Former U.S. Rep. Ike Skelton received the 2012 Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Award on Tuesday.
The longtime representative of Missouri's 4th Congressional District described himself as having enjoyed "a lifetime of being a country lawyer, interrupted by 34 years in Congress."
About 500 people attended the annual luncheon in the Muehlebach Tower of the Kansas City Marriott Downtown, which takes place on or near Truman's May 8 birthday anniversary.
Skelton detailed how Truman's life became intertwined with his beginning in 1928. Truman, who was Jackson County's presiding judge at the time, came to Skelton's hometown of Lexington, Mo., to help dedicate a pioneer mother monument. At the event, Truman met Skelton's father, a Lafayette County prosecutor and Navy veteran.
"That acquaintance lasted a lifetime, and I was a beneficiary of that acquaintance," Skelton said.
"Life consists of ironies as Ike Skelton the younger, the son of the 1928 prosecuting attorney, is here to receive the prestigious Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Award.
"I am deeply touched, deeply honored."
Skelton, first elected to Congress in 1976, described how he sponsored legislation that observed the 1984 centennial of Truman's birth with a special joint session of Congress.
He talked of sponsoring legislation enabling federal possession of the former Truman home in Independence, which is now maintained by the National Park Service, and working for eight years to see a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier named for Truman.
He also described working with fellow lawmaker Roy Blunt on legislation directing the State Department headquarters in Washington to be named for the 33rd president.
"I took the opportunity to further the legacy of Harry S. Truman whenever I could," Skelton said.
He also noted how President Truman's 1951 decision to fire Gen. Douglas MacArthur -- demonstrating the doctrine of civilian control of the American military -- made more legitimate Skelton's own oversight role as former chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, beginning in 2006.
"The principle of civilian control looks better and better, thanks to Harry Truman," Skelton said. "We need to be inspired by the Truman legacy of positive thinking and positive action."
To recognize Truman's regard for the military, luncheon organizers always honor a veteran. On Tuesday, Jerry Reece, chief executive of the Reece & Nichols real estate firm and retired U.S. Marines colonel, accepted the annual Philip Pistilli Silver Veteran's Medal.