Republican Rep. Walter Jones, who spent years seeking redemption for voting in Iraq, dies at 76: NPR



In this file photo, the representative of the USA. UU., Walter Jones, R-N.C., Stands in front of the photos of fallen soldiers, along a corridor that leads to his office in the Capitol in Washington. Jones, who was once a fervent supporter of the 2003 invasion of Iraq who later became an equally open Republican critic of the war, died Sunday.

Andrew Harnik / AP


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Andrew Harnik / AP

In this file photo, the representative of the USA. UU., Walter Jones, R-N.C., Stands in front of the photos of fallen soldiers, along a corridor that leads to his office in the Capitol in Washington. Jones, who was once a fervent supporter of the 2003 invasion of Iraq who later became an equally open Republican critic of the war, died Sunday.

Andrew Harnik / AP

Republican congressman Walter Jones, who represented North Carolina for 24 years, died on Sunday after complications from a fall. He had just turned 76 years old.

Jones was originally a strong supporter of the Iraq war, but after attending the funeral of a Navy sergeant killed by a rocket-propelled grenade, Jones came to believe that the human cost was too high. He spent the rest of his days writing letters to the family of almost all fallen soldiers, an attempt not only to comfort families, but also to atone for his 2002 vote in favor of the invasion, which he deeply regretted.

"I have signed more than 12,000 letters to extended families and families who have lost loved ones in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it was for me to ask God to forgive me for my mistake," he told NPR in 2017. He spent the last several years as a solitary Republican voice urging Congress to bring US troops home.

"I did not do what I should have done to read and find out if Bush was telling us the truth that Saddam was responsible for 9/11 and having weapons of mbad destruction," Jones told a reporter in 2015. "Because I did not I did my job then, I helped kill 4,000 Americans, and I'll go to my grave regretting that. "

"Congressman Jones will be remembered for a long time for his honesty, faith and integrity," his office said in a statement about his death. "He was never afraid to take a position of principle, he was known for his independence and was admired by the entire political spectrum, some may not agree with him, but everyone recognized that he did what he thought was right."

He will also be remembered for being one of the congressmen who pushed to change the name of the potato chips from the Congress cafeteria to "Freedom Fries," after the French opposed the 2003 military action in the United States in Iraq.

Before serving in the House of Representatives, Jones spent 10 years as a Democrat in the North Carolina State House. He first ran for Congress in 1992 as a Democrat, trying to take the seat of his father Walter Jones Sr., who worked in Congress for more than 25 years, reports Raleigh News & Observer. But by not winning the state's Democratic primaries, he changed sides and in 1994 won a seat as part of the so-called "Republican revolution" that made Newt Gingrich then president of the House.

"He was a man of remarkable integrity and stubbornness," Gingrich tells NPR. "A pretty good model for a citizen legislator".


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