Sunday, July 31, 2016

40 Years Ago This Week, Jerry Litton Died in Plane Crash

The stark headline on the St. Joseph paper said it all – “God willing, what might have been…” Jerry Litton, who had established himself as the 6th District Congressman for the area, had just completed a stunning landslide victory over two better-known opponents in the Democratic Senate Primary the night before. He was on his way to Kansas City to congratulate supporters, when his plane crashed, killing his entire family and everyone aboard. It happened 40 years ago this week.

Litton, unlike most politicians today, was not a professional politician. He had been really big in the FFA and translated it into a farming career, where he built a reputation for trustworthiness and honesty and quality. Finally, he went against the grain in 1972; in a heavily Republican year, he ran for the 6th District, won a hotly-contested primary, and went on to beat Russ Sloan. It was an excellent result in a year that was otherwise bleak for Democrats as their standardbearer, George McGovern, was initially 1000% behind Vice-Presidential nominee Tom Eagleton and then dropped him from the ticket.

Throughout his time in Congress, he protected our privacy, forged alliances on both sides of the aisle, protected Social Security, and farming interests. He would never forget where he came from; when faced with a choice, he would always speak to FFA or other farming groups over groups which would have paid him a lot more to attend.

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