Military leaders and elected officials are gathering with friends and family to mourn former Missouri congressman Ike Skelton.
LEXINGTON, MO (KCTV/AP) -
Military leaders and elected officials gathered with friends and family to mourn former Missouri congressman Ike Skelton.
The crowd at Skelton's funeral Monday in his rural hometown of Lexington was representative of the mark he left both upon the nation's military and the people of Missouri.
Skelton died a week ago of complications from pneumonia. He was 81.
Missouri congressman Emanuel Cleaver, a Methodist pastor, gave the eulogy at Skelton's funeral.
"The gentleman from Lexington, Missouri, served on and eventually chaired the Armed Services Committee," Cleaver said. "He became inarguably one of the most trusted civilians by the military in this country."
After he was stricken with polio as a teen, Skelton was unable to realize his ambition to serve in the military. But he became one of his country's biggest champions for the military.
He is considered responsible for securing for the nation's B-2 bombers to be housed at Whiteman Air Force Base at Knob Noster.
Before Skelton became a 17-term congressman, he was county prosecutor in Lafayette County, as was his father. He then went on to become a Missouri senator before his election to the U.S. House.
Cleaver said Skelton may have been one of the nation's most powerful political leaders, but he never lost touch with his humble, small-town roots.
"He was so approachable that a walk with him through the Capitol would result in stops every few feet," Cleaver said.
Gov. Jay Nixon and U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill were among those at the service.
Jay Nixon ordered flags to be flown at half-staff Monday to honor Skelton, who served in the U.S. House for 34 years before losing a re-election bid in 2010 to Republican Vicky Hartzler in Missouri's 4th Congressional District. After his defeat, he practiced law in Missouri and Washington, D.C.
His career spans from law to becoming a key protector and advocate for the military, making sure those who put on a uniform had the education and support needed.
Skelton served as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee for the later part of his term and was instrumental on securing the nation's fleet of B-2 bombers at Whiteman Air Force Base.
After the service at Wentworth Military Academy and College, Skelton was laid to rest at the family plot in Lexington.
Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) and the Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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