John Melcher, who served 20 years in Congress, died on Thursday at his home in Missoula, Montana. He was 93
His death has been confirmed by his daughter, Joan Melcher.
John Melcher was a World War II combat veteran and also a large-animal veterinarian.
Melcher was one of Montana’s two United States representatives until 1977 when he succeeded Senator Mike Mansfield, the longtime majority leader. With the death of Senator Lee Metcalf in 1978, Melcher became Montana’s senior senator for nearly all of his tenure.
Despite being a member of the Democratic Party, Melcher supported many conservative ideas. Democratic voters often voiced their displeasure with his conservative leanings throughout his tenure.
As a Democrat, Melcher supported affirmative action, organized labor, the preservation of public lands and protections for consumers, food safety, and animal-welfare rights.
He also opposed abortion and supported prayers in public schools.
He strongly defended farm subsidies and was well known as an advocate for agriculture, especially for the wheat farmers and cattle ranchers of Montana.
He also supported bills meant to assist the lives of elderly Americans, such as improving cost-of-living formulas and Social Security benefits.
John David Melcher was born in Sioux City, Iowa on September 6, 1924, to Anthony Melcher and Nell Mentor. His parents divorced when he was 8, and John and his brothers, Robert and James, stayed with relatives when their father went on the road to sell farm pumps.
John went to high school in Oelrichs, South Dakota and rode a horse to school every day until his graduation in 1942.
He attended the University of Minnesota for a year but left to join the Army in World War II. He served with 76th Infantry Division in Europe and took part in the invasion of Normandy in 1944.
He was wounded in Germany in 1945 and was awarded the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, and the Bronze Star.
On his return to the United States in late 1945, he married a former high school classmate Ruth Klein. They had six children.
One of their children, David, died of Reye’s syndrome at 6 years old. Ruth died in 2015.
Melcher is survived by three daughters; Joan, Teresa, and Mary; and two sons; Robert and John; 10 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.