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Congressman Walter B. Jones passes away at 76

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) - Congressman Walter B. Jones has passed away at the age of 76.

He was born on February 10, 1943, in the Pitt County town of Farmville.

The son of a lifelong politician and public servant, Jones would follow the same path.

His father, Walter Jones Sr. served 14 terms in the United States House of Representatives.

During a conversation with WNCT's Allan Hoffman in 2014, Jones looked through old photographs, reflecting on what his father meant to him.

One picture, in particular, stood out. 

In Washington, D.C., in March of 1992 - a young man and his dad.

"This picture was made with me kneeling beside my father and he died in September of that year,” said Jones. 

“This is a special picture for you,” said Hoffman. 

“It's special because of my love for my father and the influence he had on my life,” said Jones. He helped me understand if you're given the privilege to serve the people, you can do some good."

His father's 26 years in Congress sparked his son to politics. 

First, 10 years in the North Carolina House. 

Then 12 terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.

"I’m a workhorse, not a show horse,” said Jones.

That bluntness all started when he changed parties from Democrat to Republican to win his Congressional seat in 1994.

"At that time, I felt the principles of the Republican party advocated what was good for America,” said Jones. 

“Is it still?” asked Hoffman. 

“Not as much as it needs to be and I think that's is showing itself when the fastest growing category is unaffiliated,” indicated Jones.

Jones served on the House Armed Services Committee.

As he told WNCT in January of 2012 at the ceremonial groundbreaking for the expansion of the Greenville V.A. Outpatient Clinic, he chose to focus on the military because of another family member.

“Why are you so passionate about our veterans and our military?” asked WNCT. 

"Well it really goes back to my grandfather who was a World War I veteran and he was gassed in the battle of the Oregon Forest and I never knew him and my father never talked much about him, but I got my grandfather's records when I first went to Congress and I found out when he returned from World War I he was in and out of hospitals, he had a drug problem, an alcohol problem and was never the same person,” said Jones.

He said his passion for the military comes down to doing what is right.  

However, as he told 9 On Your Side in 2017, there was a time when he thought he made the wrong choice. 
  
"I will go to my grave regretting that I gave George Bush the authority to go into Iraq,” said Jones. I had the concerns at the time but I was not strong enough to vote my conscious. And I will believe to this day if Sadam were still in power, all these Jihadi groups would not be going in the Middle East. I truly believe that."  

Late in his life, he held on to what he called "The Book."

"All of these are letters I have gotten back from families who have received condolence letters,” said Jones. 

More than a thousand letters from the families of troops killed in Iraq.

"I don't even read 'em - I can't read 'em because emotionally it bothers me that I sent their kids to die for an unnecessary war,” said Jones.

Jones also committed his life to preserve and protect North Carolina’s unique history and culture. 

In 1998, he passed legislation to protect the wild horses on Shackleford Banks. 

After that he worked with numerous North Carolina legislators continuing to preserve the state's wild horses.

In 2010, Congressman Jones was named #17 out of 535 on the Hill Newspaper's 25 hardest working lawmakers list. 

In 2004, a survey of Top Capitol Hill Staff conducted by Washingtonian Magazine ranked Congressman Jones #1 out of the 435 U.S. House members in the "Just Plain Nice" category. 

"All and all, if I can't do what I think is right for the people, then I probably shouldn't be there,” said Jones.

Jones time in Congress saw four presidents in the White House - two Democrats and two Republicans.

"My chief of staff says about me when Walter Jones goes to vote I don't know if he's going to vote as a conservative, as a populist or as a libertarian,” said Jones. 

“Is that a positive?” asked WNCT.

“Well to me it is because I want to believe that I am not a puppet for the leadership,” said Jones.

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Congressman Walter B. Jones has passed away at the age of 76.

The congressman served NC's 3rd congressional district.

His office said in a statement,

"After faithfully representing the people of Eastern North Carolina in Congress and the state legislature for over 34 years, Congressman Walter B. Jones (NC-3) passed away this afternoon in Greenville, North Carolina.  He was 76.  

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. 

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. 

He will be sorely missed."        


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