ShareThis Page
Congressman Walter Jones Jr. of North Carolina dies at 76 | TribLIVE.com
U.S./World

Congressman Walter Jones Jr. of North Carolina dies at 76

The Associated Press
| Sunday, February 10, 2019 7:23 p.m
735279_web1_AP19026811445360
U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., speaks during a rally in Columbus, Ohio.

RALEIGH, N.C. — Republican U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr. of North Carolina, a once-fervent supporter of the 2003 invasion of Iraq who later became an equally outspoken Republican critic of the war, died Sunday, his 76th birthday.

The congressman’s office confirmed his death in a statement, saying Jones died in Greenville, N.C. His health declining in recent months, Jones entered hospice care in January after breaking his hip. He had been granted a leave of absence from Congress in late 2018.

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 in Iraq. Jones was among the House members who led a campaign that resulted in the chamber’s cafeteria offering “freedom fries” and “freedom toast” in 2003 — 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, who had served in Congress since 1995, had already announced his 2018 campaign would be his last. His death means Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper would schedule a special election for someone to complete Jones’ two-year term in the coastal 3rd Congressional District.

In the House, Jones was a relentless advocate for campaign finance reform and controlling the national debt.

Representing a district that includes Camp Lejeune and Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station, Jones lamented the military’s lengthy presence in Iraq.

Jones took heat for becoming one of the first Republicans to reverse direction on the war in Iraq, expressing regret for his 2002 ‘yes; vote. 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.”

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.’”

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 current Gov. Roy 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.

Categories: News | World
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.