Washington D.C., Feb 11, 2019 / 10:45 am (CNA).- Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), who represented North Carolina for 12 terms in the House of Representatives, passed away on Sunday – his 76th birthday.
“Congressman Jones will long be remembered for his honesty, faith and integrity,” said a statement from his office announcing his passing.
“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.”
Jones, who was raised Southern Baptist but converted to Catholicism in his early 30s, was first elected to Congress in 1994.
After winning election for the twelfth time in November 2018, he requested a leave from Congress due to illness in December. He was sworn in to the 116th Congress from his house in Farmville, North Carolina.
In late January, his wife announced that Jones was in hospice care after suffering a broken hip.
Throughout his time in Congress, Jones was known for being a political maverick. Initially a strong supporter of the Iraq War– famously suggesting that french fries be re-named “freedom fries” in the House cafeteria after the French refused to support the invasion–he changed his views after attending a funeral for a service member who was killed by a grenade.
Jones spent the remainder of his time in Congress critical of efforts to send troops overseas, and fighting to end wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He accused then-President George W. Bush for deceiving Congress to drum up support for overseas intervention.
As an attempt to atone for his vote in favor of the war, Jones sent letters to the families of nearly every soldier killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Outside of his office, he posted pictures and bios of the more than 550 deceased troops that were sent to war from Camp Lejeune, located in his district.
In 2017, he told NPR that he had signed over 12,000 letters to the families of deceased troops, and “that was for me asking God to forgive me for my mistake.” In a 2015 interview, he said he would “go to [his] grave” regretting his vote to start the Iraq War.
Jones is survived by his wife, Jo Annee, who he married in 1966, and his daughter, Ashley.