Politics & Government

North Carolina congressman Walter Jones in hospice care

Rep. Walter Jones opposes the war in Afghanistan during speech on floor of House in 2014

Rep. Walter Jones passionately argues against the war in Afghanistan during a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives in 2014.
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Rep. Walter Jones passionately argues against the war in Afghanistan during a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives in 2014.

Corrected on Jan. 26. See information in story.

Longtime Republican U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, who hasn’t voted in Congress since September, is in hospice care, his office reported Saturday.

In a statement, the office said Jones’ health has declined since he broke his hip last week. Jones was sworn in for his 13th term this month by Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a Wilson Democrat, at Jones’ home in Farmville.

“He is now in hospice care,” the statement said. “The family asks for your prayers, and for their privacy to be respected during this difficult time.”

The statement came a few hours after Greenville TV station WITN reported that Jones was in hospice care, and attributed that to his wife, Jo Anne Jones.

There has been a Jones political dynasty on the North Carolina coast for decades. His father, Walter Jones Sr., served in Congress as a Democrat from 1966 until his death in 1992. Jones Jr. ran for the seat as a Democrat in 1992 but lost. He ran in 1994 as a Republican and won for a reconfigured Eastern North Carolna district that included some of the same area as his father’s old seat.

Correction: A previous version of this story had the incorrect date for the death of Rep. Walter Jones' father.

Jones is perhaps best known for his turn against the Iraq War, which he voted for in 2002. In the lead up to the war, Jones helped popularize the term “Freedom Fries,” a renaming of french fries because of France’s opposition to the war.

Jones’ district includes Camp Lejeune, and he wrote letters to the families of those killed in the war — a tradition he started in 2003 and carried on into at least 2017 when he wrote letters to the families of soldiers killed in Niger, as part of the war on terror.

“For me, it’s a sacred responsibility that I have to communicate my condolences to a family,” Jones told The Associated Press in 2017. “And it’s very special to me because it goes back to my regretting that I voted to go into the Iraq war.”

Outside of Jones’ House office building is a memorial to those stationed at Camp Lejeune that have died in war. There are hundreds of faces.

Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C. looks at pictures of the soldiers killed this century based in Camp Lejeune along a hallway leading to his office on Capitol Hill, on Oct. 25, 2017, in Washington. Andrew Harnik AP

“I will never forget my mistake because people died because of my mistake,” he told the AP. “I bought into believing that President (George W.) Bush didn’t really want to go to war. That’s how naive I was at the time. ... I could have voted no, and I didn’t.”

In 2017, Jones championed an effort for a new authorization of war for the U.S.’s fight against the Islamic State, stating in a letter that the 2001 vote to use force in Afghanistan after the attacks of Sept. 11 had been used “for too long” to justify acts of war throughout the Middle East.

Voters in Eastern North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District elected Jones, a 75-year-old Republican from Farmville, to a 13th term in the House last November. He had said it would be his last term.

An undisclosed illness kept Jones from voting in Congress since September, The News & Observer reported. Jones then broke his hip in a fall at home and had surgery.

“The News about Walter Jones entering Hospice is extremely sad for the entire Republican family. We pray for comfort and peace for him and his family,” N.C. Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes said in a statement tweeted by the NCGOP executive director, Dallas Woodhouse.

Phil Law, a two-time Republican primary opponent of Jones who has declared plans to run in 2020, said in a statement that the news “breaks my heart. Walter has given so much to eastern North Carolina over the years and now it is time for all of us to give him our uplifting thoughts and prayers. He is a strong Christian man of faith.“

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Craig Jarvis is in his seventh year covering politics for The N&O. He has been a reporter and editor here covering crime, legal affairs, general assignment, arts and real estate. Contact him at cjarvis@newsobserver.com or (919) 829-4576.
Brian Murphy covers North Carolina’s congressional delegation and state issues from Washington, D.C., for The News & Observer, The Charlotte Observer and The Herald-Sun. He grew up in Cary and graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill. He previously worked for news organizations in Georgia, Idaho and Virginia. Reach him at 202.383.6089 or bmurphy@mcclatchydc.com.