Former Missouri congressman dead at age 81

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(KTVI)-- Former Missouri Congressman Ike Skelton, known as a 'gentleman`s gentleman,' died Monday night at a hospital in Virginia.  He was the second longest serving U.S. Representative in Missouri history and considered a defense expert in Congress.  Lawmakers and at times Presidents relied on his expertise and advice.  He served 17 terms in the U.S. House from Missouri`s 4th district.

U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill called the veteran Democratic lawmaker a person who 'lived the Missouri values of compromise and common sense.'   Former Missouri Governor Bob Holden described Skelton as a 'student of the military and military operations' who had a 'conservative set of values but was not mean spirited about those values.'

St. Louis Democratic Congressman Lacy Clay spoke of Skelton as a mentor.  "His legacy of service and devotion to his constituents and our Armed Forces will never be forgotten," Clay said Tuesday.  Republican Congresswoman Ann Wagner of St. Louis County praised him as a 'tireless defender of Veterans and a man of great integrity.'

He was known as a person who would sit down with any lawmaker no matter their political persuasion.

"All he cared about is what was right for the country," explained his former colleague Illinois Democratic Congressman Jerry Costello who retired from Congress ten months ago.   "He was a strong supporter of the Department of Defense,' said Costello,  'but he didn`t give them a blank check."

Skelton was known for convincing the military to station stealth bombers at Whiteman Air Force Base near Sedalia, MO adding to the size of the base.  Costello described him as 'the go to man ' in the U.S. House of Representatives during his time as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

"Politics didn`t mean anything to him.  Unfortunatelytoday, we have extremist on both sides of the aisle and not enough Ike Skelton`s," said Costello of Belleville.

Skelton lost his bid for an 18th term in 2010 when Republican candidate Vicky Hartzler challenged him.  He was practicing law in Kansas City and Washington D.C. recently and had been appointed to the World War 1 Centennial Commission which is planning celebrations next year marking the 100th anniversary of the  beginning of that war.
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