Libertarian-leaning Congressman Walter B. Jones Jr. (R-N.C.) died yesterday on his 76th birthday.
For nearly 25 years, Jones served his district. In the latter half of his career, he sought to atone for his vote authorizing the use of force in Iraq. (The News & Observer)
Jones, a Republican, was first elected to the House in 1994 and won 12 more terms, including in 2018 when he ran unopposed in the general election. He served five terms in the North Carolina House as a Democrat before switching parties and winning a seat in Congress during a Republican wave election.
A strong advocate for the Marine Corps and against both the national debt and money in politics, Jones made national headlines for his change of heart over his Iraq War vote. An early supporter of the war, Jones was generally credited with coining the term “freedom fries” and bringing them to House cafeterias, to protest France’s refusal to join the war effort In Iraq. Jones voted to give President George W. Bush authorization for the war in 2002.
But he soon regretted the vote and said so publicly many times.
“I did not do what I should have done to read and find out whether Bush was telling us the truth about Saddam (Hussein) being responsible for 9/11 and having weapons of mass destruction,” Jones said in a 2015 radio interview. “Because I did not do my job then, I helped kill 4,000 Americans, and I will go to my grave regretting that.”
Jones signed over 11,000 letters to families of soldiers killed in action, a self-described penance for his vote.