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Longtime Congressman Walter Jones dead at 76

February 10th, 2019

— Longtime Republican 3rd District Congressman Walter Jones died Sunday afternoon in Greenville. He was 76.

Jones, who has represented eastern North Carolina in the U.S. House for 24 years, recently underwent surgery for a broken hip he suffered at his home and entered hospice care last month.

“Congressman Jones was a man of the people. With a kind heart and the courage of his convictions, he dedicated his life to serving his Savior and to standing up for Americans who needed a voice. He was a champion for our men and women in uniform and their families, always mindful of their service and sacrifice,” a statement from his office said.

“Congressman Jones will long be remembered for his honesty, faith and integrity. He was never afraid to take a principled stand. He was known for his independence, and widely admired across the political spectrum. Some may not have agreed with him, but all recognized that he did what he thought was right.”

Gov. Roy Cooper issued a statement Sunday evening describing Jones a “public servant.”

“I am grateful for the life and service of my longtime friend Congressman Walter Jones Jr. He was a public servant who was true to his convictions and who will be missed.”

Jones was a political maverick unafraid to buck his own party. He was one of the first Republicans to reverse direction on the war in Iraq, even as his North Carolina district included the sprawling Marine installation Camp Lejeune.

His ultimate opposition to the Iraq war came with the irony that he instigated a symbolic slap against the French when their country early on opposed U.S. military action. Jones was among the House members who led a campaign that resulted in the chamber’s cafeteria offering “freedom fries” and “freedom toast” – instead of French fries and French toast.

Jones said he introduced legislation that would have required President George W. Bush’s administration to begin withdrawing troops in 2006 because the reason given for invading Iraq, weapons of mass destruction, had proved false.

“If I had known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have supported the resolution” to go to war, Jones said in 2005. Jones took heat for his reversal from GOP colleagues. He ultimately signed well over 11,000 letters to the families of dead troops, describing that as a penance of sorts.

“For me, it’s a sacred responsibility that I have to communicate my condolences to a family,” Jones said in a 2017 interview with The Associated Press. “And it’s very special to me because it goes back to my regretting that I voted to go into the Iraq war.”

Jones, who had served in Congress since 1995, had already announced his 2018 campaign would be his last. His death means Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper will schedule a special election for someone to complete Jones’ two-year term in the coastal 3rd Congressional District.

Jones also was a relentless advocate for campaign finance reform and controlling the national debt. The fiscal and social conservative won unopposed in last November’s general election after fending off Republican primary challengers stoked partly by Jones’ willingness to dissent from the Washington leaders of his party. For example, he voted against the tax overhaul promoted by President Donald Trump and a “repeal and replace” plan for President Barack Obama’s health care law.

In a 2018 AP interview, Jones said that he wasn’t afraid to oppose GOP leaders “when I don’t think they’re right.”

“It’s absolutely about principle,” he said. “When I leave Congress, I would rather have one thing said about me: ‘I will never question Walter Jones’ integrity.'”

State Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes, who served in Congress with Jones for several years, said in a news release that Jones’ legacy “will undoubtedly be the unequivocal advocacy he put forth for the men and women who serve in this country’s armed forces.”

“He will be long remembered for his tireless advocacy for eastern North Carolina, which he loved dearly, and for always following his convictions, no matter the political cost,” added Republican U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis.

Either Jones or his father, Walter Jones Sr., represented eastern North Carolina in Congress for five decades. The elder Jones, a Democrat, represented the region from 1966 until his death in 1992. Walter Jones Jr., then also a Democrat, lost the party primary to succeed him. He became a Republican and was sent to Washington two years later.

Walter Beamon Jones Jr. was born in Farmville in 1943. He attended Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia during high school and then graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Atlantic Christian College – now known as Barton College – in 1966.

He served in the North Carolina state House from 1982 through 1992, where he often clashed with Democratic leaders. He and Cooper were among 20 House Democrats who joined Republicans in toppling Democratic Speaker Liston Ramsey from power in 1989.

Survivors include his wife, Joe Anne, and a daughter, Ashley. Funeral arrangements weren’t immediately announced.

Friends, colleagues offer kind words following Jones’ death

“I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our dear friend and colleague, Congressman Walter B. Jones. He humbly served the great people of Eastern North Carolina in the state legislature and in Congress for more than 30 years.  Having known Walter for more than twenty-three years, I can attest to his great faith in our Creator and his servant’s heart.  The citizens of this state and country have lost a great friend whose influence will be felt for generations to come.  My thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Joe Anne, his daughter, Ashley, and other loved ones during this very difficult time,” Congressman David Rouzer said.

“America has lost a faithful servant and I’ve lost a good friend and colleague. For nearly a quarter of a century, Walter Jones served his country and the people of North Carolina with steadfast dedication, conviction, and integrity. Lucy and I send our heartfelt prayers and deepest condolences to his wife Joe Anne, his daughter Ashley, and the entire Jones family during this difficult time.” – Congressman George Holding

“Brooke and I were terribly saddened to hear about Walter’s passing. Walter and I came to Washington together in 1995. Having worked alongside him for nearly 25 years, I can tell you without hesitation that he left North Carolina, Congress, and our country better places than he found them. Walter will be remembered as a man of strong principles, willing to take an unpopular stand when necessary. He was a hard-working and faithful public servant, and he will be sorely missed. Our prayers are with his family – may he rest in peace.” – Senator Richard Burr

“My wife Lisa and I are saddened to hear of the passing of Congressman Walter Jones. I have known Walter since working together on the 1976 Jimmy Carter presidential campaign. A respected colleague and a true friend, he will be remembered for his principled stands, sincere humility, and deep love of North Carolina—which he proudly served for nearly a quarter a century.  Our thoughts and heartfelt condolences are with his wife Joe Anne, his family and friends, and his constituents during this difficult time.” – Congressman David Price

“Walter Jones was a man of decency, honor, and upstanding moral character. He and I used to travel together back and forth from North Carolina when I had the privilege of serving alongside him in Congress. Jones’ legacy will undoubtedly be the unequivocal advocacy he put forth for the men and women who serve in this country’s armed forces, and not just those who lived in his district, but across the nation. There was no better champion for eastern North Carolina than Walter Jones. My thoughts and prayers are with his family at this difficult time.” – North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes

“Today, North Carolina lost a strong advocate and I lost a friend. Congressman Jones served the people of his state with passion in the General Assembly and the U.S. Congress. During his tenure, our state and country went through important trials and came out stronger because of his work. I will miss him, and so will thousands of others,” said Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham).

“Congressman Walter B. Jones, Jr. was the true embodiment of a public servant. He will be long remembered for his tireless advocacy for Eastern North Carolina, which he loved dearly, and for always following his convictions, no matter the political cost. He always did what he felt was right for his constituents, his district, and his country, and it was no wonder why he was so widely admired and trusted. It was a true honor to serve with Walter Jones. Susan and I send our deepest condolences to Joe Anne and his loving family,” said Senator Thom Tillis.

Article source: https://www.wral.com/longtime-congressman-walter-jones-dead-at-76/18183489/

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