Former Congressman Ike Skelton died Oct. 28. He was 81.

Skelton, a Democrat from Lexington, Mo., served 34 years in Congress, from 1977 to 2011, and became chair of the House Armed Services Committee. His district was predominantly rural but included parts of Eastern Jackson County; at one time, the distirct took in much of eastern Independnece. He lost his seat in Congress in 2010.

Skelton had a great fondness and admiration for Harry Truman, and one of his last public appearances was at the Sept. 7 rededication of what’s now called the Truman Courthouse on the Independence Square. It was a hot afternoon, and most speakers kept their comments fairly short. Skelton went on a little longer, sharing a couple of stories. Here’s one:

It was the night before Election Day in 1976. Congressman Bill Randall was retiring and Skelton, a Democrat, was running against Mayor Richard King, a Republican and mayor of Independence, to replace him.

That’s the year the Truman statue on the east side of the courthouse was dedicated, and on that November night Republicans held a rally near it.

The main speaker was Bob Dole, the Republican U.S. senator from Kansas and running mate that fall of President Gerald Ford. Looking out over the signs held by ralliers, he exhorted his fellow Republicans.

You have to elect Kit Bond as governor, he said. And John Ashcroft as attorney general, he said. And John Danforth to the Senate, ticking off Republicans up and down the ballot.

But Skelton had gotten some of his supporters into the crown with signs of their own.

Dole looked out to the crowd and went on.

“You have to elect Ike Skelton to the House of Representatives.”

“It made my day,” Skelton recalled.

And he won.

“It did the trick,” he said. “I carried Jackson County as well as Independence.”

Years later, Skelton said, he heard Dole comment: Say, there’s Ike Skelton. I helped that guy get elected once.

- Jeff Fox