Achieve the Honorable, A Missouri Congressman’s Journey from Warm Springs to Washington
by Ike Skelton
“My name is Ike Skelton, and I am proud to be an American, a Missourian, a Democrat, and a resolute optimist. I’ve believed all my life that challenges are best met not with rancor or rhetoric but with grit and good cheer. . . . As a boy in Lexington, Missouri, I had dreamed of serving my country and seeing the world. Both dreams have come true, although not always in the way I had imagined.”
Growing up during the Great Depression and World War II, Ike Skelton dreamed of joining the military. That dream was shattered when he contracted one of the most dreaded diseases of the era: polio. Far from abandoning hope, Skelton received treatment at Warm Springs, Georgia, overcame his disability and went on to become a college athlete, a celebrated lawyer, a Missouri state senator, and a U.S. congressman. Achieve the Honorable is the deeply personal tale of Ike Skelton’s determined journey from the small town of Lexington, Missouri, to Capitol Hill.
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.
A native of Lexington, Missouri, Ike Skelton served as the U.S. representative of Missouri’s Fourth District from 1977 to 2011 and was the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee from 2007 to 2011. Since then, he has been a partner with the Husch Blackwell law firm, based in Washington, D.C., and Kansas City. Skelton, a member of the Academy of Missouri Squires and an honorary U.S. marine, has received a number of awards, including the U.S. Army’s Distinguished Civilian Service Medal, the U.S. Navy’s Distinguished Public Service Medal, the U.S. Air Force Exceptional Civilian Service Award, and the West Point Sylvanus Thayer Award.
“Ike Skelton is someone who has dedicated his life to protecting America. His proud journey through life is the American story of a patriot. Ike was my friend and classmate in Congress and supported me in every executive position I have held. He was a fighter for our men and women in uniform, for the military, and for a strong and secure America. Ike Skelton, very simply, is a good man and a great American.”
—Leon E. Panetta, former Secretary of Defense
“Ike Skelton’s courage in dealing with the life-changing reality of polio as a teenager, combined with his dedication to public service and his understanding of the Congress and our national defense, come together in a compelling memoir.”
—United States Senator Roy Blunt (MO)
“In this engaging memoir, one of Congress’s most respected and appreciated former members recounts the battles, personal and political, that made for an inspiring life and career. While generous with his praise to his many friends, family, and colleagues, there is no doubt that his success arose from his own indomitable will. His championing of historical study knew few peers, as did his advocacy for the nation’s men and women in uniform. If ever anyone ‘achieved the honorable,’ it is Ike Skelton. He tells his fascinating story with grace, humor, and candor. Read this book to be reminded that above all else, character counts.”
—Richard H. Kohn, Chief of Air Force History for the USAF, 1981–1991
“Achieve the Honorable is a wonderful story of character, courage, and vision. Ike Skelton movingly relates how he overcame polio to help shape the best military in the world.”
—General George W. Casey, Jr., U.S. Army (retired)
The book may be purchased from The State Historical Society of Missouri .
Jacket illustration: Portrait of Chairman Skelton in the Armed Forces Committee Room, Rayburn House Office Building, 2012. Artist: Gavin Glakas.
Book review and image provided by The State Historical Society of Missouri.