RALEIGH — Former U.S. Rep. Charlie Rose, who used his seat on the House Agriculture Committee to help farmers and protect the tobacco crops that brought wealth to farmers in his North Carolina district, has died, his wife said Tuesday.
Rose, 73, died of Parkinsons disease at a hospital near their northern Alabama home, said his wife, Stacye Hefner. Rose was diagnosed with the degenerative brain disorder last year, Hefner said.
Rose, a Democrat, spent 24 years in Washington representing the 7th Congressional District, which included his hometown of Fayetteville and much of North Carolinas southeastern region. Elected in 1972, the attorney and former prosecutor became one of the most powerful lawmakers in Congress and used his seat on the House Agriculture Committee to back the interests of farmers, especially tobacco growers back home.
Roses successor in the 7th District was his former intern, Democrat Mike McIntyre, who is seeking re-election this November.
As chairman in the early 1990s of the House Administration Committee which oversees office space, security, and lawmaker expenses Rose was nicknamed the mayor of the Capitol and was said to be looking for an opening to run for speaker of the House.
But the Washington dealmaker found himself in the House minority for the first time in his career when Republicans led by soon-to-be House Speaker Newt Gingrich won broad gains in the 1994 elections.
Rose said the election resulted in a Congress full of ideologues unwilling to compromise, adding that they over-promised or narrowly dedicated themselves to solving one or two issues.
John Merritt, a longtime friend of Rose and his former chief of staff, said that Rose had a well-deserved reputation as one North Carolinas most skilled politicians.
A lot of people come and go and you wonder if they were ever really there, Merritt said. With Charlie there was no question.
Merritt said Roses fascination with technology, while lesser-known than his contribution to agriculture issues, is just as important to his legacy.
Rose pushed the House of Representatives to televise its activities on C-SPAN, helped bring computers and fiber optics to Congress and was behind just about every tech advancement Congress made while he was there, Merritt said.
His interest in technology spilled into other areas of his life. Rose worked as a photographer at The News & Observer while he was an undergraduate student at Davidson College, and Merritt said he was the first to get anything new that came out, often before manufacturers even put new products on the shelves.
In the mid-1970s, he even had an electric car, Merritt said. He would drive it all over Washington. It rode like an ox cart and always got looks, but he was on the edge of emerging technology.
Rose announced his retirement in 1996 and started lobbying Washington with his third wife, the daughter of Rep. Bill Hefner, D-N.C.
They had served together for 24 years. They were really, really best buddies, Stacye Hefner said.
Rose and his wife moved to Albertville, Ala., to be near her mother after Bill Hefner died in 2009. The Roses largely gave up their lobbying work with the move.
Tony Rand, a former state senator and law partner of Rose, said he was one of the last of the great Southern Democrats of that era.
He was great at working with people and getting things done. He loved the political process, Rand said. In his day, he was as good of a politician as I ever saw up close.
Staff writer Austin Baird contributed.