N.C. congressman who became GOP critic of Iraq war
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 critic of the war, died Sunday, his 76th birthday.
The congressman’s office confirmed his death in a statement, saying Mr. Jones died in Greenville, N.C. His health declining in recent months, Mr. Jones entered hospice care in January after breaking his hip. He had been granted a leave of absence from Congress in late 2018.
Mr. 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. Mr. 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.
Mr. 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.
Mr. 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 Mr. Jones’ two-year term in the coastal 3rd Congressional District.
In the House, Mr. 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, Mr. Jones lamented the military’s lengthy presence in Iraq.
Mr. Jones took heat for becoming one of the first Republicans to reverse direction on the war in Iraq.
Walter Beamon Jones Jr. was born in Farmville on Feb. 10, 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.