Our Opinion: Congressman Ike Skelton’s lasting legacy

During his tenure in Congress, U.S. Rep. Ike Skelton was the acknowledged “go-to guy” on military matters.

Skelton, a Democrat from Lexington who represented a Missouri district in the U.S. House for 34 years, died Monday at age 81.

During his tenure, he eventually was elevated to chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, largely on the basis of his military expertise.

And in Missouri, military facilities — including Whiteman Air Force Base and Fort Leonard Wood — were among beneficiaries of his commitment to a strong national defense.

Although Skelton was a Democrat, he was not an ideologue and was known to align himself with conservative approaches.

In addition, he was an acute listener, he respected his colleagues in public service and he consistently acted as a gentleman — qualities in short supply in today’s Congress.

Born Dec. 20, 1931, Skelton was an attorney who entered public life when he was elected Lafayette County prosecutor in 1956.

After a stint in private law practice with his father, he returned to elective office after being elected in 1970 to the state Senate.

He was elected in 1976 to his first of 17 consecutive terms in the U.S. House. After the 1980 census, his 4th Congressional District was redrawn to include Cole County.

We at the News Tribune Co. had the good fortune to get to know Ike Skelton, as both a tireless public servant and a genuinely kind person.

He was passionate about military history and the need for a strong defense, committed to his constituents and always extremely gracious.

Our district, our state and our nation are better as a result of Ike Skelton’s resolve and service.

Congressman, we salute you.

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