W.Va. Congressman, Secretary of State Ken Hechler Dies at 102


Ken Hechler, longtime West Virginia Congressman, Secretary of State, WWII veteran and author of “The Bridge at Remagen,” has died. He was 102.

Hechler served in Congress from 1959 to 1977 and became an advocate for coal mine health and safety, and environmental protection.


West Virginia Public Broadcasting filmmakers Chip Hitchcock and Russ Barbour produced a documentary on Hechler’s life and work. The 2008 film, “Ken Hechler: In Pursuit of Justice,” can be watched below.


Hechler served as a combat historian during World War II 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 played a key role in passing the federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act.


He also 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.



Credit Mark Webb / AP Photo
AP Photo
Former West Virginia congressman and secretary of state Ken Hechler discusses life experiences before watching an advance screening of the new documentary about his career in public office at the Marshall University Drinko Library on Thusday, April 3, 2008, in Huntington, W.Va.

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 mountaintop removal mining.


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