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Ken Hechler (1914 - 2016)

AP Photo / Mark Webb

Ken Hechler (1914 - 2016)

Ken Hechler, a former West Virginia congressman and author, died Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016, according to multiple news sources. He was 102.

Hechler was a member of the Democratic Party who represented West Virginia in Congress from 1959 until 1977. He later became the West Virginia secretary of state from 1985 until 2001.

Hechler was a combat historian in the European theater during World War II. He was with the 9th Armored Division when one of its tank forces captured the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen, Germany. He wrote a book about that event called “The Bridge at Remagen,” which was later turned into a movie starring George Segal and Robert Vaughn.

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He was a White House assistant to President Harry Truman and then won his first election to Congress in 1958. Hechler was the only member of Congress to march with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Selma, Alabama. He was the principal author of the Coal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1969, which increased safety standards in coal mines.

Hechler campaigned against mountaintop-removal mining. In 2009, at age 94, he participated in protests at the site of mountaintop-removal mining areas, and he was arrested on a trespassing charge.

At age 98, he married his longtime companion, Carol Kitzmiller.  She survives him.

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