In February, Archie Welch moved back to Kansas City after living in Phoenix for the past 22 years.
Welch was in Kansas City’s political spotlight as Freedom Inc.’s president for nearly 10 years and successfully helped lead a number of political campaigns, including Emanuel Cleaver’s campaigns for city council, mayor and congress. So leaving town to help take care of his brother-in-law, who was in bad health, was shocking to many.
But his career in politics did not end there, he continued to work on political campaigns and community outreach while in Phoenix.
Welch, who turned 80 in early September, said he now focuses 99% of his work around veterans. Welch joined the Marines in 1958 and ended up stationed in Olathe at the Naval Air Station.
Although he was not sent to the Vietnam War, many of his friends were. Part of the reason he moved back to Kansas City was because some of those friends are dying or have died from the health problems associated with Agent Orange and he wanted to do something about it.
Agent Orange was a tactical herbicide used by the U.S. in Vietnam to destroy foliage and crops, and millions were exposed to the chemical. Studies have shown it could cause Hodgkins Disease, respiratory cancer, lung cancer and many other diseases and health problems. Now, the Veterans Affairs Administration is offering compensation to veterans who served in Vietnam, but they have to file a claim.
So far, Welch has helped the families of three of his friends who died or are dying of the effects of Agent Orange, and he’s looking to help more veterans file their claims and get compensated.
“These are guys I grew up with, that I love and it’s a damn shame. And they’re Black guys – African American,” Welch said.
For Welch, it’s important to stay up to date with what is going on in the world, but he said many seniors do not have the means to do so.
“My concern, to be honest with you, is our seniors, if you look at it and see, our seniors are media poor. They don’t get the information. They get it late,” he said. Because of that, Welch advises seniors to really work to stay in touch with what is going on in their city.
By staying in touch, that’s how he found out about the group of Kansas City residents who want to fire Mayor Quinton Lucas.
“My next move is to start protecting the mayor, not only because he’s African American, but he’s trying to save lives. He’s trying to protect us Black folks,” Welch said. He is working with Black-led organizations in Kansas City to show support for Lucas.
His advice to other seniors to help them stay active is to get in contact with their councilperson and find out what they can get involved in with their community.
“I’m not going to settle down until the Lord takes me,” Welch said. “I did ask him to show me the way. I guess this is it.”