields.

Meanwhile, an entrepreneur named John Mackay struck it rich in the silver mines of South Dakota, enriching him by $300 million before there were any federal or state taxes.

John Mackay made a wealthy wedding present to his son, Clarence – a 642-acre farm estate which included the highest point on Long Island called Harbor Hill. Clarence Mackay built a costly mansion atop Harbor Hill, designed after the famous Biltmore castle at Asheville, N.C.

Clarence Mackay needed a superintendent to manage the estate, and after a nationwide search, asked my father to come east for the job, at a salary several times as large as he was getting at the University of Missouri. He was also given a rent-free, 15-room house, plus horse and carriage and later an automobile.

This 1960 photo hangs on the wall of Jim’s Steak and Spaghetti in Huntington. Taken by Maurice Kaplan of The Herald-Dispatch, it shows then-presidential candidate John F. Kennedy sitting across from Hechler. Hechler’s amazing career also included working as a White House aid to Harry Truman and marching with Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Ala., in 1965. He also served in World War II and, after the war, he interviewed U.S. and German soldiers to publish “The Bridge at Remagen,” which was made into a 1969 film starring George Segal.

This 1960 photo hangs on the wall of Jim’s Steak and Spaghetti
in Huntington. Taken by Maurice Kaplan of The Herald-Dispatch,
it shows then-presidential candidate John F. Kennedy sitting across from Hechler. Hechler’s amazing career also included working as a White House aid to Harry Truman and marching with Martin Luther King Jr. in
Selma, Ala., in 1965. He also served in World War II and, after the war, he interviewed U.S. and German soldiers to publish “The Bridge at Remagen,” which was made into a 1969 film starring George Segal.

My parents raised three sons: George, born in 1910, Charles Jr., born in 1912, and me, born in 1914.

I’m honored to write a column for the Spirit of Jefferson. Please let me know if I can answer any questions as the weeks go by. My email address is kenhechler@gmail.com.[/cleeng_content]

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