John M. Slack Jr.

Charleston Daily Mail
March 20, 1980

Friends Bid Slack Farewell

80 Congressmen In Honor Guard

By Steve Mullins
Of The Daily Mail Staff

Several hundred admirers, friends and colleagues bid a solemn, rainy farewell today to Rep. John M. Slack Jr., who represented central West Virginia in the House for more than 20 years.

About 80 members of the House of Representatives flanked the state's congressional delegation in an honor guard for Slack's flag-draped casket at Charleston's First Presbyterian Church.

The congressman, who would have been 65 years old Tuesday, died of a heart attack late Monday night in an Alexandria, Va., hospital.

West Virginia Sens. Robert C. Byrd and Jennings Randolph sat with House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill, a close personal friend of Slack, on one front row pew during a brief, tearful eulogy by Slack's long-time friend, the Rev. Morton Estep, during the 11 a.m. funeral today.

The congressman's family, including his wife of 40 years, Frances, his son, John M. III, brother, William G. and two grandchildren, sat in another front section.

Among national dignitaries in attendance were House Majority Leader Jim Wright, D-Texas, and Majority Whip John Brademus, D-Ind. The House suspended official business to board Air Force planes for Charleston.

Estep officiated with the Rev. John Parks of the Bream Memorial Presbyterian Church, which Slack often attended.

To a hushed crowd of several hundred which filled the huge Virginia Street church to overflow, Parks began, "No man lives unto himself..."

"Our loss is Heaven's gain," said Estep. "Although John Slack's physical being is gone, his influence in life will live on.

"The word John Slack spoke loudest," Estep said, "was love. He loved his family..., Frances, his wife of 40 years...his country..., and he loved us.

"John Slack's love ran deep. He cried out for changes to keep this country strong," the reverend said. "He was troubled by some of the trends of the times."

Estep called Slack's love for country "not the Fourth of July, flag-waving, expedient kind of love. Patriotism always burned brightest in John Slack's heart."

"John Slack loved the House of Representatives. He once said the House was the greatest deliberative body in the world because it truly represents the people. He was once asked to run for the Senate, but said he couldn't step down from the House," Estep said.

"We will fill his office, but we will never fill the vacancy John Slack left," he said.

A number of the congressman's favorite songs were included in the services: America The Beautiful, Battle Hymn of the Republic, The Star-Spangled Banner, Onward Christian Soldiers...

Crisp, uniformed pallbearers from each branch of armed services slowly emerged from the church into the rain with the flag-draped casket. The only sound slicing the morning air was the click of cameras. Newsmen, who had surrounded the powerful and quiet congressman at countless press conferences in recent years, bid their own farewell.

Admirers unable to crowd into the massive church braved the chilly rain outside in the churchyard, across and along the street. Traffic was halted as the casket was loaded into a hearse.

Hundreds of city, county, state and local government officials, their hands over their hearts, paid tribute to family members and friends in the pouring rain. Gov. and Mrs. Rockefeller and Mayor and Mrs. Hutchinson were among them.

Slack himself began his political career as a member of Kanawha County Court in 1946. The County Court members of today were there to honor him.

Burial was shortly after noon in Cunningham Memorial Park in St. Albans.

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