West Virginia Book Festival

Ken Hechler: 97 years and going strong

Ken Hechler, who turns 97 years old today, is a remarkable man. Born less than three months after the outbreak of World War I. Served in World War II and interviewed defendants, including Hermann Goering, before the Nuremberg trials. Advised Harry S. Truman during his presidency. Spent 18 years in Congress, and 16 years as West Virginia’s secretary of state. Worked the last few years as an environmental activist.

And, lest we forget, author. Hechler was part of the first West Virginia Book Festival back in 2001, serving on a history-writing panel with historian John Alexander Williams and Lon Savage, author of “Thunder in the Mountains” about the West Virginia Mine Wars. He was there in 2006, being interviewed by C-SPAN about his memoir “Working With Truman.”

He was at last year’s festival, and drew more than 100 people to his talk about interviewing Goering and other Nazis before Nuremberg. Transcripts of those interviews have since been collected and published in a more-than-1,100-page behemoth titled “Goering and His Gang.”

Hechler also published “Soldier of the Union,” a collection of his grandfather’s letters from the Civil War, earlier this year. He’s got a booth in the marketplace at this year’s festival, so come see him (and everyone else) next month.

UPDATE: I was reminded that Hechler also came out with another book, “The Fight for Coal Mine Health and Safety.” Gazette reporter Paul Nyden talked to Hechler about the book in June.