|United States Ambassador to the Bahamas|
August 23, 1989 – March 1, 1993
|President||George H. W. Bush|
|Preceded by||Carol Boyd Hallett|
|Succeeded by||Sid Williams|
|United States Senator|
January 3, 1983 – January 3, 1989
|Preceded by||Howard Cannon|
|Succeeded by||Richard Bryan|
|Member of the Nevada Senate|
Mayer Jacob Hecht
November 30, 1928
Cape Girardeau, Missouri, U.S.
|Died||May 15, 2006 (aged 77)|
Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.
|Education||Washington University in St. Louis (BS)|
Mayer Jacob Hecht (November 30, 1928 – May 15, 2006) was an American Republican politician and diplomat who served as a United States Senator from Nevada from 1983 to 1989, and as U.S. Ambassador to the Bahamas from 1989 to 1993.
Early life and education
Hecht was born into a Jewish family in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. His mother was born in Kiev and his paternal grandparents were from Poland and Germany. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in retailing from Washington University in St. Louis in 1949.
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.
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.
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, replacing four-term incumbent Democrat Howard Cannon, whom he had defeated for reelection. He served only one term, from 1983 to 1989, having been defeated for reelection in 1988 by Democratic Governor Richard Bryan. In the Senate, Hecht became known for his verbal slips and miscues, including a vow at one point not to permit a "nuclear suppository" in his home state.
After his loss, he was then appointed ambassador to the Bahamas by President George H. W. Bush on March 24, 1989. During his confirmation, he encountered opposition from some Democratic senators, an unusual occurrence for senators to oppose the nomination of a former colleague. Some members like Senator Bob Graham and John Breaux argued Hecht was unqualified to serve in a position growing in importance in the War on Drugs and took exception to Hecht's remarks during his confirmation hearing, when he stated he would feel at home because the position "is a nice lifestyle" with "a lot of nice golf courses and good fishing." Nevertheless, Hecht was easily confirmed by a 78 to 19 vote on July 11, 1989. He served from 1989 until 1993.
Activism for Soviet Jews
Before the Reykjavík Summit in 1986, Hecht met with President Ronald Reagan. 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. 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.
Relationship with John Kerry
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, a Democrat, stepping off an elevator at the same time, recognized what was happening to Hecht and quickly performed the Heimlich maneuver, saving Hecht's life.
For the rest of his life, Hecht always 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, though he declined to reveal whether he planned to vote for Kerry or for Bush. 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.
After finishing his time as ambassador to the Bahamas in 1994, Hecht returned home to Las Vegas to focus on his business activities. On May 24, 2016, his brother, businessman and philanthropist Martin Hecht, died in Palm Springs, California. The Hecht Synagogue at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem was constructed through funds raised for over a decade by Martin. Opened in 1981 and dedicated in 1985 in the presence of the Hecht brothers and Senator Jesse Helms, it was named after the Hechts' then 96-year-old father.
- "HECHT, Jacob Chic". bioguide.congress.gov.
- "United States Census, 1930", FamilySearch, retrieved March 7, 2018
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- "Nomination of Chic Hecht To Be United States Ambassador to the Bahamas | The American Presidency Project". www.presidency.ucsb.edu.
- Reidy, Chris (July 12, 1989). "Graham Loses Battle On Hecht Ex-senator Confirmed As Ambassador To The Bahamas". Orlando Sentinel. Sentinel Washington Bureau. Retrieved 1 December 2014.
- "U.S. Senate: U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 101st Congress - 1st Session". www.senate.gov.
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- "EDITORIAL: Chic Hecht, at 77". Las Vegas Review-Journal. 2006-05-18.
- "Jewish Sightseeing". 2006-06-20.
- "Obituary: Senator Jacob ("Chic") Hecht (1929-2006)". Chabad.org. 2006-05-15.
- Searer, Kirsten (2004-02-06). "Former GOP Sen. Hecht owes life to Democratic candidate Kerry". Las Vegas Sun.
- "Politics Home Page : Roll Call". Archived from the original on 2012-07-22. Retrieved 2021-08-27.
- "Campaign Line". Archived from the original on December 9, 2004.
- "Cape businessman Martin Hecht remembered for faith, generosity". 2016-05-24. Archived from the original on 2016-10-05. Retrieved 2016-05-24.
- "Behind the Headlines the Transformation of Jesse Helms". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. December 26, 1985. Retrieved August 15, 2017.