August 8, 2013

Obama names Skelton to WWI Centennial Commission

The former congressman joins several other appointees with Kansas City connections.

Former U.S. Rep. Ike Skelton, whose father served on the USS Missouri in World War I, will serve on the national commission to mark the centennial of that conflict.

Skelton was named along with two others Thursday by President Barack Obama to fill out the 12-member commission, which will be anchored at the National World War I Museum at Kansas City’s Liberty Memorial.

Five of the commissioners have ties to the Kansas City area. The panel will have its first meeting Sept. 13 at the Liberty Memorial, said Mary Cohen, a commission member and chairwoman of the board of trustees of the Liberty Memorial Association.

Cohen said Thursday the nonprofit commission hopes to raise $5 million a year during the four-year commemoration of the 1914-18 conflict. There will be events across the country, but Cohen said she hoped many of them would be centered in the Kansas City area.

Missouri has appropriated $200,000 toward the commemoration, said Ward Cook, a lobbyist for the Liberty Memorial in Jefferson City.

The state also approved a law effective Aug. 28 allowing Missourians to check a box donating $1 to the National World War I Museum when applying for or renewing their vehicle license plates. In addition, military veterans may purchase special plates for $10.

Cook told the Liberty Memorial board Thursday the measures could raise $140,000 to $170,000. There is no sunset provision.

Skelton’s father, Ike Skelton Sr., was a Navy fireman in World War I. Skelton, of Lexington, represented Missouri’s 4th Congressional District from 1977 to 2011.

The two other White House appointments to the centennial commission Thursday were Alfred Valenzuela, a retired Army major general, and Libby H. O’Connell, a vice president at A&E Television.

Congress created the World War I Centennial Commission to coordinate centennial activities. Previously appointed members with Kansas City connections include Cohen; mortgage banker James B. Nutter Sr.; James S. Whitfield of Independence, a Navy veteran of World War II who has held several American Legion posts; and Richard Kolb, editor-in-chief of the Kansas City-based VFW magazine.

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