John Melcher, b. 1924

Hide Profile

John Melcher was born in Sioux City, Iowa, on September 6, 1924. He lived in Dubuque and Ashton, Iowa, before residing on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and graduating from high school at Oelrichs, South Dakota. He attended the University of Minnesota before 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.

He received his doctorate in veterinary medicine in 1950 from Iowa State University and established the Yellowstone Veterinary Clinic in Forsyth, Montana, that same year. He practiced there until 1969.

Melcher began his public service as an alderman on the Forsyth City Council and subsequently was elected Mayor of the town three times. In 1960, he was elected state representative for Rosebud County, followed by election to the Montana Senate in 1962 for a four year term. He was again elected to the Montana House in 1968.

In 1969, Melcher was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives by winning a special election to fill the vacancy created when incumbent James F. Battin resigned to accept an appointment to the federal bench. Melcher was elected to the three succeeding Congresses and served from June 24, 1969, to January 3, 1977. In the fall of 1976 the people of Montana elected him to fill the seat in the U. S. Senate vacated by Michael Mansfield. He was defeated for a third term in the Senate in 1988 by Conrad Burns.

In both the House and the Senate, Melcher was noted for his interest in agriculture, protection of public lands, notably Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands, and animal welfare and animal health protections. He was a strong cosponsor and advocatate of the coal strip mining bill (Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act), which was vetoed twice before being passed in 1977. In 1984 he contributed to the Animal Welfare Act with an amendment requiring consideration of the psychological well being of primates used in medical research.

Melcher was a supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment and affirmative action. He was an active advocate of the Food for Peace program, nutrition programs, food safety, and animal health research. He served on the Agriculture and the Interior committees of the House, and on the Agriculture, Energy, and Natural Resources committees of the Senate. He was the chairman of the Special Committee on Aging and the Indian Affairs Committee.

John Melcher and Ruth Klein were married in Oakland, California, in 1945. They had six children: David, who died at the age of six of Reyes Syndrome, Teresa, Joan, Mary, Robert and John.

From the guide to the John Melcher Papers, 1969-1988, (University of Montana--Missoula Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library Archives and Special Collections)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf John Melcher Papers, 1969-1988 University of Montana--Missoula Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library Archives and Special Collections
Role Title Holding Repository
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Agriculture and state


Birth 1924

Related Descriptions


Ark ID: w67b6pzj

SNAC ID: 6555585