Rep. Walter Jones will be remembered by many as the Republican congressman who originally invented the term “freedom fries” during the 2003 Iraq War, only to turn completely against the war later.
Jones, who represented North Carolina’s 3rd District for 24 years, died Sunday after complications from a fall the week prior. It was his 76th birthday.
Jones was a strong proponent of President George W. Bush’s decisions to invade Iraq in 2003, but changed his mind after attending a funeral for a Marine killed from his district. Sitting next to the widow at the fallen soldier’s service and watching their son play with a toy had a profound effect on him.
The congressman came to believe that the human cost wasn’t worth it.
“I have signed over 12,000 letters to families and extended families who’ve lost loved ones in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and that was for me asking God to forgive me for my mistake,” Jones told NPR in 2017, explaining that this was in part atonement for his support of the Iraq War in 2002.
“I did not do what I should have done to read and find out whether Bush was telling us the truth about Saddam being responsible for 9/11 and having weapons of mass destruction,” Jones said in 2015. “Because I did not do my job then, I helped kill 4,000 Americans, and I will go to my grave regretting that.”
Many of Jones’s friends and colleagues showed their respect for the congressman on social media.
My friend and colleague Walter Jones has passed away. Walter was a kind and good man. He was friend and ally. RIP Walter, and prayers for your family.
Walter Jones: Longtime North Carolina congressman has died | Raleigh News & Observer https://t.co/dosS8a04jT
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) February 11, 2019
My dear friend Walter Jones has died. He is the most honorable, principled, and courageous person I have known. Walter was kind, a cherished member of the @libertycaucus, and a leading voice for peace.
I will miss you, Walter. God bless your family. May your memory be eternal.
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) February 11, 2019
My heartfelt condolences are with Walter Jones’ family and loved ones during this difficult time. I worked with Congressman Jones for many years to draw down our endless wars — he served with conviction and compassion. I was honored to call him both a colleague and a friend.
— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) February 11, 2019
My prayers are with the family and friends of Walter Jones. It was an honor to work with Walter on a number of issues, including campaign finance reform, nuclear launch authority and Yemen. He was a great public servant and will be missed. https://t.co/ln56IY5wDb
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) February 11, 2019
“Congressman Jones will long be remembered for his honesty, faith and integrity,” his office said in a statement on his passing. “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.”
Jones was a thorough conservative on most issues, but it will be his staunch antiwar stance many will remember him for, a position he held during under President Obama’s foreign interventions in Libya and Syria, and even regarding President Trump’s 2017 airstrikes.
Jones felt a deep commitment to the men and women who serve, and expressed it as much as he could.
I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas! But most importantly, I want to honor our servicemembers who are apart from their families this time of year. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for valiantly sacrificing for this country, and I pray for your safe return. pic.twitter.com/fd44CTmpl4
— Rep. Walter Jones (@RepWalterJones) December 25, 2018
“I believe in the independence of the heart and the soul to do what’s right,” Jones said in 2013.
No details have been released yet on services for the congressman.