Achieve the Honorable
A Missouri Congressman's Journey from Warm Springs to Washington
Publication Year: 2013
During his years in the U.S. House of Representatives, Skelton became known as a bipartisan negotiator and a champion of the Armed Services. Throughout the decades, he helped steer the nation through its most dangerous challenges, from Communism to terrorism; took a leading role in the reform of the Department of Defense; dedicated himself to fulfilling the interests of his constituents; and eventually rose to become chair of the House Armed Services Committee during such pivotal events as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition to detailing Skelton’s political career and its accompanying challenges and triumphs, Achieve the Honorable provides inside glimpses into the lives of political titans like Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton. Along the way, we are treated to Skelton’s engaging humor and shrewd insight into twentieth- and twenty-first-century U.S. politics.
Published by: Southern Illinois University Press
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...alma mater of Ike Skelton. Courtesy of Wentworth Military Academy...
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The events of thirty-four years in Congress, much less those of a lifetime before and after, would take many volumes to properly tell. What follows are the high-lights, those events and observations that burn brightest in memory. To anyone whose story I did not tell, or who hoped to see a particular subject covered that I left out, I apologize. But stop me sometime and I’ll tell you all about it....
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My life, my work in public office, and indeed whatever success I have enjoyed through the years are attributable to the efforts of many other people. This is also true of this memoir. I want to take this opportunity to particularly acknowledge some people who have been especially important in helping me First and foremost are two of the most important women in my life—my wife, ...
A Wreck in Iraq
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Now, it’s no secret that through the years, congressmen have been found in a number of unusual positions. And that’s true of political positions as well as physical ones. But whether you’re a Republican, Democrat, or neither, and whatever you may think of our country, Washington, or the Congress, I think we can all agree that legislators generally function best with their heads at least ...
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LET ME START with some context. Although everybody knows me as Ike, my full name is Isaac Newton Skelton IV, and yes, I’ve heard about every fall-ing-apple joke there is. The Skeltons can track the family back to 1750, to a John Skelton in what is modern Page County, Virginia. We can’t go back further than that yet—our family genealogist, my cousin Dr. Earl Skelton, notes there ...
A Sound from the Sky
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LExINGTON, MISSOURI, IS home. Nestled atop a bluff along the Missouri River and surrounded by forests and farmland, Lexington is a town of stately homes with a commercial district along Main Street. By most measures, it’s a small town, although I don’t remember it ever lacking in any particular. We had the best of all worlds. If we wanted to do something in a big city, Kansas City was ...
Polio and Warm Springs
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IN MY TEENS, I worked as a line boy at the Lexington Airport, right across the river in Ray County. Vernon Van Camp, the airport manager, was a tough taskmaster, and he seemed determined to teach me how to work hard. I was petrified, and I couldn’t do very much right. One day it was dark and cloudy outside, maybe even raining, and I was to wash three airplanes in the dark, dirt-...
Finishing Third, and Winning
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WHEN I RETURNED from my first visit to Warm Springs in late October 1947, I enrolled as a junior at Lexington High School, with my dreams knocked more than slightly askew by polio. My long-held goal of attending West Point was no longer within reach and I honestly wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so I didn’t focus on much beyond teenaged activities. I was just grateful to ...
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THE LESSON OF quiet determination also came from my greatest hero, my father. He was sturdy in every way: respected as a man, as a lawyer, and as a public servant. Isaac Newton Skelton III could juggle many tasks, and he did them all so well because he brought considerable intellect to bear upon them. But unlike many, he didn’t just rely on talent; no matter how familiar a task or ...
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AFTER MY TWO years of junior college at Wentworth Military Academy, I transferred to my father’s alma mater, the University of Missouri in Columbia. Then, as now, it is a very special place of learning and tradition, producing Arriving as a junior in the fall of 1951, I pledged Sigma Chi, just like my fa-ther. My goal was to be Phi Beta Kappa, and I studied hard and achieved that ...
The Law, Dewey, and Gene
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WHEN I CAMPAIGNED for Lafayette County prosecuting attorney in 1956, I was the youngest person ever to try for the office. I was fortunate to be “Ike’s boy”; my father was very popular, and I was welcome in every home in town. Even the African-Americans in town, who were pretty solidly Republican in gratitude for what President Lincoln had done, went for me in the election....
