Rep. Walter Jones, who served as a Congressman for 13 terms from eastern North Carolina, died Sunday on his 76th birthday. He was in hospice care for a month after his health turned following a broken hip.
His GOP colleagues within North Carolina mourned the death of this Tar Heel State legend.
“He was a public servant who was true to his convictions and who will be missed,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) said: “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.”
Deeply saddened by the passing of Walter Jones—a beloved colleague and friend who had a profound impact on all through his graciousness, character, and committed Christian faith. God be with and keep his family. We will miss him.
— Mark Meadows (@RepMarkMeadows) February 10, 2019
Jones was notable for his transformation from jingoistic war hawk into critic of US intervention following the Iraq War. When the Iraq War was started in 2002, he supported the efforts wholeheartedly and even made the infamous push to rebrand french fries as “Freedom Fries.”
“This is a real tribute,” Jones said at the time. “Whenever anyone orders Freedom Fries, I hope they will think about our men and women who are serving in this great nation.”
But once he realized that the Iraq War was a disaster based on lies, Jones did an about face and became one of the most credible voices in the Congress against unnecessary, illegal intervention.
“I did not do what I should have done to read and find out whether [former President George W.] Bush was telling us the truth about Saddam being responsible for 9/11 and having weapons of mass destruction,” Jones said in 2015.
“I helped kill 4,000 Americans, and I will go to my grave regretting that,” he added.
Despite his mistakes, Jones showed thoughtfulness that few Congressmen have ever shown throughout his career in public service. It is very rare to see a Congressman admit fault and atone for the results of his actions. Jones practiced what he preached and stood admirably against foreign intervention during his final years.
“He should have come to Congress, based on our understanding of the constitution, and say to Congress ‘I need authorization from you before I take this action that I think is necessary,'” Jones said when Obama began his disastrous Libyan regime change operation.
“People down in Eastern North Carolina… after we went into Libya, a couple days after… we got phone calls into the district office… people upset, saying how and why in the world are we going in and bombing Libya. Yes, Gaddafi is an evil man. Yes, they’ve got a civil war. But that’s happening all over the world. So this gave us an opportunity to go to the federal courts to help the Congress understand, the President understand, what is our role based on the constitution,” Jones added.
“Regardless of the circumstances, no American president has the constitutional right to commit acts of war against a sovereign nation without approval from Congress,” Jones said to criticize President Trump’s air strikes of Syria in 2017. “As clearly stated in the Constitution, Congress has the sole power to declare war. This is a dangerous precedent for the president to set for the new administration.”
Jones’ candor and independent streak will be missed dearly in Congress.