A Representative and a Senator from Montana; born in Sioux City, Woodbury County, Iowa, September 6, 1924; attended the University of Minnesota; served in the United States Army 1943-1945; graduated with a degree in veterinary medicine, Iowa State University 1950; moved to Forsyth, Mont., and established a veterinary clinic; alderman in Forsyth, Mont., 1953; elected mayor of Forsyth 1955, reelected in 1957 and 1959; elected State representative for Rosebud County, Mont., 1960; elected State senator 1962, served in the 1963 and 1965 sessions; again served in 1969 as a State representative; elected as a Democrat to the Ninety-first Congress, by special election, June 24, 1969, to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of James F. Battin; reelected to the three succeeding Congresses and served from June 24, 1969, to January 3, 1977; was not a candidate for reelection to the House of Representatives, but was elected to the United States Senate in 1976; reelected in 1982 and served from January 3, 1977, until January 3, 1989; unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1988; established a legal consulting firm; chairman, Select Committee on Indian Affairs (Ninety-sixth Congress), Special Committee on Aging (One Hundredth Congress).
A World War II combat veteran who was a large-animal veterinarian and got his start in politics as a small town alderman, Dr. Melcher was 45 when he went to Washington in 1969. He was one of Montana’s two United States representatives until January 1977, when he succeeded the retiring Mr. Mansfield, the longtime majority leader, and then served two full Senate terms until 1989.
John David Melcher was born in Sioux City, Iowa, on Sept. 6, 1924, one of three sons of Anthony Melcher and the former Nell Mentor. His parents were divorced when John was 8, and he and his brother, Robert, stayed with relatives when their father, a traveling salesman of farm pumps, went on the road. Another brother, Patrick, had died earlier.
He attended the University of Minnesota for a year, but left to join the Army in World War II. He served with the 76th Infantry Division in Europe and participated in the invasion of Normandy in 1944. Wounded near Trier, Germany, in 1945, he won the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge and the Bronze Star. He was discharged and hospitalized at Santa Barbara, Calif.
After recuperating in late 1945, he married Ruth Klein, a former high school classmate. They had six children. .
Dr. Melcher settled in Missoula after his years in Washington. He founded a lobbying and consulting firm and worked for the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges and for various veterinary medical groups for many years.
Besides his daughter Joan, Mr. Melcher is survived by two other daughters, Teresa Thompson and Mary Melcher; his sons, Robert and John; a brother, Robert; a half sister, Virginia DiNovis; a half brother, Thomas Melcher; 10 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. His wife died in 2015. Another son, David, died of Reye’s syndrome at 6.