Chic Hecht

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Chic Hecht
Chic Hecht.JPG
United States Senator
from Nevada
In office
January 3, 1983 – January 3, 1989
Preceded by Howard Cannon
Succeeded by Richard Bryan
Personal details
Born Mayer Jacob Hecht
(1928-11-30)November 30, 1928
Cape Girardeau, Missouri
Died May 15, 2006(2006-05-15) (aged 77)
Las Vegas, Nevada
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Gail Kahn
Alma mater Washington University in St. Louis
Religion Judaism

Mayer Jacob "Chic" Hecht (November 30, 1928 – May 15, 2006) was a Republican United States Senator from Nevada and U.S. Ambassador to the Bahamas.[1]

Biography[edit]

Early life and career[edit]

Hecht was born into a Jewish family in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in retailing from Washington University in St. Louis in 1949.[2]

Hecht attended Military Intelligence School at Fort Holabird and served as an intelligence agent with the U.S. armed forces during the Korean War, from 1951 to 1953. Hecht was a member of the National Military Intelligence Association, and was inducted into the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame in 1988.[1]

After leaving military service, Hecht moved to Nevada. His business activities included retailing, the operation of a bank, and interests in hotels. He married the former Gail Kahn in 1959.

Political career[edit]

In 1966 he was elected to the Nevada Senate, the first Republican to represent his predominantly Democratic district in and around Las Vegas in more than 25 years. He was a state senator from 1967 to 1975, serving as Senate minority leader from 1969 to 1970.

In 1982 he was elected to the U.S. Senate, ousting four-term incumbent Democrat Howard Cannon in a major upset. He served only one term, from 1983 to 1989, having been defeated for reelection in 1988 by Democratic Governor Richard Bryan. He was then appointed ambassador to the Bahamas by President George H. W. Bush, and served in that post from 1989 to 1994.

Activism for Soviet Jews[edit]

Before the Reykjavík Summit in 1986, Hecht met with President Ronald Reagan.[3] Hecht urged Reagan to ask Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to ease emigration requirements for Soviet Jews, including those on a list that had been prepared by a member of the Council for Soviet Jewry.[4][5] Hecht reported his effort as successful:

The former senator related that Reagan told him afterwards that he had given the list to the Soviet leader at the beginning of the summit when the two men met alone. Hecht said that Reagan was told by Gorbachev, "as long as nothing is in the paper, there is no publicity, and we don't hear about it," Jews on the list would be quietly released.[5]

Hecht credited the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, for prompting him to undertake the effort.[6]

Relationship with John Kerry[edit]

Hecht's name reappeared in the news in the course of the 2004 presidential election because of an event during his term in the Senate. On July 12, 1988, Hecht was leaving a Republican weekly policy lunch when he began to choke on an apple slice from his lunch of fruit salad and cottage cheese. Unable to talk to his colleagues and not wanting to vomit on them, he ran into the hallway, where Senator Kit Bond, a Republican from Missouri, unsuccessfully tried to help Hecht. Senator John Kerry, stepping off an elevator at the time, recognized what was happening and quickly performed the Heimlich maneuver, saving Hecht's life.[7]

For the rest of his life, Hecht called Kerry on Christmas Day (December 25) each year to thank him. Though a conservative Republican who contributed the maximum amount to the re-election campaign of George W. Bush, Hecht said that he would appear in support of Kerry if asked,[8] though he declined to reveal whether he planned to vote for Kerry or for Bush.[7] One of Hecht's daughters, Leslie Helmer, who worked for the presidential campaigns of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, helped raise funds for Kerry's campaign, out of gratitude for his action.[9]

Life after politics[edit]

After finishing his time as ambassador to the Bahamas in 1994, Hecht returned home to Las Vegas to focus on his business activities. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2005. Hecht died of the disease on May 15, 2006, at age 77. He was survived by his wife and two daughters, Lori and Lesley.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Hecht, Jacob Chic". 
  2. ^ a b Vogel, Ed (2006-05-16). "Hecht, former U.S. senator, dies in LV". Las Vegas Review-Journal. 
  3. ^ Senator-Hecht and President Reagan
  4. ^ "EDITORIAL: Chic Hecht, at 77". Las Vegas Review-Journal. 2006-05-18. 
  5. ^ a b "Jewish Sightseeing". 2006-06-20. 
  6. ^ "Obituary: Senator Jacob ("Chic") Hecht (1929-2006)". Chabad.org. 2006-05-15. 
  7. ^ a b Searer, Kirsten (2004-02-06). "Former GOP Sen. Hecht owes life to Democratic candidate Kerry". Las Vegas Sun. 
  8. ^ CQ Politicsl
  9. ^ Campaign Line

External links[edit]

United States Senate
Preceded by
Howard Cannon
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Nevada
1983–1989
Served alongside: Paul Laxalt, Harry Reid
Succeeded by
Richard Bryan
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Carol Boyd Hallett
United States Ambassador to the Bahamas
August 23, 1989–March 1, 1993
Succeeded by
Lino Gutierrez
(as Chargé d'Affaires ad interim)