Former Congressman Charles Wilson who was born in Trinity in 1933 passed away February 10 of an apparent heart attack at a Lufkin hospital.
He started in politics at the age of 13. At that age an incident involving his neighbor Charles Hazard and Wilson’s dog led him to oppose the city council incumbent and help defeat his neighbor Mr. Hazard in the election.
Wilson graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1956. After being commissioned in the Navy, he was assigned to a destroyer that same year. He served in several capacities on the ship ending up , after 38 months of sea duty, as a Gunnery officer. He was then assigned as a Naval Intelligence Officer with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
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In November of 1960, after partaking in the John F. Kennedy campaign for president Wilson took a 30 day leave from the Navy and announced his Democratic run for the Texas state representative. He returned to the Navy until his honorable discharge and went on to win his seat to the Texas Legislature where he served until his election into the U.S. House of Representatives in 1972. During his early years his 2nd Congressional District seat included Conroe.
He spent 24 years in the United States Congress serving briefly on the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Veterans Affairs Committee. The vast amount of his tenure was the Appropriations Committee where he served for 21 years. In this capacity, he was assigned to the Defense Subcommittee as well as the Foreign Operations Subcommittee. He also won a seat on the Intelligence Committee making him the only member in Congress to serve simultaneously on the three legislative bodies dealing with the national security of the United States as well as its intelligence gathering capacity.
In his early years he became known as “Goodtime Charlie” due to his womanizing and drinking but that was overlooked by all his accomplishments over the years.
His most infamous political adventure came in his covert operation providing the Afghan Mujahideen with millions of dollars in U.S. aid, and military equipment during the Soviet – Afghan conflict. He was the influential broker for the CIA within Congress as he convinced the U.S. government to provide increasing aid for the Afghan Mujahideen. Mush of the military equipment supplied being jet fighters manufactured in his home state of Texas.
His efforts were recognized in the book Charlie Wilson’s War. The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History. This written by George Crile in 2003 and made into a movie staring Tom Hanks in 2007 entitled Charlie Wilson’s War.
At his Memorial service at the Angelina College Sunday over 500 friends and family gathered to pay their last respects.
Several speakers addressed the accomplishments and the life of Wilson. former state representative Buddy Temple remembered the baptism of his 43-year-old daughter, Whitney, when Wilson became her godfather.
“We’ve got a problem,” Temple quoted Wilson as saying. “I just talked to the preacher and he said I have to renounce the devil and all of his works. Would it be OK if I renounced the devil and some of his works?
“It was typical Charlie trying to convince us that he was a rogue and a scoundrel and a bad boy,” said Temple. “But we weren’t fooled. He was exposed by his good works.”
“He took his work seriously but he never took himself seriously,” said his close friend Joe Christie, who served with Wilson in the Texas Legislature. “He changed the course of history, but he was not self important. That’s why he was so … fun to be with.”
“He’ll be missed from the Golan Heights to the Khyber Pass from the Caspian to the Suez and in the halls of Congress, for his civility, his willingness to listen and help and not posture, “John Wing founder of Houston/Conroe based Wing Aviation who traveled with Wilson on his journeys to Pakistan and Afghanistan, told the crowd. Wing also commented on how if back in the 80’s the infrastructure was dealt with in Afghanistan we may not be back there today.
Wilson will be buried February 23 at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C. with full military honors.