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ALTHOUGH I’D ONLY won one election so far, politics were becoming a bigger part of my life. I was very nearly nominated for Congress in 1959, while serving as Lafayette County prosecutor. I was all of twenty-eight years old when the incumbent congressman, George Christopher from Butler, Missouri, died in office. The congressional district committee, composed of county Demo-...
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IN THE SPRING of 1962 I was working a part-time job as a special assistant under Tom Eagleton, Missouri’s attorney general, in which I got to brief and argue three cases a year before the Missouri Supreme Court. I had an office in the Supreme Court Building in Jefferson City, and Susie sometimes accompa-nied me down from Lexington, where I still worked with my father in private ...
Gallery of Illustrations #1
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Memorable Courtroom Moments
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IN NOVEMBER 1967, Ronnie Melton, a Virginia resident and recent gradu-ate of William and Mary then attending graduate school at the University of Georgia, drove along Interstate 70 in Missouri. He went into a grocery store in the small town of Emma, ripped the telephone from the wall, and robbed the store of a good deal of money. He sped away and then stopped in Lexington, ...
Back into Politics
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PEOPLE CALL ME a politician. I’ve never thought of myself that way, and it may surprise you to learn that many members of Congress (and people who get elected at all levels of government) don’t consider themselves politicians. We are public servants; our goal is to make government work for our fellow citizens. Engaging in politics—campaigns, elections, and all that—is something ...
Building a More Effective Military
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MY EARLY CONGRESSIONAL service on committees on agriculture and small business served the Fourth District very well. In 1980, when I joined the Armed Services Committee, I was finally in a position to begin fulfilling my childhood dream of assisting in keeping America safe—and benefiting my My seat on the Armed Services Committee came about through the good ...
Missouri and the Military
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...we were working to improve the nation’s defense, I was mindful of how Mis-souri could continue contributing to the effort. My home state is the birthplace or chosen home of famous military heroes, including Mexican War fighter Alexander Doniphan, Union General Ulysses S. Grant, Confederate General Sterling Price, World War I Allied Expeditionary Force commander John J. ...
Into a New World
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ONE OF THE features I cherished in life as an attorney was learning. Lawyers are required to take continuing education to stay current on changes in the law as it evolves. Of course, in Congress, I was part of making those changes happen. But after ten years there, I wanted to update my skills and knowledge to better deal with the issues that came before us. At the same time, democ-...
Gallery of Illustrations #2
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Attack on America
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ON THE MORNING of September 11, 2001, I was having breakfast with my longtime friend the federal judge Ortrie Smith and his wife, Kris, in the members’ dining room along with Jack Pollard, my chief of staff. During our breakfast one of my staff told me that Susie had called with news of an explosion at the World Trade Center, and that an airplane had flown into it. I remembered ...
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IT WASN’T LONG after Susie’s passing that I went to Iraq and was involved in the truck accident described at the beginning of this book. There is an Much of the time, when congressmen travel, the committee staff member responsible for the subject we’re learning about goes along too, both to learn and to provide expert insight. On this trip, a staffer named Miriam Wolf had ...
Tuesday Tsunami of 2010
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I BRIEFLY CONSIDERED not running for an eighteenth term, but with my unfinished work as Armed Services Committee chairman and the ongoing severe conflicts in the Middle East, I did not feel it was time to abandon my efforts to support our troops and our strategy. So I decided to run once again Unquestionably, I knew times were hard for Missourians because I was back ...
One Last Veterans Day Salute
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I WENT OFF to bed on Election Night, tired, a bit sad, but comforted in an-other bit of knowledge that comes with experience: the sun will rise again. It did, of course, and I awoke surrounded by a loving family, and devoted friends started telephoning me before we poured the first cup of post-election coffee on Wednesday morning. I won’t kid you—an election loss means the painful ...
Into the Future
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AS PRESIDENT FRANKLIN Roosevelt said in his undelivered speech of April 13, 1945, the United States has long been established as “a vital factor in international affairs.” This is in large part because we represent and defend the four essential freedoms enumerated by President Roosevelt—freedom of worship, freedom from fear, freedom of speech, and freedom from want. Pres-...
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ON OCTOBER 1uniF640, 2012, a beautiful autumn Thursday in New York, the West Point Corps of Cadets stood at attention on the Plain, the parade ground at West Point. There, accompanied by my family, friends, many former staff, and the West Point faculty, I reviewed the corps as it passed in formation. Then I joined the superintendent, Lieutenant General David H. Huntoon Jr., in inspecting ...
Appendixes - Index
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Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2013
Series Editor Byline: John Smith, Will Wordsworth