Former Missouri congressman Ike Skelton was remembered Monday as a trusted military expert and an approachable politician by hundreds mourning his death. The crowd at Skelton's funeral Monday in his rural hometown of Lexington included numerous military leaders and elected officials from both Missouri and Washington D.C.
Skelton died a week ago of complications from pneumonia. He was 81. He served in the U.S. House for 34 years before losing re-election in 2010. Skelton was chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, where he earned a reputation as an astute military historian and staunch advocate of the Armed Forces.
Missouri congressman Emanuel Cleaver, a Methodist pastor, delivered the remarks at Skelton's funeral. He described Skelton as "one of the most trusted civilians by the military in this country."
Government flags across Missouri were at half-staff Monday by order of Missouri Governor Jay Nixon. The funeral service was held at Wikoff Hall on the Wentworth campus in Skelton's hometown of Lexington.
Skelton was buried with military rites at the Machpelah Cemetery in Lexington followed by a private family ceremony. During that time a B-2 stealth bomber from Whiteman Air Force Base performed a fly-over. Skelton was largely responsible for the United State's fleet of B-2's being assigned to the Knob Noster, Mo. airbase.
More facts about Ike Skelton:
Full name: Isaac Newton Skelton IV
Family: Following the death of his first wife and mother of his three sons in 2005, Skelton married Patty Martin, a longtime hometown friend in 2009. His son Isaac Newton Skelton V is a Navy Captain.
Military history: Skelton never served in the military despite a strong desire to do so. A bout with polio at the age of 14 permanently crippled his left arm, leaving him ineligible for military service. He did, however, graduate from the Wentworth Military Academy in his hometown of Lexington and went on to become the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee in 2007 during his 17 terms in the United States Congress.
Wounded in Iraq: Ike Skelton was among a group of Congressman who were in a crash of a van near the Baghdad Airport during an official visit in 2005. Skelton and one other Congressman were injured and airlifted to a U.S. Military hospital in Germany where they were treated and recovered.
Political History: As a teenager, Skelton met Harry Truman and attended his 1949 inaugeration. Skelton attributed that meeting to sparking his interest in political life. He also attributed an endorsement from Truman's widow Bess to his winning of his first campaign for Congress in 1976.