Frank J. Hecker was born in Freedom, Michigan, in 1846. In August 1864, at the age of 18, he enlisted in Company K of the 41st Missouri Infantry. From December 1864 to 1866, he served under Grenville M. Dodge in the Department of Missouri Headquarters as a clerk. Once his service had been finalized, Hecker worked for the Union Pacific Railroad (1866-c. 1870); for several railroad construction projects of Major Thomas C. Cornell (1870-1876); and as superintendent of the Detroit, Eel River, & Illinois Railroad (c. 1876-1879).
In December 1879, T. D. Buhl and Frank Hecker established the Peninsular Car Works for the manufacture of freight cars, with Mr. Buhl as president, and Mr. Hecker as vice president and treasurer. Frank Hecker worked alongside Charles L. Freer; James F. Joy and General Russell A. Alger were company directors. In 1884 or 1885, Hecker and Freer purchased Buhl's stock and changed the name of the organization to the Peninsular Car Company. The Peninsular Car Company combined with a competitor, the Michigan Car Company, in 1892 to form the Michigan-Peninsular Car Company. Frank Hecker remained president of the Michigan-Peninsular Car Company until 1899.
In June 1898 (during the Spanish-American War), Secretary of War Russell A. Alger gave Frank Hecker the authority to purchase and charter ships for the transportation of troops and supplies for the United States government. On July 18, 1898, William McKinley commissioned Mr. Hecker as a Colonel of Volunteers, Chief of the Division of Transportation, Quartermaster's Department (official order dated August 18, 1898). In this capacity, Col. Hecker continued his purchasing and hiring duties, outfitted transports for conveying troops to and from Cuba and Manila, arranged for the transportation of troops by rail, contracted for the movement of Spanish prisoners from Santiago to Spain, and conducted inspections. His resignation was approved May 1, 1899.
When Theodore Roosevelt established the second Isthmian Canal Commission to supervise the construction of a canal and establish the Canal Zone government in March 1904, Colonel Frank J. Hecker was among the men appointed to serve in the group. However, in October 1904, newspaper allegations claimed that the Commission purchased construction and other supplies without public advertisement and suggested that Col. Hecker may have mishandled lumber contracts to suit the business interests of his friend, Senator Russell A. Alger, and himself. Col. Hecker resigned the next month, citing illness related to the Canal Zone climate (despite encouragement from President Roosevelt to remain in his position).
While Frank Hecker never held another public office, he remained active in Michigan industry and business. From May 1905 to December 1906, Col. Frank Hecker, Truman H. Newberry, William C. McMillan, and Charles L. Freer owned a controlling share of capital stock of the Detroit Free Press . Among Frank Hecker's many other affiliations, he was on the original Board of Directors of the Union Trust Company of Detroit (October 1891), Detroit Lumber Company (December 1899), and Alger-Sullivan Lumber Company (1900). He also served on the Boards of Directors of the Detroit Copper and Brass Rolling Mills, LaSalle County Carbon Cola Company, and State Savings Bank (later the Peoples State Bank). Col. Hecker was also one of the organizers and the president of the Woodlawn Cemetery Association (1895ff.) and was appointed to the Metropolitan Police Commission of Detroit, 1888-1891.
Colonel Frank Hecker is also remembered for his Detroit home, built in 1888, which is now in the State and National Registries of Historic Sites.