John Melcher

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John Melcher (born September 6, 1924) is a former American politician of the Democratic Party who represented Montana as a member of the United States House of Representatives from 1969 to 1977 and as a United States Senator from 1977 until 1989.

John Melcher
John Melcher
United States Senator
from Montana
In office
January 3, 1977 – January 3, 1989
Preceded by Mike Mansfield
Succeeded by Conrad Burns
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Montana's 2nd district
In office
June 24, 1969 – January 3, 1977
Preceded by James Battin
Succeeded by Ron Marlenee
Personal details
Born September 6, 1924 (age 93)
Sioux City, Iowa, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Education University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Iowa State University (BS, DVM)
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Army
Years of service 1943–1945
Unit 76th Infantry Division
Battles/wars World War II

Early life

Melcher was born in Sioux City, Iowa; his paternal grandparents were from Germany.[1] He attended the University of Minnesota before joining the military. He served in the United States Army during World War II, serving with the 76th Infantry Division in Europe during World War II. He was wounded in action in Germany and awarded the Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman's Badge and the Bronze Star.[2]

He graduated from Iowa State University in 1950.

Later he moved to Forsyth, Montana and established a veterinary clinic.

Political career

Melcher became mayor of Forsyth in 1955, serving for three terms. In 1960, he was elected to the Montana House of Representatives for Rosebud County.[2]

In 1962 he was elected to the Montana Senate. He was elected to the United States House of Representatives by special election on June 24, 1969, to fill a vacancy created when the incumbent, Republican James F. Battin, resigned to accept an appointment to the Federal bench. Melcher was re-elected to the three succeeding Congresses and served from June 24, 1969, to January 3, 1977.[3]

In 1976, he was elected to the United States Senate to succeed retiring Democratic Senator Mike Mansfield. Melcher was re-elected in 1982 against Republican Larry R. Williams. A highlight of the latter campaign was the "moo cows for Melcher" ad. Melcher had been targeted by National Conservative Political Action Committee (NCPAC) as potentially vulnerable, and he was subjected to attack ads depicting him as "too liberal for Montana". Melcher's response became a classic of campaign advertising, featuring a shot of an "out-of-stater" carrying a briefcase full of money, followed by a conversation among several cows deploring their intervention in the race.[4]

His campaign for re-election in 1988 was unsuccessful; he was defeated by Republican Conrad Burns.[3]


  1. ^ "United States Census, 1930", FamilySearch, retrieved March 6, 2018
  2. ^ a b Guide to the John Melcher Papers at the University of Montana
  3. ^ a b "John Melcher". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. U.S. Congress. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  4. ^ O'Reilly, Jane (1982-11-15). "No Thunder from the Right". Time. Retrieved 2007-10-02.
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
James Battin
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Montana's 2nd congressional district

Succeeded by
Ron Marlenee
Party political offices
Preceded by
Mike Mansfield
Response to the State of the Union address
Served alongside: Carl Albert, Lloyd Bentsen, Hale Boggs, John Brademas, Frank Church, Thomas Eagleton, Martha Griffiths, Ralph Metcalfe, William Proxmire, Leonor Sullivan
Title next held by
Mike Mansfield
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Montana
(Class 1)

1976, 1982, 1988
Succeeded by
Jack Mudd
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Mike Mansfield
United States Senator (Class 1) from Montana
Served alongside: Lee Metcalf, Paul Hatfield, Max Baucus
Succeeded by
Conrad Burns
Preceded by
James Abourezk
Chair of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee
Succeeded by
William Cohen
Preceded by
John Heinz
Chair of the Senate Aging Committee
Succeeded by
David Pryor

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