Moving to a different genre for my fourth book, I wrote the biography of long-time congressman Ken Hechler. The Rebel in the Red Jeep (West Virginia University Press, 2017) covers the public servant’s one hundred years: from his birth on a vast Long Island estate through his years in Washington, to his retirement fighting against the destruction of the West Virginia mountains he adopted as home.
This biography recounts a century of accomplishments, from Hechler’s introduction of innovative teaching methods at major universities, to his work as a speechwriter and researcher for President Harry Truman, and finally to his time representing West Virginia in the US House of Representatives and as the secretary of state.
In West Virginia, where he resisted mainstream political ideology, Hechler was the principal architect behind the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 and constantly battled big coal, strip-mining, and fellow politicians alike. He and his signature red jeep remain a fixture in West Virginia. Since 2004, Hechler has campaigned against mountaintop removal mining. He was arrested for trespassing during a protest in 2009 at the age of 94. He died in 2016 at the age of 102.
“A superb biography of a West Virginia icon. Carter Seaton has done a wonderful job capturing the essence of Ken Hechler.”
Jean Edward Smith, author of Bush, Eisenhower in War and Peace, and FDR
“Fascinating new insights into the personal and political aspects of the long career of one of the Mountain State’s most intriguing and maverick political leaders.”
Paul Nyden, retired Charleston Gazette labor reporter
August 3, 2017
I recently read The Rebel on the Red Jeep, a scholarly researched and written story of Ken Hechler’s life in West Virginia Politics. Heckler served front-and-center in the Truman administration as speechwriter and researcher, as a constituent-first Member of the USA House of Representatives (D-WV4) from 1959 to 1977 and a servant-of-the-people West Virginia Secretary of State from 1985 to 2001; he died in 2016 at the age of 102.
What I admire most about Ken Hechler is that he put his constituents above party, resisting mainstream political ideology and battling his party and colleagues, including my father’s good friend John Slack (D-WV6) and fighting Big Coal, strip mining and mountain-top removal mining. He was the principal architect of the 1969 Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act, and he was arrested for trespassing during a MTRM protest in 2009 at age 94.
We could use more Hechler-like Senators and Representatives from both political parties today.
Carter Taylor Seaton did a great job with this book, just as she does with all her literary and artistic projects. If you have not purchased and read The Rebel in the Red Jeep, do so now.
Coming Soon: We Were Legends in our Own Minds
The Memoir of a Civic Center Manager
In the 1970s when tickets to rock concerts cost $7 – $10, Richard Cobb managed an arena that often saw two concerts a week. In his twenty-five year career he worked, and sometimes partied with, groups from Aerosmith to ZZ Top. His stories of their backstage antics, crowd control problems, and his interactions with the top rock legends of our day will make you laugh and may curl your hair.