Senator David Sater’s Capitol Report for the Week of April 24: Remembering Former Sen. Emory Melton

Sater - Capitol Report Banner - 010913 copy

JEFFERSON CITY — Last week, my colleagues and I paused to take time out from the normal course of business in the Missouri Senate to honor former senators who have passed away over the last few years. This was an opportunity to celebrate their lives, legacies and records of public service with their families and loved ones. Among those honored was one of my predecessors in the Missouri Senate from the 29th District, Sen. Emory Melton.

Senator Melton was born in McDowell, in 1923, and was a life-long resident of Barry County. His love of Barry County and southwest Missouri as a whole was evident to anyone who met him. He was a student and writer of history, chronicling the history of his hometown Cassville in his book, “The First 150 Years in Cassville, Missouri,” and was commonly known as the authority on all things related to Barry County history. Senator Melton was no stranger to hard work and perseverance. After graduating from Verona High School, he hitchhiked his way to Columbia, MO, where he enrolled in the Law School at the University of Missouri. While there, he swept floors, worked in the hospital’s kitchen and slept in boiler rooms to make ends meet. Returning to Barry County, he began a career practicing law that would last over six decades until his passing in December 2015. He and his wife Jean were owners of Litho Printers and the Barry County Advertiser, both of which are still in operation today. They also owned the Crane Chronicle/Stone County Republican newspaper and were partners in the Barry County Abstract Company and former owners of the Cassville Republican newspaper.

Perhaps what Sen. Melton is most remembered for is his time serving in the Missouri State Senate. First elected in 1972, his career in the Senate lasted 24 years, until he termed out of office in 1996. Emory was among the Senate’s most revered and beloved members, making friends on both sides of the aisle and gaining both respect for his intellect and fear of his knowledge and ability to debate. Nearly every time Sen. Melton is mentioned in the Capitol, the first thing I hear is “Emory read every one of the bills and knew most of them better than the sponsoring senator did.” I heard stories about his use of humor and story-telling on the Senate floor to make a point or disarm a political opponent. I heard stories about his tireless campaigning across the district (which was a lot bigger back in his day), that he would stay overnight anywhere he could find so he could get up bright and early the next morning and knock on someone’s door and tell them how hard he would work for them in the State Capitol. One of my favorite stories about Emory is one where he was so adamant in talking to every potential voter he could that he once removed his shoes and socks, hiked up his pant legs and waded across a creek to reach a farmer working on the other side. I heard a lot of stories about Emory this past week. Some of them I had heard and some I hadn’t, but all of them had one thing in common: tremendous respect for Emory and his service to this state.

When I first considered running for public office, Emory was one of the first people I went to for advice. His counsel was invaluable and I got the feeling that neither I nor those that came before or that will come after me in the 29th District Senate seat could fully fill his shoes. Even in his twilight years, he would call my office every few weeks to request a copy of a Senate or House bill or to see if a new set of statutes was available or to offer advice about an issue or bill before the Legislature.

During this memorial service, all those senators honored had their names called on the Senate floor one more time. It was my pleasure and great honor to answer for Sen. Melton when his name was called. I am confident this won’t be the last time Emory Melton’s name is mentioned in the halls of the Capitol or in the Barry County Courthouse or on the streets of Cassville or any other town in the 29th District. His legacy lives on and those of who had the privilege of knowing him and learning from him don’t know who lucky we are.

As always, I welcome your ideas, questions and concerns about Missouri government. You may contact me at the State Capitol as follows: (573) 751-1480, by writing to Sen. David Sater, Missouri State Capitol, Room 416, Jefferson City, MO 65101.