No. 647



What if you had a personal resume like this? At the ripe, young age, of 93, Ken Hechler is a fascinating writer and a vigorous public speaker. His outstanding public career as a U.S. Congressman from West Virginia for 18 years and as Secretary of State for 16 years, personal aide and speech writer for President Harry Truman, military historian in World War II (including interviewing top Nazi leaders) and as the only Congressman to march with Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Ala., in 1965, have provided Hechler with unique perspectives which add credibility and vivid reality to his writings and speeches. Hechler’s reputation is one of political integrity, adventure and service. Today, when not traveling and speaking, he still teaches political science at Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va.
This past year it was my good fortune to hear Ken speak, meet him, and purchase a copy of his latest book at the Laman Library in North Little Rock, after a friend invited me to attend. Ken has authored four books, including “The Bridge at Remagen -- Illustrated,” “Hero of the Rhine -- The Karl Timmermann Story”, and “Working with Truman -- A Personal Memoir of the White House Years.” The reason Ken was in Arkansas was to promote his latest book “Super Marine! The Sgt. Orland D. ‘Buddy’ Jones Story.” What a fascinating man and I believe you will agree, even more so, after I tell you how this book came about.
It all began back in 1943 when Ken Hechler was riding a bus from Dallas, Texas, to Memphis, Tenn. When the bus stopped in Little Rock, a very attractive redhead got on and became a seatmate of Ken’s. Her name was Helen Lively Jones, and for the next hundred miles or so she could do nothing but talk about her fantastic Marine husband by the name of Buddy. Well, Ken listened until the bus reached Brinkley, where Helen was to meet Buddy and end her journey. Helen had told Ken that Buddy was a Marine Paratrooper and they all hollered “Geronimo” when they jumped out of the plane.
On a pre-arranged signal, Helen told Ken to holler “Geronimo” when she got off the bus and met her waiting husband. He did, and Buddy smiled, but he never actually met him. Now here is one of the things that make Ken so unique, and a quality that few people have. When he got to Memphis, he got a typewriter and typed up pages of notes, things that Helen had told him, about this Super Marine. Ken promptly put the notes or manuscript in a drawer, and forgot them. They stayed in that drawer for more than 60 years until, for some strange reason, Ken got them out, read them again, and decided to write a book about this Super Marine’s life story.
Well, where do you start? After making numerous phone calls and talking with people who may know about the family, he finally got a string that would lead him to all the fantastic information found in the now-published book. Ken came to Arkansas and personally interviewed many members of Buddy’s family. The story of Buddy’s life is a fantastic account that could be representative of the thousands and thousands of young men who gave their lives in the cause of freedom. Buddy died at Iwo Jima. Many members of Buddy’s family were in attendance at the Laman Library that day, and what a special day it was.
I’m not sure how many of these people Ken actually interviewed, or who was in attendance that day, but the list includes Buddy’s widow, his surviving siblings, an aunt by marriage, cousins, nieces and nephews, brother Sam’s children, sister Faye’s children, sister Dena’s children and brother Stan’s children. My only connection is a friend by the name of Margaret Powell, the daughter of Buddy’s sister Dena, who is married to Eddie, a former mayor of North Little Rock. She has been very helpful in getting a “Bookcase for Every Child” project started in this community, for which I shall always be grateful.
Now allow me to turn our attention to the book “Super Marine -- The Sgt. Orland D. ‘Buddy’ Jones Story” and the reason you may want to purchase a copy. I can promise you, having read it, that this is not your typical war story book. Ken’s research was thorough and he goes into vivid detail of Buddy’s early life, the towns in Arkansas where he and his family lived and moved to, the time he spent here in Conway at what was then Arkansas State Teachers College (now the University of Central Arkansas) and the circumstances that led him to becoming a Marine Paratrooper. Then there is the part about how he and Helen were finally married, where they lived and the day he shipped out for the South Pacific.
Not having been there, it is difficult to imagine the horror of those battles that finally led to victory and our freedom. All of Ken’s books can be purchased through
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To support literacy, buy his book: “Learning, Earning & Giving Back.”)